While reviewing revised manuscripts, the editor of Journal A happened across two manuscripts that looked remarkably similar. One was on the point of acceptance, pending revision of a table; one had just been revised by the authors. The two papers were from the same institution, apparently on the same population of exposed workers, with the same measurements, and with closely related conclusions. Two authors were common to both papers. In the revised version of the first paper, an author from the second paper was named as the corresponding author. Neither paper made any mention of the other. The editor wrote to both corresponding authors of these papers asking for an explanation before taking action. The editor of Journal A is feeling decidedly fed up with the number of cases like this one that have occurred over the past 12 months. Once again, this case was spotted by chance. The editor feels that there must be many more examples of duplicate publication that get through, especially when they go to different journals. How can editors prevent these cases, rather than trying to catch them in a net with many holes in it? Is the answer to take stronger action against those that are spotted, to send out a strong signal to others thinking about indulging in a spot of duplication?
_ Around one in five published papers are republished in substantial form. _ A study in the 80s found that over 10 per cent did not mention previous publication, but a second study at the end of the 90s suggested this figure was around 1%. _ It takes considerable time and effort to look at all the referenced papers to see if there is any overlap and then those are the published ones, not those under submission. _ Author dispute and ineptitude could underlie this case. _ Write to the authors reminding them what good publication practice is and that duplicate submission is not acceptable.
The editor received an explanatory letter from the authors. This seemed to confirm the impression of confusion and ineptitude among the authors. The authors referred to a third paper, accepted for publication in another journal, which seems to cover some of the same ground, and is based on the same population. The editor rejected both of the submitted papers, but offered the possibility of submitting one paper, with full reference to the third paper accepted in the third journal. At the same time he reminded the authors about good publication practice.