In November 2009, the Editor of Journal X received a letter complaining of a serious breach of publication ethics regarding an article already published a month earlier on the Journal’s website. The paper concerned had not yet been published in a full journal issue either online or in print. One of the authors of the letter, Professor X, was a named author on the published paper. His complaint was that he had never seen the article prior to publication and had not agreed to be an author.
Professor X stated that some years previously, a number of research groups around the world were invited to join a collaborative research effort. A late Dr Y made the suggestion to make the work a multicentre study and suggested Dr Z as one of the investigators. Professor X also stated that Dr Y asked him to manage all the multicentre groups and compile the work into one final paper. Professor X said that an agreement was made to use a research protocol developed by him across the whole multicentre study.
The published article has Dr Z as corresponding author in addition to a Dr W as first author. Drs W and Z are at the same research institution. Professor X claims that he tried to discuss the progress of work (using the agreed protocol) with Drs Z and W but without reply. Professor X feels that Dr Z has not followed the agreed research protocol and by not liaising with colleagues has made this publication appear as if it is his original work and taken credit for work which was not his original idea. Professor X also states that as the original research protocol was not followed, the findings in the paper are of poor credibility.
When asked about the situation, Drs Z and W stated that they thought each other had been in contact with Professor X to obtain his consent before submitting the manuscript to the Journal. They both apologised for the mis-communication and suggested that Professor X could be removed from the author list before the paper is published in a journal issue. Professor X replied saying that only a full retraction of the paper would be a satisfactory outcome for him because his reputation was damaged by the publication of work that had not followed the originally agreed research protocols that he had developed.
On gathering both sides of the story, the Publisher decided that the two parties (Professor X and Drs Z and W) should communicate with one another in order to find a resolution to the problem and agree how, or if, this paper should be published in a journal issue or whether it should be retracted outright. Dr Z has since written to Professor X saying that there was no agreed usage of the protocol or publication plan and that he was kept informed of the ongoing project. Dr Z reiterated an offer to change the list of authors including the removal of Professor X from the paper.
The Forum was told by the editor that the case has since been resolved. The paper has been published with the amended author list—Professor X’s name was removed. The Forum suggested tightening up the journal’s authorship and contributorship criteria and also copying all authors on all correspondence rather than just the corresponding author to avoid the occurrence of a similar case in the future. The Forum also stressed that it is essential to publish a correction to the published article and to ensure that there are not two versions of the article in circulation.
Following the advice from the Forum, we have tightened up the author and contributor criteria for our journal to try and prevent this happening again. We have also recommended that the editorial office copy in all authors on correspondence. Although the paper had been published online, it had not reached a full issue of the journal so we have been able to correct the paper prior to its formal publication in a journal issue.
This is a complicated case which involves possible plagiarism, double submission and reviewer misconduct. The timeline is as follows:
In year n, a paper P1 authored by A1 and A2 was published in the English language journal X. The paper describes a theoretical analysis of a particular phenomenon.
In year n+6, paper P2 was published in a non-English language outlet by authors A3 et al, which cites P1, but carries essentially the same scientific message.
In year n+8, A3 et al submitted paper P3 to conference Y without referencing P1 or P2. The main content of the paper was essentially the same as that in P1. This paper was awarded a best student paper prize at the conference and journal X, which has an arrangement with conference Y to fast track “extended” versions of best papers , invited submission of such an extended version. Journal Z, unbeknown to journal X, also invited a paper to be published in journal Z based on P3.
In year n+8, paper P4 was published in journal Z; the paper did not cite P1 and was only a very minor extension of P2; under journal X’s rules, P4 would have been rejected as not being sufficiently different from P3 since conference Y is regarded as archival in the field. The editors-in-chief of journal Z were two of the reviewers of P3.
In November year n+8, A3 et al submitted paper P5 to journal X. P5 has the same theoretical content as papers P1–P4, but also has a new experimental section, which does make a new contribution. P5 does reference P1, but only incidentally and does not properly acknowledge that the theoretical content of P5 has previously appeared in P1 (or indeed in P2–P4). The editor-in-chief of journal X was not alerted to the overlap with the previous papers by the two reviewers (who were, in fact, the editors of journal Z). It is not a coincidence that the reviewers of P5 were the same as for P3 since this is part of the journal’s fast tracking process. The editor-in-chief of journal X accepted the paper and it was published in year n+9.
