The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) is a forum for editors of peer-reviewed journals to discuss issues related to the integrity of the scientific record. It supports and encourages editors to report, catalogue and instigate investigations into ethical problems in the publication process.
In January 2008 all Elsevier-published journals became members of COPE as part of Elsevier’s commitment to providing guidance and support to journal editors in handling actual or suspected infringements of publication ethics. Enlisting journals in COPE ensures that our journal editors have an alternative source to refer to when dealing with publishing ethics issues.
COPE was founded in 1997 by a group of medical journal editors concerned about publication misconduct, e.g. plagiarism, attempted or actual redundant publication, attempts to pass off fraudulent data, unethical research, breaches of confidentiality, and so on. Originally a loose gathering of individuals COPE is now a limited company (‘incorporated’) and registered charity (‘not-for-profit organisation’).
When a complaint is raised, COPE does not attempt to investigate, nor to offer judgment on, the rights or wrongs of specific allegations of research or publication misconduct. COPE’s investigations and reports are therefore focused solely on whether the journals involved behaved according to the COPE Code of Conduct and best practice Guidelines for Editors.
COPE members can bring cases to the quarterly COPE Forum for advice. The COPE Forum meets in London, UK and is open to members and appropriate guests. Invitations and minutes (including advice and follow-up information on all cases discussed) are circulated to all COPE members. Attendance is possible in person or by telephone.
Members who are signed in, are invited to Submit a case in advance, which are anonymised before circulation and then discussed during the Forum, with advice given on appropriate action. Members are asked to provide feedback about their cases at subsequent meetings.
All cases submitted to the Forum (suitably anonymised and without any information about the submitting journal) are entered into the Database. This database is accessible to COPE members and may be helpful in answering queries about cases similar to those that have been discussed before. It will also form a useful research tool.
Members furthermore have the facility to obtain confidential advice on sensitive ethical issues or between Forum meetings from COPE's chairman or officers.
Other membership benefits include:
- Free attendance at annual seminar
- Website with members area: blog, wiki, sample letters, presentations
- Publication ethics audit tool
- eLearning program on how to handle and prevent misconduct
COPE will email editors on occasion to inform them of relevant initiatives, and invite them to participate in Forums, workshops and meetings. COPE may also contact them in reference to specific cases involving their journals.
Should you have questions on your journal’s membership with COPE, access to the member area or about COPE, its website, policies, activities or publication misconduct, please refer to http://publicationethics.org/contact-us or ask your publishing contact.
Note regarding COPE charts
COPE charts are useful tools for editors as they show in visual form the general process of investigation, communication, and decision-making. However there are some minor differences between COPE-recommended procedures as described on these charts and Elsevier-recommended procedures. It is therefore suggested that editors always discuss and agree with their publishing contact on a course of action together.