An article was published with three authors’ names. Not all of the authors’ signatures had been included on the original submission letter. A complaint was lodged by Y, who said that X had submitted the paper without either his or Z’s consent or knowledge, and that there were several specific errors and omissions. Y then submitted a statement for publication in the journal dissociating himself from the published article. The statement was copied with Y’s approval to the corresponding author, X, to give him the opportunity to respond. X responded and arranged for two colleagues, A and B, to submit statements about the research work in question. Y (the complainant) also submitted further information about the research work. This correspondence spawned a series of allegations, denials, explanations and counter-allegations. Although the journal feels it should publish Y’s dissociation from the article in the journal, would it be wise to publish this without anything from X? Additionally, if the editors are sure that X submitted the article without the approval of his supposed co-authors, should action be taken against him, such as barring him from publishing in the journal for a period of time?
_ The corresponding author should have the right to reply. _ There had been a clear breach of publication ethics as not all the authors signed the original agreement on submission. _ It probably is not enough to publish a statement and the matter should be referred to the head of the institution for an investigation, after which the journal should publish the consequences. _ A representative from the other institution—that of author X’s—should also have the right of reply, and the editor would also need to comment on the issue. _ Institutions can hide behind confidentiality agreements and there is evidence that internal enquiries are not always useful. _ The heads of the institutions of all the authors should be informed and the journal should not make any public statement until the responses had been received.
A letter of dissociation from the author was published by the journal. The heads of the institutions were not contacted.