Catherine M. Ketcham,1 Martha W. Simmons,2 Gene P. Siegal2
It is considered unethical for an author to submit the same manuscript to 2 or more journals simultaneously because it places an undue burden on editors and reviewers and could lead to dual publication. The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors recommends against duplicate submission, and more than 5500 journals follow their guidelines. However, some authors do submit to multiple journals simultaneously, but the extent of this practice is unknown. The editors of Laboratory Investigation (LI), a basic and translational pathology research journal, therefore developed a study question for qualitative analysis: Were any manuscripts that were withdrawn from LI during peer review and subsequently published elsewhere under review at both journals concurrently?
PubMed searches were performed using the titles, keywords, and authors for 36 manuscripts withdrawn from LI via email from 2020 to 2021. In that time frame, LI received 1550 new submissions, and 787 manuscripts were sent to peer review. The submission, revision, acceptance, and publication dates were collected for the withdrawn articles that were published elsewhere and compared with the submission, decision, and withdrawal dates from LI.
Thirty-six email requests to withdraw submissions were received in 2020-2021. The reasons authors gave were categorized as follows: problems with the data (18), inability to revise the manuscript (6), other concerns (5), and no explanation (7). Twenty of the 36 withdrawn manuscripts had been published in other journals as of January 8, 2022. Of these, 17 (85%) had been under consideration at LI and the publishing journal at the same time. All of the duplicate submissions were from China. Multiple requests to withdraw had similar language, though they were from different authors. Five emails contained the phrase “we feel that we have not yet studied our work completely and some new great results are discovered.” Four other messages said that “some updates should be added to this manuscript and it should be rearranged.” Four more stated, “My tutor said that there are certain problems in the current experimental content.”
The LI editorial office also manages a clinical pathology journal, Modern Pathology, which had no email withdrawal requests nor known instances of duplicate submission in 2020-2021. It was unknown whether any other journals had problems similar to those experienced by LI.
The Committee on Publication Ethics recommends against punitive actions for duplicate submission and prefers an educational approach, at least in the first instance. However, these results may indicate that the practice is a deliberate strategy rather than a misunderstanding of the scientific publication process. Perhaps it is time for publishers and editors to adopt broad screening of submitted manuscripts for dual submissions and to reevaluate the way infractions are addressed.
1United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology, Palm Springs, CA, USA, firstname.lastname@example.org; 2Department of Pathology, University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL, USA
Conflict of Interest Disclosures
Catherine M. Ketcham is a paid employee of the United States and Canadian Academy of Pathology (USCAP), the organization that owns the journal that is the subject of this abstract, Laboratory Investigation (LI). Martha W. Simmons is the senior editorial assistant for LI and receives payment from USCAP. Gene P. Siegal is the editor in chief of LI and receives a stipend from USCAP.