You are here



Author dispute concerning ownership of data


A paper submitted to Journal X was reviewed and rejected with the recommendation that it be submitted to a more clinical journal. The paper was duly submitted to Journal Y. The authorship was A, B, C, D and E, with E being the corresponding author linking together two research groups in different cities, but in the same country. Journal Y sent the paper to reviewers and, after discussion, their decision was to open negotiations.


Misconduct on a massive scale?


Almost five years ago two outsiders approached an editor suggesting that a large series of papers from a particular researcher, including some published in high profile journals, might be fraudulent. Those contacting the editor thought it possible that the patients described in the studies had never existed at all. Round about the same time a few papers from this author were circulating in the journal’s peer review system.


The declared and the undeclared competing interests


An editorial was published on a particular subject in which the author’s competing interests were declared. He had given evidence on behalf of patients making a claim against a manufacturer. Three people then separately pointed out that we had already published a commentary on the same subject in which there had been no declaration of competing interest for the author. The three people all said that this author did have competing interests.


The results that were too good to believe


A study made it a long way through the peer review process before one of the statistical advisors said that the results seemed “too good to be true.” The authors were asked to send in the original data, which the statistician analysed. He remained very concerned about the data. The authors were notified and the journal asked the university to investigate. Has the editor done the right thing?


Invasive intervention without consent


A study was submitted on the safety and feasibility of treating patients with acute stroke with an invasive procedure that would cause them considerable discomfort. The editor did not want to publish the study because it had negative results, did not include a power calculation, and was almost certainly too small to detect a clinically useful difference.


Publication bias arising from an editor’s activities


The committee’s attention has been drawn to alleged publication bias in Journal X.  It is alleged that an editor on X had invited a young trainee in radiology to author some 14 commentaries over the past 5 years.  His most recent commentary draws attention to one important study from France but otherwise covers the same territory as his previous commentaries without mention of relevant contrary viewpoints. Five of the 12 articles cited are by the commentator and/or the editor in question.


Who ensures the integrity of the editor?


An editor came across a letter from the editor-in-chief of his journal to a reviewer that asserted he had recommended the acceptance of a manuscript. He had in fact recommended the opposite, both verbally and in writing. The paper in question was a guideline on the therapeutic choices for a relatively common medical condition. The authors had claimed their conclusions and therapeutic recommendations were “evidencebased” and recommended a new, expensive medication as first-line treatment.


Compromise of patient confidentiality?


A paper containing three case reports of the same disease was accepted for publication. The disease reported is fairly rare. The parents of one of the cases consented to publication on condition that their daughter was referred to in the paper by her first name rather than as a case number. This particular case has been discussed in the course of a national inquiry, but it is not clear whether the other two cases were discussed.


Dual publication may be necessary in some situations


At a recent editorial board meeting it was suggested that in some disciplines straddling several specialties, transparent simultaneous publication might be necessary. It was suggested that this applies to sexually transmitted infections, and different readers may not have access to each other’s journals.


An anonymous letter in response to qualitative research


Some two months after publishing a piece of qualitative research about health behaviour in an ethnic minority group, an anonymous letter suggested that the work might be fraudulent. The letter was in very poor English, but made two main points. Firstly, the original study did not make clear how many women were included, and secondly, the anonymous respondent could not understand who could have done the interviews.