Around 6 years later, journal X (with two new editors-in-chief) received two independent complaints that P5 contains large sections of material plagiarised from P1, noting that although P1 is referenced, the reference is not sufficient. Journal X starts investigations. Two editorial board members and an independent reviewer confirm the facts as stated above. One of the complaints was submitted in the form of a paper for publication; at present, this has not been sent out for review but is simply being treated as additional evidence/confirmation of plagiarism. (We have recently discovered that this paper has been posted on a web site devoted to plagiarism discussions.)
The co-authorship has changed over the papers P2–P5. A3 is constant (although not always first author) but the “et al” changes. Of particular note is that the authors of P3 are not a subset of P5, despite the fact that content-wise P3 is a subset of P5.
P5 has become highly cited and A3, although junior at the time of submission of P2–P5, has become well known with many papers and sits on the editorial board of journals. This should of course not affect our action, but it is worth noting that our decision could have a significant impact.
A3 has admitted in a non-English language web site that he was invited to submit a revised version of P2 to journals X and Y.
One of the complainants has just pointed us to another publication by A3 et al in a foreign language journal which again appears to have a high degree of overlap, published in the same year as P3 and P4. At the time of submission of this case we have not yet contacted A3 or the referees of P5.
Questions for COPE:
It is clear that the theoretical part of P5 is effectively plagiarised as the reference to P1 is insufficient. How severe should our response be?
There is some element of double submission (P4, P5): is this worth pursuing?
Should we take any action against the reviewers of P5 who have arguably acted unethically, or at least less than ideally?
Other comments are welcome on this complex case.
The Forum discussed this complicated case and agreed that there was some culpability on the part of the editors, given that authors A1 and A2’s work was plagiarised, there was redundant publication and possibly dual submission. The advice was to contact authors A1 and A2 and solicit their opinion. This will give the editor a stronger case against author A3. For multiple papers, the editor should assess the level of overlap and consider retraction of the second paper if the overlap is unacceptable. A3 was a junior author but was also the supervisor on the paper but it may be that publication practices were not correctly understood. The advice from the Forum was to address the plagiarism issue. If there is an acceptable explanation, then the editor should consider the less serious offense of redundant publication. Or the editor may wish to issue a correction, mentioning that papers P1 and P2 should have been cited in the other articles.
We sent a letter to the author A3, setting out our concerns and asking for a response. We also followed the advice from COPE to contact the authors (A1 and A2) of the allegedly plagiarised article. One of these two authors (A1) replied (the other is now emeritus) and said that they had already been contacted by A3 asking for their help in defending the charges. A1 confirmed our view—essentially that the paper did replicate ideas without proper acknowledgement. He was perhaps inclined to be lenient to a junior researcher and regard it as ‘unintentional plagiarism’ but left the decision to us of course. A3 replied, heavily defending their position both on the count of plagiarism and that of double submission. This response was reviewed by the Editors-in-Chief and the two editorial board members who had advised initially as well as the same external referee.
Our conclusion was that the charge of double submission could be dropped (since P3 contains sufficient novel material) but there was definitely inadequate reference to the earlier paper in the theoretical part of the paper. We also decided that there was sufficient novel (and interesting and important) novel material in the paper so that a retraction was inappropriate. We therefore wrote to A3 et al again asking them to sign a short note to be published in the journal acknowledging the inadequate reference to prior work, and apologising for this (we also said that if no response was received we would publish the note in the names of the editor in chiefs. This note also (implicitly) acknowledges that no citation was made to P1 in P3 published in conference Y.
We have recently had a response from A3 et al, agreeing in principle to sign an apology note to be published, but disputing the exact extent of what was to be apologised for. We are currently reviewing these questions within the Editorial Board and will respond to A3 et al shortly.
We also considered the issue of possible unethical behaviour by the editors of journal Z who published paper P4 and who reviewed P3 for journal X. We have decided not to pursue this further owing to lack of hard evidence.
It seems that the substantive issues have now been addressed and the case can probably be regarded as closed (subject to our final editorial board review).
We have received threats of legal action from the authors of a manuscript rejected by our journal, henceforth referred to as journal A. These “aggrieved” authors claim that their manuscript was unfairly reviewed by a close competitor, who then used some of their findings in a paper subsequently published in journal B, without either attribution or citation.
