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4th communication: COPE and PIE

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On Tue, Mar 18, 2014 at 4:05 PM, Office Publication Integrity & Ethics <> wrote:

FAO Virginia Barbour, Medicine Editorial Director, PLOS I Chair, COPE
FAO Natalie Ridgeway, COPE Operations Manager

Dear Dr Barbour and Ms Ridgeway

I am delighted to note that your highly respected organisation (COPE) is pleased with the recently launched Publication Integrity Ethics (PIE) initiative. However, as I am sure you are aware, there have been unusual and systematic attacks of suspected plagiarism and copying from certain entities; furthermore, I have reason to believe that some of these sources may be acquainted with COPE.

I am, of course, pleased that you have raised some questions regarding this matter in your letter. We can respond to these questions through formal channels.

To begin with, allow me to highlight the facts: PIE has systematically examined a comprehensive list of references at the times of writing our guidelines. Indeed, the list can be found on the disclaimer link of our guidelines (please see the ‘Examined documents’ section in particular):

To avoid any incidental similarity, the complete list of 8 PIE Guidelines for Publishing has been passed through “iThenticate”. The results showed an overall similarity of less than 1% with the world’s literature. When passing the documents through “Grammarly” the results showed that the PIE text was original.

More extensively, the “UK Copyright Service” also examined the PIE documents and reported that they were satisfied no plagiarism had been found.  As a result of this report, they issued a certificate confirming copyright registration.

From these conclusive studies and reports, I would therefore hope you are in agreement that PIE has taken all reasonable measures to prevent any accidental infringement on copyright belonging to any other party.

Naturally, in the course of compiling relevant data and guidelines, I accept that the PIE website may have some words, phrases or sentences that resemble those written on another website of the same subject matter. This is inevitable when various common references have been used for background research and reading matter, and which constitute familiar and recognised terms within the industry.  For many of these terms there is simply no substitute, as with most professional business categories. To substantiate this, PIE has included the aforementioned comprehensive list of references used in the research and writing process of the site.

I believe any resemblance between our respective guidelines can be attributed to the fact that both PIE and COPE have used one main source to build their guidelines for reviewers. This would appear to be on: “Peer Review and Manuscript Management in Scientific Journals: Guidelines for Good Practice” by Irene Hames, published in 2007. The book is a revolution in the peer-reviewing process and PIE has welcomed its extensive authority. When writing the PIE guidelines for peer-reviewers, this particular book has been an invaluable and highly commendable reference tool; it is for this very reason it has been included in our reference list.

I would refer to the four sections highlighted in your letter. Many of the words contained therein may well have some resemblance to COPE. However, I would draw your attention to the fact that these words have been used in publications before COPE issued its guidelines for reviewers. The references are:

With regards to Section 4.2, we used the following references:

· Hames I. Peer Review and Manuscript Management in Scientific Journals: guidelines for good practice. Wiley Online Library 2007. (Website accessed on June 2012)

· Council of Science Ed. CSE's White Paper on Promoting Integrity in Scientific Journal Publications. (Website accessed on May 2013)

· Brown T. Conflicting Interests, Bias, and Scientific Publishing. International Centre for Alcohol Policies. (Website accessed on January 2013)

· Research Grants Program Office. Conflict of Interest and Professional Activities Policy. (Website accessed on January 2013)

The common words contained in both documents are words like: ‘personal, financial, intellectual, professional, political or religious’. The fact that these terms ‘constitute a relevant interest’ is an undisputed fact and the phrase is commonly used in written or spoken text without particular copyright restrictions.

With regards to Section 4.5, we used the following reference:

· Research Grants Program Office. Conflict of Interest and Professional Activities Policy. (Website accessed on January 2013)

The common words contained in both documents are words like: mentors, mentees, close collaborators or joint grant holders; they have a ‘close personal relationship’ with any of the authors. As before, these are common terms or expressions and in PIE there are two paragraphs in between those two sections (section 4.2 and 4.5) whereas in COPE the conflict of interest paragraph and reviewer paragraph followed each other in sequence.

