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Online posting of confidential draft by peer reviewer


Shortly before publication, I received an email from the authors of a systematic review telling me that a version of the paper as first submitted to the journal for peer review had appeared on the website of a campaign group based in the USA. It was clear that the version of the document posted on the website was the same as the version supplied to the journal's peer reviewers.


Identifying patient information published in a figure


A reader emailed a society, which forwarded the message to the journal office, noting that he can read the name of a patient in a figure in a published letter to the editor. The letter was published online 3 months earlier and had just appeared in print; it was the print version the reader saw. The reader asked if the patient's name could be removed.


Claim of plagiarism in published article


Author A of a 2008 review article in our journal claims her article was used as the "framework" for a 2013 review article on the same subject in an open access journal by a former student of hers, author B. There was no verbatim overlap but the format (comparison of two common conditions) was indeed similar (differential diagnosis, management, pharmacotherapy, and implications for practice).


Misattributed authorship and unauthorized use of data


The director of a research laboratory contacted our journal regarding an article published earlier this year. The director claimed that the documents and data used in the article were collected at his research laboratory and used by author A without his knowledge and permission.


Two reviewer reports contain a significant amount of verbatim textual overlap


Two of four reviewer reports received by the editor-in-chief of a journal contained a significant amount of verbatim textual overlap. Although of the same native (not English) language, the two reviewers are affiliated to institutions in different countries. The reports were submitted to the journal within 5 days of each other. Both reviewers suggested rejection of the submission.


Ethical concerns about a study involving human subjects


A manuscript was submitted to our journal describing a study of a new drug. The manuscript had only one author who gave their affiliation as a company that we can find no record of online. It describes a study in which they appear to have developed a new drug, carried out a toxicology study in mice and then, because no adverse effects were seen, tested it on one patient and five healthy volunteers. There appear to have be no stages in between.


A case of plagiarism?


A paper was published in our journal. A reader contacted us and informed us that the whole of the introduction of the paper was copied directly from another publication. The editor-in-chief suggested retracting the paper immediately. However, the author insists on publishing a correction. They do not want to publish a retraction as this will affect their future career development.
Questions for the COPE Forum
(1) What can we do?


Omitted author


A case series of 89 patients with a relatively rare condition was accepted for publication by the journal following due process through the peer-review system. The paper was published online within days of being accepted.


A case of salami slicing


A reviewer of our journal noticed similarity between a published paper (P1) and a manuscript under review (P2). At the same time, a member of the editorial team noticed similarity between another accepted manuscript for publication (P3) and both paper P1 and manuscript P2. All three papers were submitted by the same authors based on the same trial, reporting three different endpoints measuring the same effect.


Authorship dispute


A manuscript was published in journal X, submitted by several co-authors, including one of the editors in chief of journal X, Dr A (the article was handled by another editor in chief at the journal). Another researcher, Dr B, has claimed that this article should be withdrawn because it contains unauthorized data from him (Dr B).