A manuscript was submitted to our journal and, on running a routine CrossCheck report, we found that it contained a 68% match (over 5000 words) to a report from a funded project by the authors that had recently been published online. Because the similarity match was so high, we rejected the manuscript.
The author is now contesting the rejection, arguing that the funded project had demanded the full copy of the submitted manuscript as part of a mandatory annual report to maintain the funding, and published the full report on their website without his approval.
Are we wrong to consider this previous publication?
Several members commented that publication of a PhD thesis, for example, would not prevent publication of a journal article, provided there was full acknowledgement in both sources and permission had been sought from the university. Most agreed that this is a similar situation. It is not the same as publication in another journal. But the Forum agreed that the editor’s decision does depend on journal policy. Does the journal allow pre-print publication (ie posting of non-peer-reviewed findings) or are these considered ‘prior publication’ (journals vary on their policies on this)? Whatever the policy, the editor should also ensure there are no copyright issues. Otherwise, all agreed that the paper could be published. There are no overriding ethical issues as long as the dual publication is transparent and cross referenced. A suggestion was to contact the funding body and discuss a policy for future reference, perhaps agreeing to simultaneous publication.