You are here

Questionable/unethical research


Research Integrity, Sixth Report of Session 2017-19 from the House of Commons

Following a 10 month inquiry, the UK House of Commons Science and Technology Committee has issued recommendations to strengthen requirements and improve compliance with the existing 2012 Concordat to Support Research Integrity [full report].


Scientific misconduct claim from a whistleblower where the institution will not investigate


A journal received an allegation of scientific misconduct from an anonymous individual stating they were from the group that had written the paper (Institution-1, there are two institutions involved in this research). The email stated that the scientific bases of the article were unreliable. The paper was currently with the authors who were revising the paper after the first round of review, and additional experiments were required.


Retrospective registration, outcome switching and ethical approval


Journal A received a number of concerns from a reader regarding a paper published in the journal. These concerns were reviewed and sent to the authors of a paper, along with additional comments from the editorial board. The concern was largely around retrospective registration, and an inconsistency between the trial registry record and the published paper. An editorial board member conducted a full comparison of the trial registry entry with the paper.

About this resource

Cite this as

COPE Council. COPE Guidelines: Sharing of information among editors-in-chief regarding possible misconduct — English.
©2021 Committee on Publication Ethics (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)


Version history

Version 1: March 2015.


Full page history


Service evaluation as research in a controversial area of medicine


We received an email from a reader relating to the ethics statement in a research article published in 2011. The article presented data collected at a clinic relating to a controversial area in medicine. The ethics statement in the article indicates that, in accordance with regional guidelines, the research ethics committee deemed that the study was a service evaluation and formal ethical review was not required.

About this resource

Full page history

  • 14 September 2021

    Reassigned to Forum discussion topic filter


Ethics of non-active management of a control group


An article was submitted involving over 200 pregnant patients with a systemic illness (from 2010 to 2015) who were recruited and assigned to a control group or an active intervention group (of their systemic illness). The control group received routine antenatal care while the intervention group had active surveillance and management of their systemic illness during the pregnancy.


Parental consent for participants


As editor of a psychology journal, I received a manuscript from a group of scholars. The authors describe a qualitative online study with adolescent girls, aged 15–18 years, who met in person with a stranger they first ‘met’ online. The girls describe their reasoning about the risks, the safety measures they used and reactions to discomfort they experienced in the meetings.


Low risk study with no ethics committee approval


A manuscript was submitted to our journal that describes a social media advocacy campaign that was run by an international NGO for the purpose of eliciting public support for a new law in a low-middle income country. The authors are from the NGO and the government department in that country, that together funded and ran the campaign, and also collected and analysed the data used in the manuscript.


Data anonymity


A paper was submitted to our journal. The managing editor was concerned about patient information in the paper and queried the authors. The authors responded that the data were collected from routine samples and so consent was never obtained. The patients were lost to follow-up, and there was no ethics committee approval as it involved the study of existing data, but they did discuss with the institutional review board who said it was exempt.