A review by three authors, with Dr X as the lead author, was published in Journal A. Five months later, the editor of Journal A was informed by Professor W that a figure in the review by Dr X had originally appeared in a research paper, co-authored by Professor W in Journal B in 1990. The professor also said that Dr X had published the same or very similar figures in journals C, D (research papers), and E (review). The Journal C paper was reference 5 in the Journal A review. Dr X denied that he had “stolen” the figure. However, after an “expert review” Journal C concluded that the figures were the same and the journal’s editors retracted Dr X’s paper. Dr X has since started legal proceedings against one of the editors of Journal C. Professor W is pushing for a complete retraction of the review in Journal A. Dr X is willing to voluntarily retract the paper, but his co authors do not support this, because the figure in question makes no difference to the uncontroversial conclusions of the review. Journal A published a statement noting the retraction by Journal C, and Journal E has published a similar statement. Journal D recruited an expert to examine Professor W’s original pathological material. Journal A has collaborated with this investigation. The expert concluded that the figures published by journals A and D are the same as Professor W’s original slides. Dr X has been told by journals A and D that they will request his institution to investigate the allegations made against him. This case refers to the same disputed figure brought to COPE by another member journal in case 02/02.
_ If the figure was originally Professor W’s and published in 1990, then the original journal would have copyright over the figure. _ If the review was adequate without the figure, then the journal could either withdraw the figure or acknowledge the original copyright holder. _ The original slide would have to be studied to make a correct assessment of the professor’s claim. _ How could a figure belonging to one author come into the possession of another? The journal has been told that Professor W and Dr X were collaborators in the past and that the image had been entered into a database of clinical images and had allegedly been extracted from there. _ Had any copyright documents been associated with the deposit of the image on the database? _ If Dr X’s co authors do not wish to retract the paper, then the journal could publish an addendum/erratum explaining the issues surrounding the figure ownership, acknowledging the original copyright holder. _ It is not the journal’s duty to resolve the dispute between Professor W and Dr X. _ The editor could decide on a course of action after hearing the results of Dr X’s institutional investigation. _ The editor should try to get more information on the Trust’s investigation. _ The editor should take his concerns to the doctor’s and medical director’s regulatory body, notifying the doctor and the Trust of his intentions. As a registered physician, the editor has a duty to report any serious concerns to the regulatory body. _ The editor is a member of the regulatory body. which imposes a higher duty to report his concerns and act on them. _ The editor’s case for reporting was strengthened by the fact that he had taken the advice of COPE on the matter.