Dual Submissions Discussion

Publication Practices

The young scientist is faced with an ethical dilemma. If he complies with his supervisor’s wish, he will have the same manuscript submitted to two different journals. If he does not comply, he runs the risk of alienating his supervisor during a probationary period. 

In the end he chose to follow the suggestion of his supervisor. The two journals then asked the same referee to read the manuscript, and as a consequence the dual submission became known to both editors. The editors are then faced with the problem of actions which could terminate the career of the young scientist, or a more merciful approach. 

Do both editors have the obligation to reject the paper outright, or should the author be asked to withdraw one of the submissions, and to apologize for his actions. Is it ethical for either editor to accept the paper given the actions of the author?

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APS Member Comments

The following comments were posted by individual APS members, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Task Force on Ethics Education or of APS itself.

I do not think that the editors of both journals should reject the paper outright. The rejection of the paper should be based solely on the unsuitability of the paper.The submission of the same paper to two different journals should be avoided by all authors. However, it is not unethical to SUBMIT the same paper to two different journals. It surely is unethical to get it PUBLISHED in two different journals. If the paper has been accepted in one journal, the authors have obligation to withdraw it from the other journal. Similarly, the editor of other journal have obligation to ask the authors to withdraw their paper, once it is known that it has been accepted for publication by the first journal. Action might be taken if the authors dont comply and it is later learnt that the same paper was published in two different journals. Submitting the  same paper to two different journals does not necessarily mean an intent to publish the same paper in two different journals.
Posted 05/09/07

This is a reply to a comment on duplicate submission.

The writer argues that it is acceptable to submit to two journals at once. But the APS Submission guidelines state that "Manuscripts submitted to the journals must contain original work.....which is not currently being considered for publication elsewhere." The APS copyright transfer form contains a similar statement. Absent these warranties by the submitting authors there would be nothing wrong with duplicate submission, but it becomes misconduct by violating them. Virtually every scientific journal contains such  statements, and with good reason. All journals are swamped with submissions, and there is appreciable expense of Editors' time as well as overworking of referees for each submission. Duplicate submission means that at least one journal will have done this work for no reason. And if every one of the 30,000 submissions received annually to APS journals were to be submitted elsewhere as well, we would create one huge overload!         

That said, in the case discussed we must consider the dilemma of a young researcher. Certainly the professor should receive a greater share of the blame.

But the APS journal would simply reject the article for violating this agreement. Unethical behavior is certainly a reason for rejection. The only question remaining would be whether we tell one or more of the authors that their papers will not be considered for several years after that. I would guess that the young author would be let off, but would have to submit this one article to another journal after it is rejected.

It is not acceptable for an author to violate one of the warranties that accompany submission.
Posted 05/22/07