Duplicate Publication, Integrity and Ethics (PIE Part 4)

By Neuroskeptic | February 18, 2014 3:05 pm

A couple of months ago, I became aware of an organization called Publication Integrity and Ethics (PIE). In three posts (1,2,3) I explored some interesting facts about this group, and about a related organization, Open Access Publishing London (OAPL).

PIE say that their mission is to “promote and maintain a better and a healthier publishing environment through a new set of ethical rules and guidelines”. OAPL, who manage some 50 academic journals, say that they were “the first global publishing house to adopt the PIE Guidelines.” …They are also the only global publishing house whose Director is a relative of PIE’s Director.

Now, the PIE Guidelines are very clear on the issue of ‘duplicate publication’:

A duplicate publication refers to articles that significantly reproduce content from a previously published article without reference or permission… Mistaken duplication can occur when a document is submitted to multiple publications, which constitutes an unethical action… Research should only be submitted once and any reference should be cited in full…

So I was astonished when I became aware that OAPL recently published an article which seems to me to match that definition of ‘duplicate publication’ to a tee. Behold:

Abdulkareem

Here’s OAPL’s article, published in their OA Cancer, in January 2014: The Role of Biological Agents in Immunotherapy by Imran H. Abdulkareem.

Now compare this to one published in the journal Metabolomics: Open Access nine months ago, in May 2013: The Role of Biological Agents in Immunotherapy, by Imran H. Abdulkareem.

Besides small differences in the abstract, and the addition of 77 words in the intro, I could find no difference in the text of these ‘two’ papers. The later, OAPL paper, does not seem to reference the first one at all.

Now, this is just not on. That’s not just my view, mind, but also PIE’s (we are told). And OAPL have their own page dedicated to warning authors about duplicate publication. This page promises that those who commit the act, or similar offenses, will be dealt with severely:

Sanctions for plagiarism, duplicate publication and citation manipulation may include:
- Immediate rejection of the manuscript.
- Immediate rejection of every other manuscript submitted to any journal published by OA Publishing London by any of the authors of the manuscript.
- Prohibition against all of the authors for any new submissions to any journal published either individually or in combination with other authors of the manuscript, as well as in combination with any other authors. The prohibition shall continue for two years from notice of suspension.
- Prohibition against all of the authors from serving on the Editorial Board of any journal published by OA Publishing London.
- In the event that there are documented violations of these policies in any journal, regardless of whether or not the violations occurred in a journal published by OA Publishing London, the above sanctions will be applied.
- In cases where the violations of the above policies are found to be particularly severe, OA Publishing London reserves the right to impose additional sanctions beyond those described above.

Tough talk, that leaves no confusion as to what offenders can expect.

But I admit that I did feel confusion – or deja vu perhaps – when I compared OAPL’s text to this text from the website of Hindawi Publishing, another (slightly older) OA publisher…

Sanctions: In the event that there are documented violations of any of the above mentioned policies in any journal, regardless of whether or not the violations occurred in a journal published by Hindawi, the following sanctions will be applied:

- Immediate rejection of the infringing manuscript.
- Immediate rejection of every other manuscript submitted to any journal published by Hindawi by any of the authors of the infringing manuscript.
- Prohibition against all of the authors for any new submissions to any journal published by Hindawi, either individually or in combination with other authors of the infringing manuscript, as well as in combination with any other authors. This prohibition will be imposed for a minimum of 36 months.
- Prohibition against all of the authors from serving on the Editorial Board of any journal published by Hindawi.
- In cases where the violations of the above policies are found to be particularly egregious, the publisher reserves the right to impose additional sanctions beyond those described above.

OAPL do not seem to reference Hindawi.

Does anyone know if there any guidelines about this kind of thing?

UPDATE 26/2/14: This post went up on 18th February. On the 22nd, I emailed OA Cancer regarding the duplication. I received no reply, but as of this afternoon, the abstract of the Abdulkareem paper has been replaced by a blank page. However, the PDF is still available. On OAPL’s home page, only an empty shell remains:

oaplUPDATE 27/2/14: And it’s gone – almost. All mention of the paper seems to have gone from OAPL’s site and from OA Cancer, as if it had never existed. The old URL to the PDF still works but no pages link to it.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: blogging, funny, papers, PIE, select, Top Posts
  • Wouter

    Well legally, anything rightfully published by Hindawi is also owned by Hindawi. Thus, this particular text , if published on a Hindawi web page, is owned by Hindawi. That being said, I believe it is fairly common for standard (house) rules or similar sets of legislation to be re-used by multiple organizations.
    I personally feel that these types of text don’t need to be authentic. They refer to commonly accepted types of behaviour and are, thus, not presented as new and authentic content of the website.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      I disagree that these are commonly accepted. Not all publishers use these rules – as far as I can tell, they were Hindawi’s rules originally. No other major publisher uses them (there are a few obscure ones that also appear to have copied Hindawi.)

      If we were talking about, say, a standard boilerplate disclaimer about cookies, then yes, that’s not presented as original. But this is not like that.

