Journal A received letters from two readers pointing out that the female component of a cohort the paper published was identical with that in a paper published in Journal B earlier that year. The two papers were sent to two independent reviewers, one of whom felt that there was a great degree of overlap between the two papers. The other agreed, but suggested that the paper submitted to Journal A had used a different statistical analysis and had looked at different problems. Neither paper cross-referenced the other and the authors had signed copyright forms in which they had agreed that the research had not been previously published in whole or in substantial part elsewhere. Journal A asked the authors to comment. They denied that the papers were similar. They admitted that the female populations were identical in both papers, but that the objectives, analyses, and results were entirely different. They explained that they had not cross-referenced because the two papers had been submitted at the same time, and that they neglected to reference each paper as being in press. But the editors of both journals felt that this was a case of redundant publication, as did one of the referees; the other felt that the incident was worth a warning issued to the authors. Both editors wanted to publish a redundancy notice and to blacklist the authors for two years. They informed the authors that the issue was being referred to COPE. What does COPE think?
_ Why not send both papers to an independent reviewer? _ The excuse given by the authors is inadequate; not disclosing the previous publication is misleading. _ When the journals publish a notice of duplication, publish the authors’ reply alongside. _ Only one of the papers needs to be withdrawn—the paper with the later publication date, or the one that is incomplete. _ It’s rather heavy handed to “blacklist” an author. Instead consider introducing a sanction such as declining to consider any submissions from the authors for three years.
Both papers were sent to independent reviewers who agreed that there was a significant overlap. A notice of duplication was published in Journal B, with the authors’ reply alongside. The editor of Journal A has also privately informed the authors that his journal will not accept any papers from them for two years. A notice of duplication and reply from the authors were published in the August 2001 issue of Journal A.