You are here



Possible omission of information essential for conclusions in a research paper


In 2013, our journal published a paper describing an observational study comparing two drugs (A and B) for the management of a chronic disease over a period of 10 years. The conclusion in the paper was that mortality was higher in group A (97 deaths) compared with the other group B (52 deaths) (hazard ratio 1.76, 1.22 to 2.53; P=0.003). This analysis was done after adjustment for a large number of confounders, and was approved by our statistical advisor.


Possible self-plagiarism and/or prior publication


In October 2014 it came to our attention via one of the reviewers of a manuscript submitted to our journal that an identical article (100% identical) had been previously published on the website of the author. The submitting author had not made us aware in their submission documentation that the article had been publicly available on their website at the point of submission. Two different but related issues arise from this.


Institutional review board approval required?


We have a query regarding institutional review board (IRB) approval for a paper in production.

The paper reports on a 2 year follow-up and cost-effectiveness evaluation for a treatment programme. A previously published paper reports on the original evaluation of the treatment programme. The authors have not obtained IRB approval for either body of research.


Institutional review board approval needed?


A graduate student submitted a paper to a journal and noted that in her country, unless the research is directly medical, institutional review board (IRB) approval is not required or completed. The journal has a policy of requiring IRB approval on any human subjects’ research. This study was looking at practitioners and their work with students having a particular diagnosis.


Authors’ contributions and involvement by medical communications company


The editorial office was contacted by someone who indicated that s/he has been working with a medical communications company on several manuscripts and has become concerned about the minimal extent of the authors’ contributions to manuscripts handled by the company. The work requested by the company goes beyond language editing, and involves developing parts of manuscripts into narrative on the basis of an outline, and also the addition of references.


Fraud or sloppiness in a submitted manuscript


In June 2014 we received a manuscript by four authors from a well known research institution. They described a randomized trial comparing a variation in a procedure with standard care. In total, 200 patients were randomized, 100 to each arm. As measured by an interview, patients undergoing the new procedure were statistically significantly more content than those in the control arm.


A case with no independent institution to investigate


We were contacted by a lawyer acting on behalf of the last author (author A) of two research articles published in our journals. Both articles are co-authored by one other author (author B), who was the corresponding author. Author A claims not to have been aware of the submission and also raises concerns that the timelines and dates of the before and after photos reported in the articles are incorrect.


Possible breach of reviewer confidentiality


Soon after rejecting a paper—after it underwent peer review but before discussion at the manuscript meeting—the author wrote to tell me that he was asked questions “about the manuscript” at a presentation at a national meeting. The author stated: “A member of the audience addressed questions to me from a copy of the manuscript, and not from the talk I gave.


Image manipulation as a general practice


As managing editor, I view all manuscripts before they are assigned to an editor. Within a 4 week period, I have detected five manuscripts where photographs of either gels or plant materials were used twice or three times in the same manuscript. These manuscripts were immediately rejected.


Coauthor fails to respond to request to confirm coauthorship


Prior to publication, our journal requires coauthors to respond to an email to confirm their authorship status and the author list. A coauthor did not respond to these emails, and when we contacted the corresponding author for help, s/he told us that his/her attempts to reach the coauthor have failed, and that s/he believed the coauthor was attempting to hold the paper hostage.