The “accused” scientist had indeed reviewed the paper for journal A, and the date on which he/she had first been sent the paper preceded that of his/her own submission to journal B. The steps of our investigation were as follows:
The aggrieved author was asked to provide additional details on which aspect of his work he/she suspected of being unethically used, and he/she identified a particular paragraph in journal B’s paper, which named two genes which our authors claimed to have identified for the first time in the particular bacterial genus studied in both papers.
Meanwhile, the “accused” scientist was asked to respond to the accusation. His response identified the paragraph in question as being a small area of overlap between the two papers, however, he categorically denied that the content of this paragraph drew in any way on the information presented in the manuscript which he had reviewed for journal A. The accused backed up this denial by sending us a copy of an earlier version of the paper, which had been submitted to and rejected by a previous journal (journal C) months before he had first reviewed the complainant’s paper in journal A.
We confirmed this by contacting the editors of journal C who, after obtaining permission, provided us with an independent copy of the manuscript that had been submitted to his journal. On examination we found that the paragraph in question had remained unchanged, and that the description of the two genes was indeed present before any submission to journal A took place.
We agreed with the accused that this data analysis was a very minor part of the paper published in journal B.
Questions for COPE • At this point, we feel that our investigation has exonerated the accused reviewer of one allegation (unethically using information obtained during the peer review process in his/her own publication). Does COPE agree?
• If the manuscript submitted to journal C (providing independent confirmation of the accused’s defence) had not been available, how would such a case be investigated?
• The other allegation (of the reviewer causing the authors’ manuscript to be unfairly rejected) remains unresolved. The reviewer denies misconduct, but there is at least the appearance of misconduct on the basis of conflict of interest. However, we do not think that any further investigation can resolve this issue. Does COPE agree?
• The aggrieved authors have asked for a correction to acknowledge their work (which was published in yet another journal one month before journal B published its article). While the reviewer did not “steal” any data or ideas, he may have unfairly “squashed” the authors’ publication. However, the data analysis in question is a very minor point in the article published in journal B, and the authors’ work may simply be independent corroboration. At this time we do not feel a correction is warranted because we have no evidence of wrongdoing. Does COPE agree?
• Are there other options that might be used in place of a correction?
The Forum agreed that the accused reviewer had been exonerated. The advice from the Forum was that the editor should obtain permission from the reviewer to contact the authors, tell them that their allegations were unfounded and explain the situation to them. The authors should be informed that the reviewer has given his permission for this disclosure as the editor is not obliged to reveal the names of reviewers if the journal operates a closed peer review system. The editor might also suggest that the authors may like to consider an apology to the reviewer. However, some Forum members voiced concerns that the reviewer did have a conflict of issue and that he should have declared this initially.
The reviewer was notified (as were the editors of the other journals) that he had been exonerated, with thanks for his patience and for his cooperation throughout the investigation. The author was also contacted and told that the reviewer had been exonerated. The authors did not formally apologise to the reviewer.
A paper published in one of our journals (paper A) provoked the submission of a correspondence article claiming that a minor conclusion of the paper was a misinterpretation and erroneous. The point in contention was a question of zoomorphology and our paper’s conclusions were based on analysis using a non-invasive technique while the rebuttal relied on more traditional techniques. We are bringing this case to COPE because although it appears to be in the process of being amicably resolved, with a clear resolution of the scientific issues, it has highlighted an area of confusion about the use of privileged information.
The authors’ of the correspondence article (rebutting authors) originally expressed anger and surprise that the paper A contained this error, because they thought they had clearly laid the issue to rest in an earlier rebuttal of a previously published paper making similar errors (paper B). Although this first rebuttal had not yet appeared in print, it had been considered and accepted for publication by the one of the authors of paper A, in his/her capacity as the editor of another journal. Furthermore, this first rebuttal not only challenged the findings of paper B, it also specifically called into question the interpretation of some website data which was included (unmodified) in paper A.
We sent the correspondence article for peer review, and the reviewers supported the soundness of the rebuttal data presented and the alternative morphological interpretation. The reviewers appeared inclined towards the view that the perpetuation of the “wrong” interpretation in paper A was surprising and did not reflect well on the authors of paper A. However, they also indicated that given the close chronology of the various publications, this was a grey area, and not germane to the scientific case for publishing the second rebuttal. We therefore asked the correspondence authors to revise their text to keep the focus on resolving the scientific questions.
