Opacity about COPE (Committee on Publications Ethics) Physical Address and Operations
Authors: Jaime A. Teixeira da Silva
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Annual report and financial statement forms from 2012-2015 for The Committee on Publications Ethics (COPE) are publicly available on the COPE website. On those forms, COPE’s physical address is listed as 22 Nelson Close, Harleston, Norfolk, in the United Kingdom (UK). In fact, COPE is registered both as a charity and as a charitable company. However, only one physical address is registered in the UK. Other than these documents, COPE website pages that should list the physical address, contact people, phone numbers and emails, as any transparent and socially responsible organization would do, in fact did not list such information, at all, or in full, even on the “contact us” page until about June, 2017, when the website was updated, possibly following my concerns. This registered physical address is simply a mail-drop address, but it is unclear if COPE is sharing that address with other registered UK companies and charities. Several of these aspects related to COPE’s stated physical registered address correspond to some of the predatory characteristics that the now-defunct Jeffrey Beall blog used to list, and which WAME, the World Association of Medical Editors, a close COPE ally, still espouses as predatory, albeit related to publishing. In addition, documents tend to be undated and membership has been changing numbers even though the application for COPE membership was suspended in March, 2017. This paper argues that, based on an adaptation of these criteria alone, COPE displays some predatory, dishonest or misleading characteristics. These issues would not only undermine trust in COPE, but could in fact may constitute a serious breach of basic ethical principles that its global membership would expect from an ethics organization that claims to be transparent about its operations, and that cares about the fine-scale nature of this critique.