Publication ethics

  • Margaret Rees
    Nuffield Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Oxford, UK

    Faculty of Medicine, University of Glasgow, UK

    Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, New Brunswick, USA
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      All Elsevier journals, including Maturitas, are members of the Committee of Publication Ethics (COPE). Founded in 1997 by a small group of medical journal editors in the UK, COPE now has over 7000 members worldwide. All academic fields are now represented, as the principles of publication ethics apply to all disciplines. Over the past year COPE has significantly increased the number of resources available on its web site [

      Committee on publication ethics. [accessed 2 January 2012].

      ]. While COPE is primarily a resource for Editors and Publishers of Scholarly Journals, the archive of cases and the document ‘How to handle authorship disputes: a guide for new researchers’ by Tim Albert and Liz Wager may be of use to authors. Many of the resources are available to both non members and members.
      A key new resource for COPE members is the online eLearning course for editors. This will cover plagiarism, data fabrication, data falsification, redundant publication, selective reporting, unethical research, authorship criteria, reviewer misconduct, responsibilities of editors and conflicts of interest. One of the first courses to become available is that on plagiarism, a growing issue in scientific publishing. All papers submitted to Maturitas are screened for plagiarism using the iThenticate tool. Documents are compared with over 115 million journal articles, research titles, conference proceedings and books from leading scientific, technical and medical publishers and more than 17 billion web pages [

      iThenticate. [accessed 2 January 2012].

      ]. Text similarities are detected. It is not yet possible to screen tables or diagrams and the role of reviewers in scrutinising these elements of a paper remains of critical importance. Substantial overlap is dealt with on a case by case basis, initially by an editor contacting the author. Actions required of authors may include the rewriting of the text or use of quotation marks with proper attribution and referencing of the source material. Consideration is given as to the nature of the similar text. Thus it may be difficult, if not impossible, to describe standard experimental techniques or a well established patient cohort in a completely novel way. However one must ensure that the duplicated text is adequately referenced. Also consideration is given as to the experience of the authors and whether their first language is English.
      As Maturitas is a biomedical journal relevant papers are scrutinised to ensure that ethical approval and informed consent have been obtained. As regulations vary world wide, again uncertainties are dealt with on a case by case basis and referred to the Maturitas ethics committee as required [
      • Rees M.
      Ethics and studies in human beings: research, service evaluation or audit.
      I would recommend that authors at all levels consult the COPE web site so that they are aware of issues of publication ethics. Also publication ethics should be incorporated into undergraduate teaching in all disciplines so that there is awareness from an early stage.

      Competing interest

      MR is a COPE council member.


      No funding.


      1. Committee on publication ethics. [accessed 2 January 2012].

      2. iThenticate. [accessed 2 January 2012].

        • Rees M.
        Ethics and studies in human beings: research, service evaluation or audit.
        Maturitas. 2009; 64: 199-200