Most biomedical journals will not consider manuscripts that are simultaneously being considered by other journals. Among the principal considerations that have led to this policy are: 1) the potential for disagreement when two (or more) journals claim the right to publish a manuscript that has been submitted simultaneously to more than one; and 2) the possibility that two or more journals will unknowingly and unnecessarily undertake the work of peer review, edit the same manuscript, and publish the same article.
However, editors of different journals may decide to simultaneously or jointly publish an article if they believe that doing so would be in the best interest of public health.
Redundant (or duplicate) publication is publication of a paper that overlaps substantially with one already published in print or electronic media.
Readers of primary source periodicals, whether print or electronic, deserve to be able to trust that what they are reading is original unless there is a clear statement that the author and editor are intentionally republishing an article. The bases of this position are international copyright laws, ethical conduct, and cost-effective use of resources. Duplicate publication of original research is particularly problematic because it can result in inadvertent double-counting or inappropriate weighting of the results of a single study, which distorts the available evidence.
Most journals do not wish to receive papers on work that has already been reported in large part in a published article or is contained in another paper that has been submitted or accepted for publication elsewhere, in print or in electronic media. This policy does not preclude the journal from considering a paper that has been rejected by another journal, or a complete report that follows publication of a preliminary report, such as an abstract or poster displayed at a professional meeting. It also does not prevent journals from considering a paper that has been presented at a scientific meeting but was not published in full, or that is being considered for publication in a proceedings or similar format. Brief press reports of scheduled meetings are not usually regarded as breaches of this rule, but they may be if additional data or copies of tables and figures amplify such reports. The ICMJE does not consider results posted in clinical trial registries as previous publication if the results are presented in the same, ICMJE-accepted registry in which initial registration of trial methods occurred and if the results are posted in the form of a brief structured abstract or table. The ICMJE also believes that the results registry should either cite full publications of the results when available or include a statement that indicates that the results have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal.
When submitting a paper, the author must always make a complete statement to the editor about all submissions and previous reports (including meeting presentations and posting of results in registries) that might be regarded as redundant or duplicate publication. The author must alert the editor if the manuscript includes subjects about which the authors have published a previous report or have submitted a related report to another publication. Any such report must be referred to and referenced in the new paper. Copies of such material should be included with the submitted manuscript to help the editor decide how to handle the matter.
If redundant or duplicate publication is attempted or occurs without such notification, authors should expect editorial action to be taken. At the least, prompt rejection of the submitted manuscript should be expected. If the editor was not aware of the violations and the article has already been published, then a notice of redundant or duplicate publication will probably be published with or without the author’s explanation or approval.
Preliminary reporting to public media, governmental agencies, or manufacturers of scientific information described in a paper or a letter to the editor that has been accepted but not yet published violates the policies of many journals. Such reporting may be warranted when the paper or letter describes major therapeutic advances or public health hazards, such as serious adverse effects of drugs, vaccines, other biological products, medicinal devices, or reportable diseases. This reporting should not jeopardize publication, but should be discussed with and agreed upon by the editor in advance.
Acceptable Secondary Publication
Certain types of articles, such as guidelines produced by governmental agencies and professional organizations, may need to reach the widest possible audience. In such instances, editors sometimes deliberately publish material that is also being published in other journals, with the agreement of the authors and the editors of those journals. Secondary publication for various other reasons, in the same or another language, especially in other countries, is justifiable and can be beneficial provided that the following conditions are met.
1. The authors have received approval from the editors of both journals (the editor concerned with secondary publication must have a photocopy, reprint, or manuscript of the primary version).
2. The priority of the primary publication is respected by a publication interval of at least 1 week (unless specifically negotiated otherwise by both editors).
3. The paper for secondary publication is intended for a different group of readers; an abbreviated version could be sufficient.
4. The secondary version faithfully reflects the data and interpretations of the primary version.
5. The footnote on the title page of the secondary version informs readers, peers, and documenting agencies that the paper has been published in whole or in part and states the primary reference. A suitable footnote might read: “This article is based on a study first reported in the [title of journal, with full reference].”
Permission for such secondary publication should be free of charge.
6. The title of the secondary publication should indicate that it is a secondary publication (complete republication, abridged republication, complete translation, or abridged translation) of a primary publication. Of note, the NLM does not consider translations to be “republications” and does not cite or index translations when the original article was published in a journal that is indexed in MEDLINE.
7. Editors of journals that simultaneously publish in multiple languages should understand that NLM indexes the primary language version. When the full text of an article appears in more than one language in a journal issue (such as Canadian journals with the article in both English and French), both languages are indicated in the MEDLINE citation (for example, Mercer K. The relentless challenge in health care. Healthc Manage Forum. 2008 Summer;21(2):4-5. English, French. No abstract available. PMID:18795553.)
Competing Manuscripts Based on the Same Study
Publication of manuscripts to air the disputes of co-investigators may waste journal space and confuse readers. On the other hand, if editors knowingly publish a manuscript written by only some of a collaborating team, they could be denying the rest of the team their legitimate co-authorship rights and journal readers access to legitimate differences of opinion about the interpretation of a study.
Two kinds of competing submissions are considered: submissions by coworkers who disagree on the analysis and interpretation of their study, and submissions by coworkers who disagree on what the facts are and which data should be reported.
Setting aside the unresolved question of ownership of the data, the following general observations may help editors and others address such problems.
Differences in Analysis or Interpretation
If the dispute centers on the analysis or interpretation of data, the authors should submit a manuscript that clearly presents both versions. The difference of opinion should be explained in a cover letter. The normal process of peer and editorial review may help the authors to resolve their disagreement regarding analysis or interpretation.
If the dispute cannot be resolved and the study merits publication, both versions should be published. Options include publishing two papers on the same study, or a single paper with two analyses or interpretations. In such cases, it would be appropriate for the editor to publish a statement outlining the disagreement and the journal’s involvement in attempts to resolve it.
Differences in Reported Methods or Results
If the dispute centers on differing opinions of what was actually done or observed during the study, the journal editor should refuse publication until the disagreement is resolved. Peer review cannot be expected to resolve such problems. If there are allegations of dishonesty or fraud, editors should inform the appropriate authorities; authors should be notified of an editor’s intention to report a suspicion of research misconduct.
Competing Manuscripts Based on the Same Database
Editors sometimes receive manuscripts from separate research groups that have analyzed the same data set (for example, from a public database). The manuscripts may differ in their analytic methods, conclusions, or both. Each manuscript should be considered separately. If interpretation of the data is very similar, it is reasonable but not mandatory for editors to give preference to the manuscript that was received first. However, editorial consideration of multiple submissions may be justified under these circumstances, and there may even be a good reason to publish more than one manuscript because different analytical approaches may be complementary and equally valid.
Uniform Requirements for Manuscripts (URM)
- Statement of Purpose
- Ethical Considerations
- Authorship and Contributorship
- Peer Review
- Conflicts of Interest
- Privacy and Confidentiality
- Protection of Human Subjects and Animals in Research
- Publishing and Editorial Issues
- Obligation to Publish Negative Studies
- Corrections, Retractions, and "Expressions of Concern"
- Overlapping Publications
- Supplements, Theme Issues, and Special Series
- Electronic Publishing
- Medical Journals and the General Media
- Obligation to Register Clinical Trials
- Manuscript Preparation