Periodically, COPE gets requests for the development of discussion documents, guidance and flowcharts on publication ethics issues related to book publishing. Many of our members publish both journals and books, and a number of these members reference COPE guidance on journal publishing and ethics as providing useful information on particular topics related to research and publication ethics.
What are the particulars of ethics in book publishing? Does book publishing require independent consideration with respect to publication ethics? This was discussed by participants of the COPE Forum in March 2021.
What are we looking at when we talk about books?
Books cover a range of materials, many of which are treated differently and many are treated the same within book publishing. Books can be original monographs, anthologies, text books or conference proceedings.
- Original monographs include original research, whether theoretical or empirical. These can be sole authored or co-authored and will usually be published after full peer review.
- Anthologies come in various forms. They can be: a collection of previously published articles which are brought together in a thematic manner; a collection of solicited original articles on a particular theme; or a combination of original and previously published articles on a particular theme. Anthologies may go through various reviews, ranging from editor reviews of proposals to traditional double blind peer review.
- Text books can be books which organise established knowledge on a particular topic for the purpose of education, and can be targeted at some level of student learning. Text books may or may not receive the same standard of peer review as monographs.
- Conference proceedings. COPE will address this topic separately at a later date.
Books can be published by many different kinds of publication processes, including, increasingly self-publication.
Questions for discussion
- Are most of the publication ethics issues the same in book publishing as in journal publishing (eg, plagiarism, authorship, ethics approval, consent, peer review)?
- Are there particular problems with books (eg, how to retract a full book? How to retract part of a book–a single chapter within an anthology/edited volume?).
- Should proposal review count as peer review? Does selected chapter review count as peer review?
- Do we need to develop a taxonomy of book publishing practices and parallel advice on publishing ethics in books?
- Where do we go from here?
Key differences between books and journals
Some key differences between books and journals are around peer review and decision making, the corrections process, content generation, purposes of the content, business relationships, timelines, and customer perceptions. Included in the pdf are sample cases of publication ethics issues in book publishing
Our thanks to Jennifer Wright of Cambridge University Press, Tamara Welschot of Springer Nature and Tim Wakeford of Ubiquity Press who have shared discussion points, comparisons, and cases to initiate this discussion.
This topic was discussed at the start of the COPE Forum on Tuesday 23 March 2021, with guest speakers Tamara Welschot and Jennifer Wright.
Comments from the Forum, March 2021
Note, comments do not imply formal COPE advice or consensus
Regarding disclosures and ethical statements in books, especially eBooks, where readers can access individual book chapters, similar to how you might access a journal article, should each chapter have their own statements rather than general statements in the introduction or conclusion that apply to the entire work?
We have the technology to access individual chapters, without accessing the whole book, so ethical statements on a chapter level is desirable.
Who is responsible for ethics in book publishing?
If journal articles are published with a CC-BY license, can the author publish a similar article in a book as a chapter? From a copyright legal perspective this is allowed, as long as attribution is given to the source.
For corrections or retractions to chapters in a book, this can have a knock-on effect on the other authors whose contributions are not affected. If a chapter in a book is retracted, this can influence the reputation of the book, how the book is perceived, it may alter pagination or affect the general look of the book if it is in a printed format. Hence the other authors in the book whose work is not changed are affected more than journal authors if corrections or retractions are made to the book.
Does "plagiarism of ideas" also apply to journals? Is it unique to books?
Publishers actively encourage authors to submit a book proposal to several publishers simultaneously. There are many reasons why authors would want to submit their book proposal to multiple different publishers in parallel because publishers can offer different packages to authors. This is different from journals where duplicate submission is not acceptable.
Anyone (members and non-members) can comment on this discussion.
Comments are reviewed and, on approval, added below.
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