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

8. 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.

9. 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.

10. 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
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

11. 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
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.

12. 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
• 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

13. 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.

14. Encouraging debate
14.1. Editors should encourage and be willing to consider cogent criticisms of work published in their
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.

15. 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.

16. 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

17. 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