Retraction of the first article in the case of duplicate publication

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Earlier this year it came to our attention that a published article in our journal (journal A) had also been published in another journal (journal B). The article in journal A was published later than the article in journal B, so following COPE guidelines on duplicate publication, we contacted the authors for an explanation. Their response was to blame the editor of journal B for publishing the article without their agreement. From the date of submission to journal B and date of publication in journal A, we knew that the manuscript was under consideration in both journals simultaneously. We were therefore not satisfied with the authors’ response and, as we had the later publication, we proceeded to contact the authors, informing them that we intended to retract their article. In response to this, the authors informed us that the article in journal B had now been retracted, and that they had received an apology from the editor. We have looked into this, and the article in journal B does indeed appear to have been retracted. The retraction notice does not give a reason for the retraction, other than that it was retracted at the request of the authors. Journal B is not a member of COPE.

Regardless of the reason for the duplicate publication, or how it came about, we felt that as we had published second, the onus was on us to retract the article. We are concerned that the authors have chosen which published article to keep in the public domain and have avoided a retraction notice mentioning the duplicate publication. As there is no longer a duplicate publication, there appears to be little we can do. We plan on contacting the authors’ institution, and journal B (to inform them of why retractions are usually published), but we are unsure whether there is any other action we could take and would be grateful for any suggestions.


The Forum agreed this is still a case of duplicate submission and that there has been possible misconduct on the part of the authors. Although there is only one copy of the paper in the literature, the Forum advised the editor to consider publishing an expression of concern to alert readers to this.

The Forum agreed that the editor needs more information and the advice was to contact journal B and ask the editor for his side of the story. It is possible that the authors are blameless. Even if journal B is not at fault, the editor needs to mark the paper in their journal with a clear notice. Readers should be alerted to what has happened and the advice was to have a notice linked to the article to say that this this paper is one of a duplicate submission, and the first article has been retracted.