Reply To: Proposal for a publication ethics statement

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Dear Anika, dear PPG,

Thank you for moving this project forward – it is a challenging project!

I think (hope) that all PME members support the idea of publication ethics. However, defining publication ethics for an international community immediately starts to throw up difficulties and complications. In general, I think it is better to be less rather than more specific. I offer some thoughts below.

1. To give an example of complicated: I am curious how work produced by a doctoral student would be treated in terms of authorship. What is the a ‘significant intellectual contribution’? Some supervisors would say that they make such a contribution to their students’ work. Others would not – it is the student’s work, the supervisor provides guidance. A supervisor may very well provide feedback/revisions to support the preparation of their student’s RR submission. And they might very well say ‘approved’ when they feel the text is ready. In this scenario, the supervisor is required to be a co-author…but I’m not sure it always makes sense. There are wide variations in practice around the world.

2. If and when such a policy is adopted, I suggest that PME will also need to establish processes to review potential breaches. What happens if a member or non-member wishes to contest authorship? Or if potential plagiarism is identified? What happens if a member or non-member wishes to contest or appeal a decision in relation to the policy?

3. What is the level to set for different actions? If a RR contains “an irrelevant source for the purpose of artificially inflating citation metrics” (how would that be determined?), but is otherwise okay, should the RR be rejected? Or some other measure taken? Same for other parts of the policy…what other measures might be envisaged apart from rejection of the submission? For serious or repeated breaches, would exclusion from PME be considered? Who would decide?

Perhaps the more general thought that is emerging for me is not so much about the guidelines (although it is partly about that), but more about how they guidelines will be operationalised. What is their status? Are they general guidelines that members are expected to follow, with the responsibility on the member? Or are they guidelines that PME expects to ‘enforce’? Even if the first position, my sense is situations will soon arise that push PME to the second position…

Thanks again, I appreciate the thoughtful work and opportunity to comment.