A referee’s report on a paper informed this editor that the authors had submitted a very similar paper to another journal. Both papers analyse the same 30 cases of an unusual neoplasm, and the tables and five of the photomicrographs are identical. There is also considerable duplication of text in the article.
We have written to the authors requesting them to clarify how this has arisen and told them that when such duplication arises it is regarded as tantamount to fraud.
The committee questioned the use of the term “fraud” in these circumstances, saying it implied an action far more serious than perhaps was the case. Fraud suggested that there was a deliberate attempt to mislead or the submission of falsified data. In reality, this was more a matter of misconduct involving a breach of publishing rules. The committee asked if the authors’ were new to writing so possibly somewhat naïve, but the editor confirmed that they had published previously.
It was felt that the most appropriate course of action would be to write to the authors again, in the strongest terms possible, asking for an explanation and giving them a deadline by which to reply. If no reply is received, then the editor should write to their head of department or institution, laying out the facts of the case clearly.
No reply received so letter sent to host institution; no reply as yet. The institution has since replied and is investigating the matter.
Further update (April 2007)
No response was received from the host institution despite reminders, and so after six months the paper was automatically rejected.