      I think there’s also an issue of ‘practice what you preach’ here. Of all things, plagiarism rules should appear original…

      • Joanne Williams

        I applaud your earlier work on PIE, but I think this is getting a little nitty. There are only so many ways to say something like this. I’d be happy for journals to cut and paste ethical guidelines from one another, if (and this is obviously a big if given what you’ve reported) that would lead to those guidelines being more widely implemented.

        • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

          Were I only complaining about OAPL’s duplicate publication text being closely similar to someone else’s, then maybe I’d be nitpicking.

          But what I’m saying is that they have just published a (seeming) blatantly duplicate paper – in breach of their tough stated policy on such duplication – and it turns out that said policy is closely similar to someone else’s.

          I am implying that these two facts may not be unrelated. Many would say that they both demonstrate a lack of serious interest in the stated policy.

          • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com Longmire

            Blatant incompetence is rewarded.

  • theambler

    It would appear there are a number of issues with Publication Integrity and Ethics, not least the fact the acronym of their name matches that of the Paedophile Information Exchange. Perhaps choosing a different name to avoid this may have been a good idea.

  • Matthew Slyfield

    What precisely is supposed to be unethical about the the original author submitting the same paper to multiple journals? Both articles listed above list the same author, so this is not a case of the duplicate publication being plagiarism.

    • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

      You’re right, it’s not plagiarism, but it’s still unethical.

      Firstly because it breaches the written agreement that authors enter into with the publishers, that their work is not under consideration elsewhere – and will not be submitted elsewhere in the future. Someone who publishes the same thing twice has broken that promise twice (once per publisher).

      Second, duplicate publication unethically boosts the authors’ publication record, and artificially enhances their influence in the literature. They get two papers where everyone else would only have one. (If the second paper were openly described as a reprint of the first, this might not be an issue, but in this case, it wasn’t.)

      • Matthew Slyfield

        “Firstly because it breaches the written agreement that authors enter into with the publishers”

        Personally, I consider those agreements unethical. The journals are forcing the authors to surrender ownership of the paper.

        “Second, duplicate publication unethically boosts the authors’ publication record”

        Again, why is that unethical?

        “They get two papers where everyone else would only have one.”

        It’s still only one paper, no matter how many journals it is published in. Different journals have different audiences both of which might be interested in a particular paper.

        • Joanne Williams

          Ay ay ay. If its a review paper its a breach of copyright. If its an original research article, then its not original research.

          • Matthew Slyfield

            “If its a review paper its a breach of copyright.”

            Only because the journals force the authors to surrender copyright under duress.

        • http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/neuroskeptic/ Neuroskeptic

          I think those agreements are unethical if they’re taken to mean that authors can’t circulate their own work freely but it is perfectly proper that it should prevent me from republishing with another publisher. Supposing I publish my paper in Journal X, I should be able to send anyone a copy of that paper, post the PDF online etc. – so long as it is clear that it’s a paper from Journal X.

          Anyway, regardless of the ethics, authors sign these agreements and ought to stick by them.

          As to point 2, the problem is that it’s not only one paper. It is two papers, because if you read one, there is no indication that it is the same paper as the other.

          It’s obvious when you compare them, but that’s not the point.

          If the second paper had been prefaced with a note – “this paper previously appeared in Metabolomics Open Access” – then there’d be problem.

          But no publisher would publish that… perhaps that’s why that note wasn’t included.

          • Matthew Slyfield

            “Anyway, regardless of the ethics, authors sign these agreements and ought to stick by them.”

            The authors are required by their employers to publish, and the publishers require them to sign the agreements in order to publish. In my mind that amounts to the agreements being signed under duress and a contract signed under duress is not binding.

            “but it is perfectly proper that they restrict the circulation to forms in which the publisher is credited.”

            Bull, in my opinion the publishers are not entitled to even the smallest share of ownership of the rights to the paper, which necessarily means that they aren’t entitled to credit.

            If one journal steals an article from another that’s one thing, but the author authorizing it to be published in more than one journal is different.

            “As to point 2, the problem is that it’s not only one paper. It is two
            papers, because if you read one, there is no indication that it is the
            same paper as the other.”

            You mean aside from the fact that they have the same title and author? I would think that would be a bit of a clue.

          • Joanne Williams

            “Bull, in my opinion the publishers are not entitled to even the smallest share of ownership of the rights to the paper, which necessarily means that they aren’t entitled to credit.”

            Your opinion is completely irrelevant here. If you want to publish the paper yourself, you are completely free to do so. That is what the internet is for after all. But if you choose to go with a publisher, then you agree to abide by their copyright. Nobody is forcing you to publish your paper anywhere you don’t want to.

          • Matthew Slyfield

            “But if you choose to go with a publisher, then you agree to abide by their copyright.”

            It’s not their copyright, it’s the author’s copyright.

          • Joanne Williams

            Hmm, not sure if you’re just trolling now, but you transfer copyright of the manuscript (not the data) to the publisher when you agree to publish with them (with some rights reserved as author). So it is not your copyright anymore.

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About Neuroskeptic

Neuroskeptic is a British neuroscientist who takes a skeptical look at his own field, and beyond. His blog offers a look at the latest developments in neuroscience, psychiatry and psychology through a critical lens.

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