An English language journal received a study describing a randomised controlled trial. The paper was accepted and published several months later. Five months after its publication the editors were informed that a similar study had been published in a German language journal two years earlier. Three of the four authors were involved. It had been carried out over the same time period, using the same methods, and had arrived at the same conclusion. The only difference was that the earlier publication involved 168 cases and the later one 200. The second article did not reference the earlier publication nor had the editors been made aware of its existence. Had the editors known about the earlier publication the chances of publication of the second paper would have been significantly weakened. The lead author was contacted to explain. He apologised for the oversight, acknowledging that the second article should have referenced the first, but arguing that the first article would not have been generally accessible to most of the journal’s readership. He continued that the second publication expanded on the earlier pilot study of 32 patients, while the discussion considered other countries. The tables and text were original and not copied from any previous article, he said. He added that the authors would be pleased to acknowledge in an erratum that this was an unintentional oversight. - Does this constitute dual publication? - Should the authors’ apology be accepted or should the matter be taken further?
- This case should really be called redundant publication. - The explanation that this was an oversight is simply not credible. - The question is how will other people know that this is an expansion of the first study? - The editors should write to the authors’ institutions and post a notice of redundant publication.