EVADING RESPONSIBILITY TO READERS AND THIRD PARTIES: HOW AN INTERNATIONAL BIOETHICS JOURNAL FAILED TO CORRECT THE RECORD OF PUBLICATION
The views and opinions expressed in this webeditorial are those of the individual author and do not necessarily represent those of the European Medical Writers Association or its Executive Committee.
Karen Shashok Translator and Editorial Consultant, Granada, Spain o-coordinator, AuthorAID in the Eastern Mediterranean Member, CSE, COPE, EASE, EMAME, EMWA, MET, WAME
Address for correspondence:
Karen Shashok Translator and Editorial Consultant C./ Compositor Ruiz Aznar 12, 2-A 18008 Granada Spain
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Update 19 April 2012. COPE has revised its flowchart "How COPE handles complaints against editors". The updated flowchart is available at http://publicationethics.org/resources/flowcharts
The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry declined to correct the record of publication to the satisfaction of a reader whose professional interests were threatened by misleading information. The journal published letters from the reader in question and the authors of the inaccurate information, but these letters did not satisfactorily correct the record. A second correction (clarification) by the authors was submitted with the approval of the reader, but the editor rejected it. The publisher is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), which found, in response to a complaint submitted by the reader, that the journal had “taken all necessary measures”—a judgement I do not agree with in the light of my analysis of the content of the documents in question, COPE’s code of conduct for editors, other current international guidelines for good editorial practice, and information obtained from all stakeholders in the case. The chair of the editorial board and the publisher have framed the issue in terms of the lack of a legal obligation to act, given that no “factual errors” were involved, whereas the author of this report frames it as an instance of editorial misconduct, i.e., dereliction of editorial responsibility and failure to take all reasonable steps to correct the record. I discuss the implications of the case with reference to editorial ethics and individuals’ vulnerability to potentially damaging misinformation published in international research journals. To correct the record—albeit in a manner inconsistent with current international guidelines—the final clarification is published in this report, with the authors’ permission.
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