A study by Japanese authors was submitted to specialist journal A. The manuscript was sent to three reviewers, including expert X. After two weeks, expert X contacted the editorial office to say that an identical manuscript had been sent by the competing specialist journal B to expert Y in the same unit as expert X. Expert X and expert Y had compared and discussed both manuscripts. Expert X said that the Japanese authors were clearly attempting dual publication, were therefore completely unethical,and should be reprimanded severely. As editor of journal A,what should be done about: 1 The issue of apparently simultaneous submission to two journals? 2 The breach of con?dentiality by expert X (and also expert Y, commissioned by another journal B)?
Journal B doesn’t state that reviewers should maintain confidentiality. The editor wrote to authors and received a garbled response saying that they meant to withdraw the paper from Journal A. There had also been a letter from the head of the institution saying that the “authors were considering their response.” It seems that this may be a genuine mistake because of sickness. This story was corroborated by all the authors. As to reviewer confidentiality, journals vary in their practice. Breaches of confidence may be justified “in the public interest”.
The paper was withdrawn from both journals. The head of the institution formally apologised to both journal and gave sufficient explanation to make it apparent that a genuine mistake had obviously been made. He also added that he felt the corresponding author, as well as all the others,had learnt from this mistake. The breach of confidentiality was discussed by the editors of both journals involved. Expert X admitted that he had not read the instructions to referees, and had not been aware of this particular aspect of peer review. He undertook to reform his ways. He is still being used as a reviewer for journal A.