Anti-fraud code agreed

September 10, 1999

Biomedical journal editors have agreed a code of practice to help combat scientific fraud.

The voluntary code, put forward by the Committee on Publication Ethics on Wednesday, offers a uniform procedure for tackling suspected plagiarism, result fixing, unethical research and other forms of dishonesty.

Its authors - leading journal editors, academics and commentators - hope it will replace the present piecemeal approach. But there is a strong feeling that a national, independent body should be set up to investigate, judge and penalise fraudsters.

Michael Farthing, chairman of COPE and editor of Gut, said: "Our mechanisms of self-regulation are just not doing the job. Hopefully this initiative will send out a strong signal to would-be authors that British biomedical editors are serious about how they will deal with this behaviour."

Mr Farthing and the editors of nine other medical journals, including the British Medical Journal and The Lancet, set up COPE two years ago. Although it has no statutory power, the code endorses investigating cases and applying such sanctions as publishing retractions of papers, editorials giving full details of the misconduct and barring whole institutions from publishing papers in the journal for a fixed period.

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