In the mid 2000s when I was first an editor, I quickly became interested in ‘journalology’ and in particular publication ethics. Every few months the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), founded in 1997, held forums during which journal editors — mainly based in the UK — could share anonymized dilemmas while sat round a large wooden table in BMA House in London, with some dialing in on speakerphone.
Today COPE has a global membership in the thousands; all Hindawi’s journals are members. The website hosts guidance, flowcharts, an extensive record of over 600 cases and discussion documents, and forums are usually held by webinar. I’ve attended more COPE forums than I can remember, presented several cases, sought advice from COPE Council and the online COPE publisher forum, spoken on a panel at the COPE publishers seminar, and participated in COPE working groups.
The number of cases seen by both journals and COPE has increased dramatically over the years. Those taken to COPE are anonymised to avoid identifying the journal and those involved for the sake of confidentiality, meaning I can’t discuss specifics of our cases, but they form an invaluable library of the ethical issues faced by editors and publishing staff. I have seen things I would have scarcely imagined when I started in publishing: impersonation of editors, fake peer reviewers, stolen articles, paper mills, editors and reviewers strong-arming authors into citing their work, court cases, and more. Publication ethics and research integrity was a sideline at most journals a decade ago and is now often a full-time, specialised job — like mine.
COPE Council manages the running of COPE, along with the trustees and staff, and because I’ve been keen to become more involved I applied when several vacancies came up toward the end of last year. I was pleased to be shortlisted and even happier to be elected by the COPE membership last month, joining two of my former publishing colleagues. Due to the current viral pandemic council members aren’t able to meet in person in May as planned, but activity continues online. I’ve already started on the Membership Subcommittee and debate on many topics proceeds apace.
Our publication ethics policies at Hindawi are underpinned by COPE’s guidance and I look forward to continuing to promote good practice as a COPE Council member. I’m keen to hear feedback of what more COPE can do to tackle and prevent unethical behavior.
This blog post is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY). The illustration is by Hindawi and is also CC-BY.