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Competing interests question


An online post-publication literature evaluation service aiming to highlight the best papers in medicine, received an evaluation of a basic science study funded by an NIHM grant. The evaluator declared in his/her competing interests that he/she is the director of a project that included the evaluated study as one of its components. The overall project was funded by an NIHM grant and paid the salary of the study’s first author. The evaluator did not supervise the study or write the paper.


Ethical approval for a study


We had a presubmission enquiry from a group regarding a paper reporting what seemed to be an uncontrolled trial in infertile women who were given soft tissue physical therapy.


Literature evaluation service and supplements


An online post-publication literature evaluation service aiming to highlight the best articles in medicine has received evaluation of articles published in supplement issues of journals. Given that many supplements are funded by pharmaceutical companies, should we have a different policy on how to handle such evaluations? If so, what suggestions do you have?


Is retraction justified because of an author dispute over permission to use data?


Author X recently published a paper in Journal Y and has asked for the paper to be retracted. The reason given is that part of the data presented in the paper was published without the permission of a colleague, who is not listed as an author of the paper (and probably does not qualify for full authorship). This colleague is now seeking to publish the data in another journal and it is implied that Author X is also a co-author on the second paper (which has been submitted, not yet accepted).


Suspected plagiarism


This is regarding a case of suspected plagiarism in our journal.


A case of scientific misconduct?


We had a paper submitted reporting results of a randomized trial. The trial seemed to look at immune responses in lung fluid in participants receiving either a particular vaccine or placebo. We got a copy of the trial protocol before going to peer review as per our normal editorial policy, and made sure the trial was registered.


Conflict of interest


After peer-review, a general medical journal published a household survey of violence following a coup against the country’s elected President. The survey revealed high levels of violence and human rights abuses, only a small minority of which were attributed to supporters of the deposed regime. The manuscript stated that none of the interviewers had political affiliations and the authors declared that they had no conflict of interest.


Duplicate submission


An article was submitted simultaneously to our journal and another journal (who is a member of COPE) on the same date. Both journals received letters saying that the article had not been submitted to another journal. When they received a favourable response from the other journal, and the article was published, we were informed by the authors that they wished to withdraw the paper from our journal.


Possible duplicate publication


An article by a Far Eastern group was published in our journal in November 2005. We were later alerted by an interested reader that the same article, slightly changed, was published in an American journal. I contacted the American journal and the article will now be officially retracted from that journal. Part of the explanation could be poor communication between the authors, but I am not sure this is the whole truth.


Possible plagiarism


A Middle Eastern author submitted four papers on different subjects at around the same time (two single author, two with other authors). During in-house assessment, it was noted that two of the papers were very similar to previously published papers. Fuller inspection of the complete papers indicated unequivocally that plagiarism had taken place—in one of the papers even the figures have been copied from the published paper. Software was not used.