COPE – Best Practice Guidelines

LUMEN, as member of COPE, aims at complying  with the Codes of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines and in order for our users to be up- to – date regarding the guidelines that COPE is expressing in order to sustain and develop a good practice in editorial processes, we expose some extracts from the Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors, as it follows:


“7. Editorial and peer review processes
7.1. Editors should strive to ensure that peer review at their journal is fair, unbiased and timely.
7.2. Editors should have systems to ensure that material submitted to their journal remains confidential while under review.
Best practice for editors would include:
• ensuring that people involved with the editorial process (including themselves) receive adequate training and keep abreast of the latest guidelines, recommendations and evidence about peer review and journal management
• keeping informed about research into peer review and technological advances
• adopting peer review methods best suited for their journal and the research community it serves
• reviewing peer review practices periodically to see if improvement is possible
• referring troubling cases to COPE, especially when questions arise that are not addressed by the COPE flowcharts, or new types of publication misconduct are suspected
• considering the appointment of an ombudsperson to adjudicate in complaints that cannot be resolved internally

  1. Quality assurance
    8.1. Editors should take all reasonable steps to ensure the quality of the material they publish, recognising that journals and sections within journals will have different aims and standards.
    Best practice for editors would include:
    • having systems in place to detect falsified data (e.g. inappropriately manipulated photographic images or plagiarised text) either for routine use or when suspicions are raised
    • basing decisions about journal house style on relevant evidence of factors that raise the quality of reporting (e.g. adopting structured abstracts, applying guidance such as CONSORT2) rather than simply on aesthetic grounds or personal preference.
  2. Protecting individual data
    9.1. Editors must obey laws on confidentiality in their own jurisdiction. Regardless of local statutes, however, they should always protect the confidentiality of individual information obtained in the course of research or professional interactions (e.g. between doctors and patients). It is therefore almost always necessary to obtain written informed consent for publication from people who might recognise themselves or be identified by others (e.g. from case reports or photographs). It may be possible to publish individual information without explicit consent if public interest considerations outweigh possible harms, it is impossible to obtain consent and a reasonable individual would be unlikely to object to publication.
    Best practice for editors would include:
    • publishing their policy on publishing individual data (e.g. identifiable personal details or images) and explaining this clearly to authors
    Note that consent to take part in research or undergo treatment is not the same as consent to publish personal details, images or quotations.
  3. Encouraging ethical research (e.g. research involving humans or animals)
    10.1. Editors should endeavour to ensure that research they publish was carried out according to the relevant internationally accepted guidelines (e.g. the Declaration of Helsinki for clinical research, the AERA and BERA guidelines for educational research).
    10.2. Editors should seek assurances that all research has been approved by an appropriate body (e.g. research ethics committee, institutional review board) where one exists. However, editors should recognise that such approval does not guarantee that the research is ethical.
    Best practice for editors would include:
    • being prepared to request evidence of ethical research approval and to question authors about ethical aspects (such as how research participant consent was obtained or what methods were employed to minimize animal suffering) if concerns are raised or clarifications are needed
    • ensuring that reports of clinical trials cite compliance with the Declaration of Helsinki8, Good Clinical Practice and other relevant guidelines to safeguard participants
    • ensuring that reports of experiments on, or studies of, animals cite compliance with the US
    Department of Health and Human Services Guide for the Care and Use of Laboratory Animals or other relevant guidelines
    • appointing a journal ethics advisor or panel to advise on specific cases and review journal policies periodically
  4. Dealing with possible misconduct
    11.1. Editors have a duty to act if they suspect misconduct or if an allegation of misconduct is brought to them. This duty extends to both published and unpublished papers.
    11.2. Editors should not simply reject papers that raise concerns about possible misconduct. They are ethically obliged to pursue alleged cases.
    11.3. Editors should follow the COPE flowcharts where applicable.
    11.4. Editors should first seek a response from those suspected of misconduct. If they are not satisfied with the response, they should ask the relevant employers, or institution, or some appropriate body (perhaps a regulatory body or national research integrity organization) to investigate.
    11.5. Editors should make all reasonable efforts to ensure that a proper investigation into alleged misconduct is conducted; if this does not happen, editors should make all reasonable attempts to persist in obtaining a resolution to the problem. This is an onerous but important duty.
  5. Ensuring the integrity of the academic record
    12.1. Errors, inaccurate or misleading statements must be corrected promptly and with due
    12.2. Editors should follow the COPE guidelines on retractions
    Best practice for editors would include:
    • taking steps to reduce covert redundant publication (e.g. by requiring all clinical trials to be registered)
    • ensuring that published material is securely archived (e.g. via online permanent repositories, such as PubMed Central)
    • having systems in place to give authors the opportunity to make original research articles freely available.
  6. Intellectual property
    13.1. Editors should be alert to intellectual property issues and work with their publisher to handle potential breaches of intellectual property laws and conventions.
    Best practice for editors would include:
    • adopting systems for detecting plagiarism (e.g. software, searching for similar titles) in submitted items (either routinely or when suspicions are raised)
    • supporting authors whose copyright has been breached or who have been the victims of plagiarism
    • being prepared to work with their publisher to defend authors’ rights and pursue offenders (e.g. by requesting retractions or removal of material from websites) irrespective of whether their journal holds the copyright.
  7. Encouraging debate
    14.1. Editors should encourage and be willing to consider cogent criticisms of work published in their journal.
    14.2. Authors of criticised material should be given the opportunity to respond.
    14.3. Studies reporting negative results should not be excluded.
    Best practice for editors would include:
    • being open to research that challenges previous work published in the journal.
  8. Complaints
    15.1. Editors should respond promptly to complaints and should ensure there is a way for dissatisfied complainants to take complaints further. This mechanism should be made clear in the journal and should include information on how to refer unresolved matters to COPE.
    15.2. Editors should follow the procedure set out in the COPE flowchart on complaints.
  9. Commercial considerations
    16.1. Journals should have policies and systems in place to ensure that commercial considerations do not affect editorial decisions (e.g. advertising departments should operate independently from editorial departments).
    16.2. Editors should have declared policies on advertising in relation to the content of the journal and on processes for publishing sponsored supplements.
    16.3. Reprints should be published as they appear in the journal unless a correction needs to be included in which case it should be clearly identified.
    Best practice for editors would include:
    • publishing a general description of their journal’s income sources (e.g. the proportions received from display advertising, reprint sales, sponsored supplements, page charges, etc.)
    • ensuring that the peer review process for sponsored supplements is the same as that used for the main journal
    • ensuring that items in sponsored supplements are accepted solely on the basis of academic merit and interest to readers and decisions about such supplements are not influenced by commercial considerations.
  10. Conflicts of interest
    17.1. Editors should have systems for managing their own conflicts of interest as well as those of their staff, authors, reviewers and editorial board members.
    17.2. Journals should have a declared process for handling submissions from the editors, employees or members of the editorial board to ensure unbiased review
    Best practice for editors would include:
    • publishing lists of relevant interests (financial, academic and other kinds) of all editorial staff and members of editorial boards (which should be updated at least annually)”

Source:  COPE –  Code of Conduct and Best Practice Guidelines for Journal Editors available online at