Some time after a single authored research article was published a journal received a letter pointing out that the same article had been rejected by another journal because of unresolved authorship and acknowledgement issues. At that time the paper had 12 authors. The correspondent said that the single author had a patent application related to the topic of the paper. This was declared as a competing interest in the published paper. The correspondent claims that the single author insisted that all the other researchers sign an agreement transferring all intellectual property rights to him before they could be included as authors on the second paper. The correspondent added that the author had already been investigated by his university for ethical issues related to his research and was also being investigated by a national body. The editor contacted the correspondent asking his permission to put the allegations to the single author and requesting information on the investigations. The author replied that all the other 11 authors had agreed to be “withdrawn” from the paper before it was submitted to the second journal as they had not actually produced the article. However, it was difficult to understand how substantially the same paper had such a different authorship list. Either the initial submission listed authors who did not deserve the credit or the second publication did not list those who did deserve it and should have been accountable for the data.
- If the author is currently under investigation, the national body may welcome further information from the editor. - The first journal should pursue these issues even after rejection as it was likely that they would resurface again elsewhere with another attempt at publication. - The editor should contact the institution and the investigational committee with the allegations. The editor should inform the author of his intentions.