COPE Provides a Framework for Ethical Peer Review

Ensuring the integrity of the scholarly record is a group effort that involves the authors themselves, journal editorial staffs and editorial boards, and readers. But the bulk of the responsibility devolves to peer reviewers. The high-profile retractions of some influential COVID-19–related papers in 2020 brought additional scrutiny to the peer review process and its limitations.

We have written about the problems with peer review (here, here, and here) and have provided a brief guide for how to review for an academic journal here. Most of our focus has been on the actual process of peer review rather than on ethical considerations.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) points out that reviewers may not receive adequate guidance about or may be unaware of their ethical responsibilities. To help bridge that divide, COPE has developed “Ethical Guidelines for Peer Reviewers,” a document that advocates for agreeing to peer review as a professional responsibility and addresses issues such as disclosure of competing interests, bias, suspected ethics violations, appropriateness of comments and language, and confidentiality.

The Ochsner Journal strives to provide transparent policies for peer review. All Ochsner Journal reviewers receive a reviewers’ rubric that is intended to provide structure for their evaluation of the manuscript. The COPE guidelines provide a good framework for the ethical principles, and in our ongoing effort to promote effective and responsible peer review, we have added a link to the COPE guidelines to the Instructions for Reviewers page at the Ochsner Journal website.