Having decided we should, in principle, accept and publish the correspondence article, the authors of paper A were invited to submit a signed response. In this they have clearly acknowledged that the data presented by the authors in both their rebuttals fully support the conclusions reached in these rebuttals and that some of their own data had been misinterpreted in paper A. They also explained that they were already convinced by the first rebuttal which one author had seen in his/her capacity as an editor, and the other had reviewed. However, they had felt it would not be ethical to make use of this privileged information to modify their own paper (paper A) shortly before final acceptance.
We are inclined to accept this as the personal view of the authors of paper A but question whether they adopted the best ethical course.
Questions for COPE • What is COPE’s view? • How should editors and reviewers proceed when they have access to privileged information which suggests that their own work should be modified or corrected? • Is there an ethical responsibility to avoid letting known errors into the scientific literature which was transgressed in this case?
The Forum questioned the authors’ use of the term “privileged information”. The Forum agreed that the authors had acted wrongly. They could have delayed publication of their paper until after the information was in the public domain. The authors should have contacted the publisher and asked them to hold back on publication, explaining the reasons why. Although there was no major misconduct, a correction should appear in the journal (in addition to the correspondence) so that the article will be permanently linked to it.
The case was successfully and amicably resolved. All parties found the advice from COPE very helpful.
We submit to COPE a case regarding the suspected multiple publication of research on four separate occasions in four different journals.
Close inspection of the articles in question revealed that the author had directly copied and reused extensive sections of text, including tables in all four articles. After this matter was bought to the attention of the Editor of Journal A, the chronology detailed below was pieced together. It demonstrates that there is significant overlap in the dates the articles were submitted and copyright forms signed. This, coupled with the extent of the similarities between the articles, lead us to believe that the author would have been aware they were submitting near identical articles to multiple journals over a short space of time.
Upon this realisation the authors were contacted according to the COPE guidelines and the lead author cooperated with us in putting together the information below. Because of the complexity of the case, the number of journals and the time frames involved, we would be grateful if COPE could advise us on the correct course of action.
• In January 2002, three UK authors submitted a paper to Journal A based on the lead author’s PhD thesis. This paper was accepted by Journal A in October 2003 and a copyright assignment form was signed in November 2003. This article appeared in Journal A in January 2005.
• In July 2002, the lead author presented a conference paper based on the same PhD research and submitted it to Journal B. This too was accepted and a copyright agreement was signed in June 2003. This article went on to appear in Journal B in January 2004. This paper acknowledges the conference it was given at.
• In June 2003, the lead author gave another conference paper based on their PhD research which was subsequently published in Journal C in December 2003. The copyright assignment form for this article was signed in September 2003.
• In January 2006, another paper was published in Journal D, again based on the same PhD research. We do not know when this was submitted or when the copyright form was signed.
The advice from COPE was to consult the flowchart for “redundant publication in a published paper”. The flowchart advises that you check the degree of overlap. If it is substantial, contact the authors. If an unsatisfactory response is received, the editor should consider publishing a notice of redundant publication or retraction. Sometimes the author makes a genuine mistake or the instructions to authors are not clear enough (does your journal say that submitted work should be original and not submitted elsewhere) or the author is very junior. In such cases writing to the author explaining the situation and outlining the expected behaviour is sufficient. However, if the editor is satisfied that this is not a simple error and an unsatisfactory response has been received, he should consider contacting the author’s institution and asking them to investigate. The Forum would also advise contacting the other journals.
We have agreed with the publisher that the paper will be retracted.
A paper was accepted and published in journal A which dealt with a cohort of patients with an unusual respiratory pathogen. A similar paper had been published in a US journal B a few months before. It dealt with more or less the same patients (a few more had been added) and provided some extra secondary outcome data but with the same conclusions.
The editor of journal A considered this to be duplication but the authors deny this on the grounds that there are further data.
This is a difficult issue as the editor considers it a case of duplicate publication but the authors disagree. Some journals ask authors to send related papers when submitting their articles for publication. The Forum agreed that journals should have some form of declaration in the instructions to authors or the submission information must be very clear on the rules of duplicate publication. Some argued that a rule of thumb is that if the “extra” data do not stand alone, then it is probably duplicate publication.
In this difficult area, the decision really needs to be left to the judgement of the editor and a correction published in both journals if duplicate publication is believed to have occurred. Software can sometimes help as it can give (in percentages) the amount of overlap between two papers and then editors can judge what amount is acceptable. However, if undetected, all agreed that this is a serious problem as the data may be counted twice in meta-analyses.
