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  • Case

    The missing author

    In March 1996, journal A published a case report about an eye condition with two authors credited, Drs X and Y, both radiologists. Exactly two years later, one of their former colleagues (Dr Z) wrote to the editor claiming that she had been responsible for the patient’s care; she was the ophthalmologist on call the night the patient was admitted. She argued that, as the clinician responsible f…
  • Case

    Questions of authorship, duplicate publication and copyright

    In 1995 a group of nine authors published a paper in a leading general medical journal. Copyright was granted by all authors to the journal. In 1998 the senior author received a complimentary copy of a recently published book. One of the chapters was essentially a reprint of the original paper. It was attributed to the sixth, first and second authors. Neither the first nor second author (the gu…
  • Case

    Patients with vitiligo treated with anti-fungal drugs by a general practitioner

    A letter was submitted for publication in which a general practitioner described how he treated patients with vitiligo “simultaneously with an anti-fungal and anti-bacterial medicament over a prolonged period.”He has done this because:“As is now known,a fungus resembles the human being genetically and there is a possibility that a fungus can hide in the melanocyte (analogically as is being do…
  • Case

    Uncertain treatment of four patients following previous published experiments

    A medically qualifed author submitted a paper in which he described the treatment of four cases of “pesticide poisoning presented as ME.”These four cases had doubtful sounding evidence of pesticide poisoning. The author treated them with a mixture of choline and ascorbic acid. He did this because: “Between the years 1968 and 1973 I had carried out a number of unpublished experiments on patie…
  • Case

    Possible duplicate publication?

    A journal accepted a paper and then discovered that a very similar paper by the same authors had been published in another journal the previous year. The latter journal carried the piece as a short report while the former planned to publish it as a full paper. The full paper carries extended research on oral and maxillofacial surgeons while the short report looks only at attitudes of den…
  • Case

    Grounds for retraction?

    The co-author of a paper has contacted us about a paper he published 5 years ago together with a researcher who has now been convicted of serious professional misconduct by the GMC for research misconduct. The co-author is worried that the paper he co-authored may also be fraudulent. The research was in two parts. The first was analysed by a doctor not convicted of research miscon…
  • Case

    Unethical research

    We have received a study in which patients with healed duodenal ulcers were randomly allocated to treatment with either placebo or ranitidine. Patients were also categorised as to whether they were type A or type B personality; the hypotheses being tested was that patients who were type A might be more likely to relapse. Patients did not have their H pylori status determined. Subjects we…
  • Case

    An author plagiarising the work of the reviewer?

    An author submitted part of his PhD thesis as a paper. The section editor of the journal asked the PhD supervisor to review the paper. This induced a very heated response from the reviewer who made various claims regarding the paper: The author does not credit one of the tests he uses in his work There is no proper acknowledgement of co-workers who perhaps should have been co-author…
  • Case

    Redundant publication?

    The paper discussed the use of drug X in condition Y, submitted to journal A. It is a double blind randomised controlled trial, presenting the 1 year result in 129 women. It finds that drug X helps in condition Y. The authors published a similar paper in journal B, 2 months before submission of this paper to journal A. The journal B paper studied the same question in 601 women with a 2 year fo…
  • Case

    Plagiarism

    A manuscript submitted to journal X was remarkably similar to a paper already published in journal Y. The similarities were noticed by one of the peer reviewers for journal X. The paper has been rejected by journal X but the editor has now written to each of the authors asking for an explanation and has told them that if a reasonable explanation is not forthcoming, she will inform the dean of t…
  • Case

    The critical commentary

    We have accepted a systematic review for publication and have commissioned an accompanying commentary. The authors of the commentary noticed that a particular randomised controlled trial was included in the systematic review while a duplicate version of the trial, published in another journal, was excluded because of inadequate randomisation. The authors of the commentary pointed this out in th…
  • Case

    Failing to get consent from an ethics committee

    This case was described to me by an author who is about to submit a paper. He has discovered that a member of his team has produced a lot of fraudulent data for other studies, and has forged consent from ethics committees. This researcher has been reported to the GMC and his case is pending. The problem with the paper about to be submitted to us is that the fraudulent researcher falsely claime…
  • Case

    Redundant publication

    I received a letter from a reader in November 1997, pointing out that a paper published in the BMJ in 1996 was substantially the same as a paper published in another journal in 1994. We have examined both papers and discovered: (1) The papers describe the same cohort. There are the same numbers of patients, recruited in the same year; they have the same range of starting and finishing blood pr…
  • Case

    Unethical research undertaken by a single handed GP

    We have received a paper from a GP testing the hypotheses that because 24,25 cholecalciferol has a similar structure to commercially available statins, it may act as an inhibitor of HMA co-reductase. He screened 350 patients in his practice and identified 77 who had a cholesterol concentration above 6.5 mmol per litre. Thirty-three of them agreed to return for a second test 2 weeks later. They…
  • Case

    Disputed authorship

    Last year, a paper was published with four named authors. The journal concerned then received a letter from another person claiming that they should also have been credited with authorship. That person (Dr M) had been the second author on an abstract with a similar title presented at a conference, on which the authors of the published paper were also named authors. The journal wrote to the firs…
  • Case

    Blatant example of duplicate publication?

    A paper was submitted to one journal on 7 March, revised on 20 May, submitted to another journal on 21 March, revised on 29 May, accepted on 2 July and published in December 1997. The content of both papers is identical but each has different reference styles so were clearly intended for two different journals. The submission letter to the first journal clearly states that the material has not…
  • Case

    The tortuous tale of a paper, a letter and an editorial

    Dr A submitted an article to journal X that was published in 1996. Dr B wrote to the editor in January 1997, pointing out an error by Dr A. Shortly afterwards, Dr B submitted a longer editorial to the journal discussing the issue raised by this error in a much wider context. Dr B then withdrew the article and submitted it to journal Y at the end of March, with a covering letter in which he wrot…
  • Case

    The perfect study but no investigational drug

    A paper was submitted that described the use of a non-licensed investigational drug. One of the paper’s reviewers drew attention to the fact that none of the investigators in the study had been supplied with the drug since 1992/3. The drug is produced exclusively by one manufacturer who has operated an extremely restrictive policy regarding availability of the compound. I contacted the clinical…
  • Case

    Not getting consent from an ethics committee

    We had provisionally accepted a randomised controlled trial of an exclusion diet given to young children with a particular condition. The trial design was that one group started the exclusion diet a month before the second group. In other words, both were given the “treatment.” One part of the trial was that children who were thought to have an allergy to a particular food were rechallenged wit…
  • Case

    Double plagiarism

    A researcher has written to us to point out that a paper published in a German journal in 1993 was put together almost verbatim from articles published in the BMJ in 1989 and the New England Journal of Medicine in 1992. About three quarters of the material in the article in the German paper comes from these two journals. It may be that the data are original but it seems unlikely. What should we…

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