Annual Meeting Reports

CSE–COPE Joint Session: Learning to Do the Right Thing—Educating Editors, Authors, and Reviewers in Publication Ethics

If you are reading this summary, you are quite possibly wrestling with the hot-button topic of publication ethics. This session was a strong kickoff to the variety of excellent concurrent sessions at the CSE annual meeting and pointed to a wealth of information and resources. The three speakers are experienced in publication ethics and how to promote understanding of ethical expectations and behaviors.

Virginia (“Ginny”) Barbour opened the session with a brief history of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and its mission, introducing herself as the current chair of the committee. COPE formed in 1997 as an organization focused on ethical issues touching researchers and publishers of biomedical content and has grown to more than 7000 members, representing a wide array of academic fields.

As a service organization, COPE has taken on the roles of educating, guiding, and supporting and uses various approaches and resources to accomplish these goals. A visit to the COPE Web site at and a click on “Resources” offers numerous tools, including the COPE guidelines, case studies, flowcharts for feasible action related to various ethical situations, information on seminars and forum meetings, and e-Learning resources. The News & Opinion section links to a variety of related stories and media sites to keep members informed.

Following Barbour’s introduction, Sarah Tegen’s presentation was a seamless segue to describe how one publisher, the American Chemical Society (ACS), is actively addressing concerns about publication ethics and providing guidance to authors and scientific editors. Tegen’s presentation, “Teaching Our Constituents to Do the Right Thing”, summarized innovative ways in which ACS approaches publication-ethics education for editors, authors, and reviewers, using opportunities to meet in face-to-face settings and to reach audiences around the world through technology-based avenues. One of the most popular avenues is the outreach program “ACS on Campus”. Each ACS on Campus event, hosted in a university setting, affords opportunities for personal interaction with ACS editors and staff who bring the message of publication ethics directly to students, researchers, and authors. If ACS is not on your campus, the video series “Publishing Your Research 101” at includes an episode on ethical considerations for authors and reviewers. The series is a must-see for scientists who are considering publishing for the first time and for seasoned researchers alike.

Christina N Bennett rounded out the presentations by describing the process approach that the American Physiological Society (APS) follows to communicate concerns to authors when ethical violations are detected. In addition to the description of sample communications to authors regarding potential transgressions in textual content, of special interest were the information and insights related to imagery and acceptable and unacceptable practices that authors often follow with graphics. Bennett noted that authors have sophisticated tools at their disposal and often a high level of expertise with them, but do not realize that image manipulation may be inappropriate and violate publishers’ ethical guidelines for data presentation. APS and other publishers are now including detailed information on image presentation and acceptable practices regarding graphical elements with their information for authors. Bennett further noted that publishers are evaluating submitted images for compliance with stated guidelines and policies.

The Council of Science Editors remains a key support resource for publishers, researchers, and other people and organizations that are trying to navigate the changing and competitive academic landscape while avoiding ethical roadblocks along the way. The newly updated CSE White Paper on Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications (2012 update) is available online at