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Editorial Policy for Preventing and Handling Allegations of Duplicate Publication

Ethical and Legal Considerations

Annette Flanagin

Editorial Policy for Preventing and Handling Allegations of Duplicate Publication

Covert duplicate publication violates the ethics of scientific publishing and may constitute a violation of copyright law. Editors have a duty to inform prospective authors of their policies on duplicate publication, which should be published in their instructions for authors. Reviewers should notify editors of the existence of duplicate articles discovered during their review. Authors should send copies of all duplicate or overlapping articles and manuscripts with their submitted manuscripts. Authors should also include citations to highly similar articles and any reports from the same study under their authorship in the reference list of the submitted manuscript. When in doubt about the possibility of duplication or redundancy of information in articles based on the same study or topic, authors should inform and consult the editor.

The editors of JAMA and the Archives Journals have adopted the following policies to prevent the practice of duplicate publication or minimize the risk of its occurrence:

At the time a manuscript is submitted, the author must inform the editor in the event that any part of the material (1) exists elsewhere in unpublished form (eg, large data sets or relevant data not included in the submitted manuscript); (2) is under consideration by another journal; or (3) has been or is about to be published elsewhere. In the case of a highly similar article or manuscript, the author should provide the editor with a copy of the other article(s) or manuscript(s), so that the editor can determine whether the contents are duplicative and whether such duplication affects the editorial priority of the submitted manuscript. All authors are required to sign an authorship criteria and responsibility statement, which includes the following declaration:

Neither this manuscript nor another manuscript with substantially similar content under my authorship has been published or is being considered for publication elsewhere, except as described in an attachment, and copies of related manuscripts are provided.

In addition, many journals require authors to transfer copyright ownership or grant a publication license to the journal as a condition of publication (see 5.6.5, Intellectual Property: Ownership, Access, Rights, and Management, Copyright Assignment or License). In the case of duplicate submission, copyright or publication right is likely owned by the first journal to publish the manuscript, depending on whether copyright ownership or an exclusive publication license was transferred. Journals that require authors to grant a license (rather than transfer copyright) to publish a manuscript also expect authors to inform editors and prospective readers of any duplicative material.

In a case of suspected duplicate submission or publication, editors should first contact the corresponding author and request a written explanation. Additional actions that may be considered are described below.

Duplicate Submission.

If an author submits a duplicate manuscript without notifying the editor(s), the editor should act promptly when it is discovered.2 If duplicate submission of a manuscript is suspected before publication, the editor should notify the author and ask to see a copy of the potentially duplicative material, if not already in hand, as well as copies of any other similar articles and manuscripts, and request a written explanation. After reviewing all material, the editor will then decide whether to continue to consider or to reject the submitted manuscript. If the manuscript is rejected because of duplicate submission, this reason should be indicated clearly in the decision letter.

Duplicate Publication.

If an editor suspects that duplicate publication has occurred, the editor should contact the authors and request a written explanation. If necessary, the editor (possibly with the benefit of additional expert opinion) may consult the editor of the other journal in which the material appeared. If both editors agree that duplication has occurred, the editor of the second journal to publish the article should inform the author of the intention to publish a notice of duplicate publication in a subsequent issue of the journal. It is preferable that this notice be signed by the author or be accompanied by a letter of explanation from the author, but a notice of duplicate publication should be published without the author’s explanation or approval if none is forthcoming.2 Depending on the situation, the editor may also choose to notify the author’s institutional supervisor (eg, department chair, dean) to request assistance with acquisition of an appropriate letter from the author.

Notice of Duplicate Publication.

The notice of duplicate publication should be published on a numbered editorial page and listed in the table of contents of the journal in a citable format to ensure that the notice will be indexed appropriately in literature databases. The notice should be labeled or titled as “Notice of Duplicate Publication” and it may be published as correspondence or as a correction or erratum. The US National Library of Medicine identifies duplicate articles in its bibliographic database by adding a publication type of “Duplicate Publication” to the record of each duplicate article and links subsequently published notices of duplicate publication to the citations of the duplicate articles.22 It is preferable to publish an explanation from the author(s) of the duplicate article with the notice, but this is not always possible or necessary. The words Duplicate Publication should be included in the title of the notice, which should include complete citations to all duplicate articles (since there may be more than 1). Box 2 provides an example of such a notice (wording would depend on the circumstances in each case), and Box 3, an example of a table of contents listing. Note: The examples in Boxes 2 and 3 are not real and are intended to show all of the elements needed for a published notice of duplicate publication and to ensure appropriate identifiability and indexing of such notices.

All journals should develop and publish a policy on duplicate submission and publication.6 In addition, journals should develop procedures for evaluating possible violations of such policy and actions to be taken once a violation has been determined to have occurred. This includes requesting an explanation from the author(s), and, if duplicate publication is determined to have occurred, the editor should notify the other journal(s) involved and may consider notifying the author’s dean, director, or supervisor (this may be necessary if the author does not provide a satisfactory explanation), and the editor should publish a notice of duplicate publication. Some journals in a specific field (eg, pediatrics)23 have decided to notify each other about cases of proved duplicate publication and ban the offending author(s) from publishing in their journals for a specified period.

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