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  • Case
    Case Closed

    A pre-submission inquiry with a bribe

    We recently received a pre-submission inquiry from an author, who identified as being fairly inexperienced with writing papers. At first glance it was a fairly standard pre-submission inquiry. The author mentioned the titles of two papers they allegedly had wrote and wondered whether we might be potentially interested in them. The author added that they had a colleague who would also be potenti…
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    Case Closed

    Increased number of casual submissions

    We have experienced a sudden spurt in casual submissions of poor quality articles. We believe this is because authors wish to show that they have submitted articles which are under consideration at reputable journals. While any journal or editor would be happy to see increased numbers of submissions, sadly, most are of very poor quality in all respects. Most are very casually prepared wi…
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    Case Closed

    Are copyrighted conference audiotapes considered "prior publication"?

    An editor received a query from an author: “Your guidelines are clear that presenting data at a society meeting does not preclude publication. But what if the society records the presentation, retains copyright of that recording, and posts it online? Is asking presenters to turn over copyright of a recording of data presented at a prepublication stage and disseminating the recording as they see…
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    On-going

    Editor manipulation of impact factor

    An editor in chief of a major medical journal in a specialty field is also an author. The editor submits a manuscript to a competing journal in the same field. The manuscript receives moderately favourable reviews and the authors are invited to respond to the reviewer input and submit a revised manuscript. In the communication from that journal's editor in chief, the authors are asked to cite a…
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    Case Closed

    Scientific misconduct claim from a whistleblower where the institution will not investigate

    A journal received an allegation of scientific misconduct from an anonymous individual stating they were from the group that had written the paper (Institution-1, there are two institutions involved in this research). The email stated that the scientific bases of the article were unreliable. The paper was currently with the authors who were revising the paper after the first round of review, an…
  • Case
    On-going

    Inconclusive institutional investigation into authorship dispute

    After publication of an article, Author A contacted the journal asking to correct their surname. Author A’s name consists of two parts, but only one was included in the publication. The editor accepted this request but asked all authors to agree to publication of an erratum. Author B (the corresponding author) immediately replied, disagreeing with publication of such an erratum. Author A inform…
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    Case Closed

    Retrospective registration, outcome switching and ethical approval

    Journal A received a number of concerns from a reader regarding a paper published in the journal. These concerns were reviewed and sent to the authors of a paper, along with additional comments from the editorial board. The concern was largely around retrospective registration, and an inconsistency between the trial registry record and the published paper. An editorial board member conducted a…
  • Case
    On-going

    Undisclosed conflict of interest

    We published two peer-reviewed articles—one protocol and one paper with the results of a comparative analysis comparing a group of people associated with a specific “complementary medicine health care organization” (CMG), with the general population, which concludes that the group has “unusual health indicators” (more favourable than the general population). The papers originally contain…
  • Case
    On-going

    Licence for a published scale

    We have received a number of manuscripts involving a published scale where the scale’s developer is known to comb the literature and ask those who used the scale for research to pay for a retroactive license, sometimes asking for very large sums of money. We have started asking authors on all submissions where the scale is used to provide a copy of the license agreement with the scale’s…
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    Case Closed

    Editor and reviewers requiring authors to cite their own work

    A staff member in our editorial office noticed a decision letter where a handling editor instructed an author to cite an article published by the handling editor. The staff member wondered if this had happened before and reviewed recent decision letters by that editor. This revealed a concerning pattern of behaviour—the handling editor’s decision letters (including reviewers’ comments) asked au…
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    Case Closed

    Dispute between two authors

    A manuscript was submitted by author A to our journal. The content of the paper was controversial. We sent this manuscript for peer review by two clinical reviewers. We wrote back to author A requesting major revisions to address the concerns and issues raised by the reviewers. A revised paper was submitted and accepted for publication. Because the article was controversial, mini-comment…
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    Case Closed

    License for using a published scale

    A researcher has published a paper in our journal using a scale published in 2008. She wrote to the scale developer in 2014/2015 at least three times (emails are on file) before the start of the project, but the scale developer did not respond despite repeated email reminders. No indication of the need for a license was received. In 2017, when the researcher published the paper using the above…
  • Case
    On-going

    Stolen article

    At acceptance but before publication, we found article A submitted to journal A was highly similar to article B, published 5 months earlier in conference proceedings in journal B by another publisher. The abstracts were nearly identical, but the author lists and affiliations did not overlap. We asked the authors to explain this and they said article A is their own work, but it was inadvertently…
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    Case Closed

    Ethics of non-active management of a control group

    An article was submitted involving over 200 pregnant patients with a systemic illness (from 2010 to 2015) who were recruited and assigned to a control group or an active intervention group (of their systemic illness). The control group received routine antenatal care while the intervention group had active surveillance and management of their systemic illness during the pregnancy. There…
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    Case Closed

    Consequence for dual submission

    An author submitted work to our journal (journal A) which, after two rounds of peer review, was accepted and published. One week after it was published, the editors of journal B contacted our journal stating that this work, with the exact same title, authors and content, had been submitted to journal B and, after receiving an acceptance letter, the author withdrew the paper, informing them that…
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    Case Closed

    Pre-publication in a discussion paper series

    A submission in the economics field to an interdisciplinary social science journal was accepted, following full external review. Subsequently, the publisher wrote to the author stating that during editorial checks, it had come to their attention that a full manuscript of a paper with the same name was available in a discussion paper series and kindly asked that this version be removed from the…
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    Case Closed

    Service evaluation as research in a controversial area of medicine

    We received an email from a reader relating to the ethics statement in a research article published in 2011. The article presented data collected at a clinic relating to a controversial area in medicine. The ethics statement in the article indicates that, in accordance with regional guidelines, the research ethics committee deemed that the study was a service evaluation and formal ethical revie…
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    Case Closed

    Authorship issues from disbanded consortium

    A manuscript was submitted to one of our journals in a special issue. The initial submission included 15 authors with 9 affiliations. The authors were part of a consortium which has now been disbanded. The manuscript was provisionally accepted for publication. At this point, three of the authors requested to be removed from the author list, citing irreconcilable differences with the corr…
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    Case Closed

    Unethical withdrawal after acceptance to maximize the 'impact factor'?

    We are a publisher with a portfolio of about 25 journals, with journal X being the flagship journal. Journal X has a high impact factor. We also publish a range of other, newer journals,  some of which are ranked highly but most have no impact factor. An author submitted a manuscript to journal Y where it underwent peer review and was accepted after revisions. After acceptance, the autho…
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    Case Closed

    Withdrawal request by an author

    We received a request by an author who states not to have contributed to an article published in 2015. The author claims that his name was used without his knowledge and that the corresponding author has been retired for several years and can no longer be reached. At the time of submission, we received a copyright transfer signed with the author’s name (we request all authors to sign the form).…

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