The editor indicated to the author that this was a case of duplicate publication and the paper was withdrawn from the website. A notice of duplicate publication was published in the editor’s journal.
Two authors submitted a case report which was interesting but not written in the style of the journal. The editor therefore invited the authors to rewrite the case report, and resubmit it. They did so within a week. The case report was sent out for peer review, accepted and published.
The head of department of one of the authors then wrote to the journal, stating that the case report had previously been published in a non-English language journal. Moreover, in that version of the case report, but not in the more recent version, the head of department had been listed as an author. The head of department had not been asked or informed about the submission to the British journal. The head of department gave the reference of the previous publication. The editor obtained the paper: it did indeed appear to be the same case, since it had essentially the same story and identical figures. The head of department was listed as an author, together with the two authors who had submitted the case report to the editor.
The authors had written a cover letter for each submission. Both cover letters stated that the case report had not been submitted to any other journal. They had been sent after the case report was published in the non-English language journal. The authors were contacted separately by email, and asked to explain the discrepancy. They were warned that if no satisfactory explanation was provided, the journal would have to retract the case report. At the time of writing, they have both written to say that they will provide an explanation, but have not yet done so.
The majority of the members of the Forum agreed that there were grounds for retraction of the paper. However, others argued that as the papers were in different languages, a “notice of duplicate publication” would be more appropriate. All agreed that this was a definite case of misconduct. There are two issues here: (1) the author issue in relation to the names on the two papers and (2) the duplicate publication issue. There may also be copyright issues with the first journal. The advice was to write to the author’s institution, but not in this case to the head of department as he may be unable to remain unbiased. It was suggested to write to the Dean of the university and ask him to investigate.
The authors wrote to us to say that the previous publication was not a scientific publication (ie, in a magazine rather than a journal). They said that the magazine had no editor, no peer reviewers and no signed author agreement. They sent us a photocopy of the instructions to authors, and highlighted a sentence saying “bear in mind that you are not writing a scientific publication”, from which they inferred that the magazine was not a scientific publication.
However, the publication is quite a well known journal in their country of origin. It does have an editor. It is indexed on PUBMED, as indeed was their original publication. The statement about “not writing a scientific publication” appeared to refer to the section, rather than to the journal as a whole: moreover, it was in the section “guide to style”, and hence appeared to be intended to encourage lucid writing.
We therefore retracted the publication.
We also wrote to the professor who had let us know about the duplicate publication, to thank him.
We received a case report from one of the authors of this paper, and the professor who had told us about the duplicate publication. We rejected it on the grounds that it was good, but not exceptional.
Author X recently published a paper in Journal Y and has asked for the paper to be retracted. The reason given is that part of the data presented in the paper was published without the permission of a colleague, who is not listed as an author of the paper (and probably does not qualify for full authorship). This colleague is now seeking to publish the data in another journal and it is implied that Author X is also a co-author on the second paper (which has been submitted, not yet accepted). During correspondence with Journal Y, Author X has confirmed that the data presented in the published paper are 'accurate and reproducible in all respects' and the conclusions of the paper are not affected. Author X acknowledges that this is a dispute regarding the use of data without permission, and understands that retraction is a serious matter. However rather than publish a correction, Author X prefers to retract the published paper in order to maintain a good relationship with colleagues. The decision to retract was reached through discussion with the researchers involved, and has not been requested by the authors' institution. As far as Journal Y knows, the institution has not been involved. Can and should Journal X refuse to publish a retraction on these grounds?
As the author has clearly stated that the data are correct, and the only dispute is a small section of the paper that was published without permission, the committee felt that a retraction is not necessary. As the degree of overlap is so small, this is unlikely to constitute duplicate submission. The second paper could cite the first paper and make a note that the data were published previously in error. The journal could publish a correction or an acknowledgement but the committee felt that the editor should hold firm and not agree to a retraction. The committee felt that contacting the author’s institution was not necessary in this instance.
The editor wrote to Author X and explained that COPE committee members had agreed that there were insufficient grounds to retract the paper published by Journal Y. Instead the editor recommended that Journal Y publish a correction to the paper acknowledging the input of the colleague who generated the data in question. The editor also noted that it should be made very clear to the editors of the other journal that the data had been previously published in Journal Y. Author X passed this recommendation onto his colleagues who then agreed to publication of a correction rather than retraction of the paper. Author X expressed appreciation to us and to COPE for helping to resolve this matter.