These words are mentioned in the same sequence in the following pdf file page 13

With regards to Section 7.1, we used the following reference:

· Hames I. Appendix I – The Golden Rules. Peer Review and Manuscript Management in Scientific Journals: guidelines for good practice. Wiley Online Library 2007. (Website accessed on June 2012)

The common words contained in both documents are words or phrases like: ‘for evaluation and acceptance’. However, the inclusion of this phrase within the relevant sentence is completely different with the words preceding and following it. These are standard words relating to submissions of manuscripts and not copyright material belonging to one source and authenticated only by that source.

Incidental to this is the fact that the COPE paragraph on this subject comes straight after the reviewer policy paragraph, whereas in PIE, these are separated by 7 paragraphs.

With regards to Section 7.2, we used the following reference:

· Tesser A & Martin L:  Reviewing Empirical Submissions to Journals. Measurement Research Methodology Evaluation Statistics (MRES). (Website accessed on May 2013)

PIE version: “7.2 Suggestions for the instigation of an alternative reviewer must not be influenced by personal considerations or with any intention that analysis of the manuscript should benefit from a specific outcome, whether positive or negative.”

COPE version of suggestion for alternative reviewers paragraph: “…ensure suggestions for alternative reviewers are based on suitability and not influenced by personal considerations or made with the intention of the manuscript receiving a specific outcome (either positive or negative).”

Whilst the concept is the same, these are standard rules and a different way of expressing this rule cannot be disallowed by one party or another. The wording contained within the concept is completely different.

With regards to the post-review or after-review section, please note the following:

The post-review or after-review section in the references we read duly highlighted many important issues including confidentiality, maintaining active communications with the journal, updating the peer-review report if a new evidence came to light, improving peer-reviewers’ skills and active involvement during the re-submissions. We believe these are vital to maintain correct standards.

· With regards to confidentiality in the first point, although the words related to confidentiality appear similar, they are also similar to a number of texts in the references we read. I hope that you would agree with me that such statements can only be written in a certain fashion with expressions that may naturally lead to the use of similar words. The reason we included this section first is that we strongly believe that confidentiality comes first and clearly COPE views this concept in a similar priority. One cannot continue to keep details of a manuscript and its review confidential unless it is accessible for peer review.

In relation to the alleged resemblance you have pointed out, please note the following:

- PIE version: Reviewers should continue to keep details of the manuscript and its review confidential.

- The above mentioned book version (Hames I 2007): Reviewers must keep manuscripts and accompanying material confidential.

- As I am sure you will agree, there is no alternative to expressing this particular concept, without using similar words. By pure coincidence, the words were used were similar to the words COPE used.

· With regards to the second and third points relating to the submission of the peer-review report, the reviewer should be ready to submit any extra information to the journal or provide any new information that may affect decision making. I believe you would agree that these two points are crucial; they need to be included in the post-review process as they ensure prompt and accurate response to the author. These two points are a result of the process of our structured thinking and understanding of what should happen in the after-review process.

· Our fourth point in this section is about education and improving the skills of the peer-reviewer, rather than in decision-making (as in COPE). We believe that it is useful that the journal releases the peer-review reports to the other peer-reviewers of the same article, in order they have a better understanding but this will not affect the decision making. By taking the initiative in this strategy, we believe there is an important and positive educational outcome.

· The fifth point with regards to re-submissions is completely different. While COPE suggests that reviewers should try to accommodate the request, PIE believe that this is compulsory to ensure the continuity of the process. This is a necessary and standard point to express.

Although I genuinely believe that the five points of our after-review section is different from COPE, I decided to merge the five points into one section to ensure there could be no doubt.


In summary comment I would add that, as this is a review process that is being detailed, it is essential to have a post review section. There is no other term within the publication industry that can be substituted for post review and the term cannot be copyrighted as intellectual property or authenticated as arising from one particular line of thinking or source material. To do so, would cause confusion amongst both authors and reviewers which would not be positive for either party and would be detrimental to the post review process.

If there are any other issues or concerns from your side, please do not hesitate to write to me.

For your attention: PIE is a non-for-profit organisation (Company No. 08764814) which was developed over a decade ago but only launched recently (14th Nov 2013). Its mission is to establish an ethical publishing environment, to address the main areas of concern in the editorial sector and to promote real editorial freedom among publishers. PIE, along with its council, assists the editors, authors and publishers to define, understand and achieve the best practice in the ethics of the publishing environment.

Yours sincerely

Waseem Jerjes
Director, Publication Integrity & Ethics



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