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Alleged plagiarism


Journal A published a review paper. About a year later, the author of a paper published in 1997 in Journal B wrote to say that he had come across the paper in Journal A during a literature search. He pointed out that parts of this paper were virtually identical with his paper in Journal B. Although the author of the article in Journal A had made one reference to his article, this was only to one specific point and the nearly identical sections had not been referenced.


The cheating medical students


An editorial was published on cheating at medical school. The medical school concerned had allowed a cheating student to graduate. The article attracted over 100 responses, many of them in support of the decision. But an anonymous email response from two students claimed that an exam paper had been seen in the dean’s office prior to an examination and that some 60 per cent of the students had seen this by the time they came to sit the exam.


Possibly unethical plastic surgery


A paper was submitted in which a plastic surgeon described what we thought was a very strange and unconventional operation. We asked the opinion of another plastic surgeon, who described the procedure as “very dangerous. ” He said that there was no consistent evidence that this operation could possibly work. The operation had been conducted in a private clinic, and we are sufficiently concerned that we are thinking of contacting the GMC. Are we doing the right thing?


Clinical malpractice


A case report was submitted in which the authors described a patient who had a poor outcome, and where many mistakes had been made during treatment. The authors of the paper were from a tertiary care centre. The poor practice had happened in a secondary care centre. One of the reviewers of the paper thought that the level of practice was so poor that action should be taken. The other reviewer thought the circumstances were not bad enough to report. But the paper had already been rejected.


Duplicate publication: how much is too much?


A paper (hypothesis) was submitted and sent out for peer review. One of the reviewers pointed out that large parts of the paper had been published, almost word for word, in a previous publication not cited by the authors. We rejected the paper voicing concern about the previous publication of largely similar material.


Authorship dispute


Two manuscripts were received by Journal X, from author A. Both were accepted and sent to the publisher. On receipt of the galley proofs, the corresponding author removed the name of the last author from both manuscripts. Shortly before the page proofs arrived, the journal editors received a request that author A be allowed to remove author B from the authors’ list and instead make a suitable acknowledgement.


Plagiarism or redundant publication?


A manuscript was submitted with a covering letter clearly stating the originality and unpublished nature of the work. The authors stated that the results had already been orally presented at a meeting the previous year. Before sending the manuscript for review the editors discovered that the manuscript contained 60% of the Materials and Methods text and 90% of the Results section of a previously published paper. Even the data were identical.


The undeclared competing interest


An author wrote us a letter for publication on the importance of doing research on a long established drug. He did not declare any competing interest, but we were later informed that he was conducting a trial of the drug funded by a pharmaceutical company. We approached him and asked him to declare his competing interest. Have we done the right thing? Should we do more than simply ask him to declare his competing interest and publish that declaration the journal?


A paper which discloses confidential material


In March 2000 author A submitted a research letter to journal X, on behalf of a national screening programme. He also submitted a commissioned editorial to journal Y, relating to the same subject. At the same time, author A sent copies of both articles to B, a recognised authority on the subject. He made it clear that they were confidential and in press and asked for some information on a test used by B which he could include in the editorial.


Duplicate publication based on conference proceedings


A paper was submitted to Journal A and concern was raised by a reviewer that a substantial part of the paper had been previously published in two other journals. This point was taken up with the authors, who denied any lack of originality and maintained that their manuscript contained previously unpublished data.