After peer-review, a general medical journal published a household survey of violence following a coup against the country’s elected President. The survey revealed high levels of violence and human rights abuses, only a small minority of which were attributed to supporters of the deposed regime. The manuscript stated that none of the interviewers had political affiliations and the authors declared that they had no conflict of interest.
Within days of publication the Editor was contacted by an expatriate from the country and by a local aid worker who expressed incredulity over the fact that the findings attributed so little of the violence to supporters of the deposed President’s political party, It was also pointed out that one of the authors was acquainted with the deposed President and had previously published pieces under a different name which were supportive of him. Some of these pieces were cited in the manuscript.
The author admitted that she had done this and the co-author, her thesis supervisor, stated that he was aware of these facts and did not consider them a conflict of interest.
Not satisfied by the responses from the authors, the Editor asked the Dean of the authors’ institution to undertake an internal investigation to verify that the data had been coded accurately. Results are expected by the end of 2006.
This interesting case prompted much discussion. The committee felt that the conflict of interest should have been identified in the peer-review process and were surprised by the reviewers’ responses and their failure to pick up on the political bias. The committee agreed that the editor has a duty to his readers to inform them that an investigation is ongoing. He should tell his readers that there have been allegations made about the paper but that it is not possible to establish the truth as yet. Hence the advice was to issue a statement of concern in the journal or possibly write an editorial highlighting all sides of the issue.
Following discussion of the case, a statement was published in the journal, a summary of which is given below.
In response to credible allegations that one author’s former activities might constitute an undisclosed conflict of interest, the journal began an inquiry. The authors’ institution was asked to investigate the matter, and the issue was referred to the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE).
The institution audited 100 questionnaires selected by computerised randomisation. Outcome details on the original handwritten records corresponded with the project’s computerised database. The overall distribution of rapes and murders were re-analysed according to alleged perpetrators, and the results agreed with the published findings. Outcomes were then compared by political affiliation of the interviewer and for the author’s own data (as an interviewer). Again, there was no evidence of systematic bias. On the basis of this investigation, the journal has confidence in the authors’ findings as published.
COPE recommended that readers should be made aware that the author had published as a reporter under another name, and that failure to disclose a separate name, under which relevant material had been published and cited in her paper, constitutes an undeclared conflict of interest. The journal’s position on transparent disclosure of potential conflicts of interest is in accordance with guidelines established by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors. The journal has made this position prominently available to readers and to authors, and stated clearly that incomplete disclosures will be amended in a published statement in the Department of Error section, which will also be linked electronically to the publication in electronic databases. Such a correction for this study appears in today’s journal.
To realise their full potential to benefit populations, research findings must influence practice. Intelligent debate is part of that process. The journal encourages genuine debate, and will always consider seriously allegations of scientific misconduct. It is unfortunate, however, that in this case much of the debate was aimed at exploiting historical divisions in the country in question. That process has obscured the message of the authors’research and detracted from the real issue—the welfare of civilians in that country—to whom attention should now turn.
A reader contacted the editorial staff of Journal A after noticing that Journal B, which is primarily non-English, had published a paper that was remarkably similar. The editor of journal A contacted the editor of Journal B. Both editors reviewed the two papers and agreed that the paper from Journal B contained methods, results, and conclusions that formed a part of the paper from Journal A.
The authors were contacted by the editor of Journal A and asked for an explanation. They have replied that the two papers were intended for different audiences, and since the paper in Journal A was a more comprehensive study, this did not constitute duplicate publication. The papers were submitted at approximately the same time, and neither paper referenced the other.
The committee felt that the authors’ excuse that the papers were intended for different audiences did not stand up. If the two papers were basically the same, with most of the data in the tables being duplicated (overlapping data) but with an extension of the data in one of the papers, then this was clearly a case of duplicate, or “redundant”, publication. It would have been acceptable for the author to publish both papers, provided permission to do so had been obtained from the editors of both journals, and that the matter was acknowledged in both papers. However, neither paper referenced the other.
Therefore, the committee advised that Journal A should issue a notice of redundant publication. Ideally, the authors should issue the notice, but probably the editor would have to do it. When writing to the authors, the editor does not need to go into great detail, just point out that it has been discovered that this particular study has been published in full or part by another journal, and that consequently a notice of redundant publication will be published in the journal.
This case was resolved by publishing a notice of redundant publication. The author was not willing to write the correction initially, but did approve the final draft that went on to be published.