A study by Japanese authors was submitted to specialist journal A. The manuscript was sent to three reviewers, including expert X. After two weeks, expert X contacted the editorial office to say that an identical manuscript had been sent by the competing specialist journal B to expert Y in the same unit as expert X. Expert X and expert Y had compared and discussed both manuscripts. Expert X said that the Japanese authors were clearly attempting dual publication, were therefore completely unethical,and should be reprimanded severely. As editor of journal A,what should be done about: 1 The issue of apparently simultaneous submission to two journals? 2 The breach of con?dentiality by expert X (and also expert Y, commissioned by another journal B)?
Journal B doesn’t state that reviewers should maintain confidentiality. The editor wrote to authors and received a garbled response saying that they meant to withdraw the paper from Journal A. There had also been a letter from the head of the institution saying that the “authors were considering their response.” It seems that this may be a genuine mistake because of sickness. This story was corroborated by all the authors. As to reviewer confidentiality, journals vary in their practice. Breaches of confidence may be justified “in the public interest”.
The paper was withdrawn from both journals. The head of the institution formally apologised to both journal and gave sufficient explanation to make it apparent that a genuine mistake had obviously been made. He also added that he felt the corresponding author, as well as all the others,had learnt from this mistake. The breach of confidentiality was discussed by the editors of both journals involved. Expert X admitted that he had not read the instructions to referees, and had not been aware of this particular aspect of peer review. He undertook to reform his ways. He is still being used as a reviewer for journal A.
A paper described an unusual approach to disease modulation in an experimental animal model. The apparently clear cut findings were somewhat surprising. The authors also seem to have used high and low power photomicrographs of the same tissue sections to illustrate completely different experiments within the study. This occurred twice in the paper. Furthermore, this particular area of study was a complete departure from the previous work of the first and senior authors. The editor wrote to the authors pointing out that the photos were the same. He received a garbled response, saying that computer photomicrographs got muddled up. There were 15 authors, all of whom were faxed. The first author responded immediately.
Need to pin down author responsibility and responsibility for data collection. This is either an author muddle or fraud. Editor should ask to see the raw data.
Further correspondence took place between the editor and the corresponding author, and two further sets of figures were received for consideration. The editorial team were unsure as to whether this constituted fraud and rejected the paper on the grounds that they “had lost confidence in the data.” The rejection letter was sent to all the authors.
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.
Journal B published its review in March 1998. The editor of journal A saw this paper and contacted the author. The author claimed that during negotiations in 1997, journal A had led him to believe that his review was not acceptable for publication.He had then contacted journal B.
In January 1998,the author,realising that he should inform journal B about the paper with journal A, sent a letter to the negotiating editor explaining that there was a similar review (which he claims was enclosed) elsewhere. That letter was received and filed but not seen by an editor. There is no record of the paper having been received. The editor of journal A has now rejected the review that he had accepted. The author believes that this editor should honour his earlier decision and publish his review. The paper, he claims, is sufficiently different to merit a separate publication. What should these editors do next?
Journal B is at fault for for failing to act on receipt of the letter from the author.
The authors are also at fault for failing to tell journal B until much later.
Journal B should get an independent expert to assess the degree of overlap of the two papers first, and if found to be acceptable, contact the author apologising for the administrative error.
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 their commentary. We showed the commentary to the authors of the review (as is our practice) and they said that they had excluded the duplicate version of the study, not because of inadequate randomisation, but because it was a duplicate. The authors of the review have thus changed their text. The authors of the commentary find this explanation hard to believe and want to include a sentence in their commentary, making the point that the review was changed in the penultimate draft. We think that it is unsatisfactory to publish the commentary in this way, because it leaves a serious accusation hanging in the air. Either we must accept that the authors of the systematic review made an error and not mention it in the commentary, or we must raise the possibility of research misconduct and ask the host institution to investigate. What does COPE think we should do?
The authors’ explanation is adequate; the commentary can only be published without the criticism.
The commentary was published without the criticism.