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Post-publication discussions and corrections

Journals must allow debate post publication either on their site, through letters to the editor, or on an external moderated site, such as PubPeer. They must have mechanisms for correcting, revising or retracting articles after publication

Our core practices

Core practices are the policies and practices journals and publishers need, to reach the highest standards in publication ethics. We include cases with advice, guidance for day-to-day practice, education modules and events on topical issues, to support journals and publishers fulfil their policies.

Partial disclosure of redundancy?


A reviewer detected that a paper received for review was almost identical to a paper published by the same group three years earlier in a journal of a different specialty. The paper concerned clinical and investigative aspects of a disease that crossed two specialties. Although the authors had included their previous paper in the reference list, the title of the paper had been changed from that in the other journal.


Duplication, revision and resubmission?


A manuscript was submitted which described the effect of a drug on cell turnover and apoptosis in a deletion mouse model of a common cancer. One of the reviewers noted that a very similar paper by the same authors had been published in another journal in the same specialty,and went to the trouble of underlining blocks of text that were identical in both papers.


Duplicate publication and now fraud?


Two articles were published in two different journals. The articles had been submitted within days of each other, and were subsequently peer reviewed, revised, and published within a month of each other. The authors failed to reference the closely related article as submitted or in press, and the editors of the two journals were unaware of the other article.


The double review


An author submitted a review to journal A in February 1997. It was accepted for publication in November, after peer review. The same author submitted a review on a similar topic—sufficiently similar that there was substantial overlap of content—to journal B in September 1997. Journal B accepted it in January 1998, after peer review. Neither journal editor knew of the parallel paper.


Triplicate publication with possibly different data in each


A paper describing an outbreak of infectious disease was submitted to three journals. The submission to one journal described the index case; the submission to another included investigation and follow up of other cases and contacts in the country where the outbreak had occurred. The third paper looked at the spread of the disease into other countries.


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.


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 follow-up.


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 pressures. They are give the same drugs in the same hospital and had the same length of follow-up.


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 been submitted elsewhere. What should the two editors do now?


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.