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Clear case of duplicate publication?


We received an article at our editorial office in April 2008. One of the referees discovered that a similar article had been published in a surgical journal in 2000. In that article, the authors presented data on the haemodynamics and intestinal blood flow in pigs.


Should we always follow the decisions of ethics committees?


A paper was submitted to our journal describing a study in which children received general anaesthesia for a minor operation. The authors chose to induce anaesthesia with a mask and 8% sevoflurane inhalation for 8 minutes. The aim was to study the EEG over various brain areas to see where the epileptogenic activity is located. The reason for doing the study was that it has been shown that sevoflurane can cause epileptogenic activity on the EEG.


Community leaders’ consent as a proxy for individual consent


A study was submitted that reported the prevalence of an intestinal infection in a tribal community. The authors did not obtain informed individual consent for stool collection from the study participants; instead they obtained consent from the leaders of each village.


Developing a procedure to deal with retractions


We have recently been alerted to the fact that an article which has been reviewed as part of our service has been retracted. This is the first time this has happened and we are currently developing a guideline on how to deal with reviews of retracted articles.

We have alerted the section editors where the review was published, and we have also informed the reviewer of the article to give her/him the opportunity to comment.


A member of an author group listed on a paper denies authorship


We publish “mini-reviews” of published articles. Our faculty of eminent researchers and clinicians write these evaluations. One of the conditions we insist on from our faculty is that they may not evaluate work on which they are an author. We received a review of a paper, the authorship of which was listed as:

Name A, Name B, Name C; study group X

As the reviewer was a member of “study group X”, we rejected the submission. The reviewer wrote back claiming that:


“I was acknowledged but I should be an author”


A person named in the acknowledgements of a paper wrote to the editor indicating that they had been in part responsible for the analysis and interpretation of the data and should therefore be named as an author.


Fabricated illness: a case that cannot be published under current guidance


A preschool boy had a biopsy to confirm a condition from which he subsequently made a complete recovery. Later, he and his younger brother were reported by their female carer to have developed a possible recurrence and this looked likely on near-patient testing. At each review their carer urged us to undertake further biopsies on them both, but we did not feel that this was necessary.


Retrospective trial registration


The authors carried out a randomised single blind controlled trial on the effects of a pain relieving intervention in pregnant women for pelvic girdle pain. Participants were recruited between 2000 and 2002 and the results were published in 2005. The trial had not been registered at the time.


Consent to publication for case details, and potential for journal violation of patient anonymity


We received a paper reporting on the outcomes of treatment of an individual with obsessive–compulsive disorder and body dysmorphic disorder, which seemed not to respond to standard treatment. Following ethical review and approval, and individual consent, the individual was treated with several distinct courses of an experimental therapy. The individual’s clinical and family history, and their outcomes in response to the experimental therapy, were detailed in the paper.


Randomisation and ethics of pilot trials


We received a paper with potentially important results. After review and revision, we accepted the paper. On further reflection, and asking more of the authors, we became concerned. It is an RCT and the only protocol available was slim but appeared authentic. There were two protocols: one for a pilot trial and, if that was positive, a second protocol aimed to randomise more people. One residual concern was that there was an imbalance in the two randomised arms.