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The disgraced author


An editorial was commissioned from a distinguished doctor who was subsequently found guilty of research misconduct overseas. There was a lack of consensus in the journal’s country as to whether this judgment was correct. The author continues to work, but is awaiting a judgment from his regulatory body. - Should the editorial be published? - Should the editorial be published with a footnote referring to these events? - If so, what should this footnote say?


Authorship dispute


A paper submitted to an international medical journal was reviewed externally and the authors were subsequently invited to submit a revised version. The initial submission included authors from two different research institutions and one author from a corporate sponsor. The initial submission was accompanied by an appropriate description of the individual authors’ contributions, a negative conflict of interest statement, and an appropriate acknowledgement section.


Plagiarism and possible fraudulent publication


An article written by eminent doctors on a subject of great public interest, with implications for public health policy, was published in Journal A. They subsequently wrote to Journal A, indicating that an article had been published in Journal B, which heavily plagiarised theirs. The editor of Journal A wrote to the authors of the second paper, but has received no satisfactory replies.


A highly critical obituary


A journal published a highly critical obituary, which provoked uproar and prompted the deceased’s family to complain to the national body responsible for regulating the media. The journal believed that the basis of the criticisms were accurate and acknowledged that it had not cited sufficient evidence in the obituary. The journal was considering whether to publish the evidence in full.


Going public on potential fraud


A research article published some time ago detailed an invasive test. The authors obtained informed consent from the patients, but did not seek ethics committee approval. Subsequently, the journal published correspondence from X, detailing the article’s problems. X and others had attempted to replicate the study and had failed to achieve the accuracy levels as described.


Possible deception because of omission of important information


A large study—parts of which have been published in several major journals— purported to show that a drug may reduce side effect X without acting through an important intermediate process Y. This suggests that the drug may have important advantages over similar drugs in its class, and indeed it had been marketed as such. But a critic thinks that the drug may indeed act through the intermediate process Y but that this had been disguised by the way in which the drug had been taken.


A problematic obituary


A short obituary for a recently deceased doctor was received. Just before the issue went to print, one of the editors recognised the deceased as having been at the centre of disciplinary proceedings for having had a sexual relationship with a patient. As a result, he had been removed from the medical register for professional misconduct around two years before his death.


Undeclared conflict of interest


A published study reviewed the use of particular devices for performing a clinical manoeuvre. One of the authors worked for a consultancy, but declared that he had no conflict of interest. Subsequently, the journal received a letter pointing out that the consultancy had been set up explicitly to persuade governments and their regulatory organisations of the virtues of new drugs and technologies.


Plagiarism and possible fraud


The authors of a paper published in another journal wrote to the editor of Journal A, complaining of apparent blatant plagiarism of their work by N et al. , whose paper had been published in the journal earlier in the year. Further investigation revealed that the text of the two papers was almost identical. S et al. had used one drug and N et al. had used a different one of the same class. The published results in the second paper closely matched those of the first.


Sloppiness or deception?


A case control study that links miscarriage to a particular event was published in Journal A. The paper says that most women were pregnant when interviewed. Whether or not they had miscarried when interviewed matters because of “recall bias.” In fact, most of the women who miscarried had already miscarried and so were not pregnant. The statement that most of the women were pregnant is “true” because all of the controls produced live births and were pregnant. The statement is thus misleading.