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Duplicate Publishing in 2016: Protecting Our Literature Could Protect Patients

Hinds, Pamela S. PhD, RN, FAAN; Richardson, Angela; Bedinger Miller, Amy

doi: 10.1097/NCC.0000000000000371

Editor-in-Chief Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care

Senior Publisher Health Learning, Research & Practice Wolters Kluwer Health

Managing Editor Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care

The authors have no funding or conflicts of interest to disclose.

Quite recently, we were contacted by an editor of another professional journal seeking to alert us to a situation of duplicate publishing. The authors of the identified paper had first published in Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care and subsequently had submitted a related paper to this other editor’s journal. That paper was accepted for publication in the second journal and eventually forwarded by the publisher to PubMed. The review processes in PubMed resulted in identifying the second paper as “too similar” to the previously published paper in Cancer Nursing: An International Journal of Cancer Care; the procedure within the PubMed enterprise was to include the accepted paper by the second journal in its system but with a certain symbol beside it, signaling that it was a duplicate publication. Once alerted to this plan, the authors withdrew the paper from the second journal. This effectively avoided having their work labeled duplicative in the public record.

Duplicate publishing has been labeled by other names including plagiarism, text recycling, dual publication, redundant literature, unethical republication, piecemeal publication, salami slicing publication, overlapping publication, replicate publication, and recycling fraud. Each name equates to perceived scientific misconduct. Regardless of motive (intentional, accidental), this kind of publishing is a harmful mistake.

Outcomes of duplicate publishing are serious and concerning. When the same finding from the same single source or study is published more than 1 time and without cross-referencing the previously published work, the literature on this topic is falsely inflated, and the literature and the findings are thus distorted. In this way, duplicate publishing confuses readers, professionals, and laypersons alike. Inflation, distortion, and confusion are not the sought outcomes of scholars and their knowledge dissemination activities.

An additional outcome of duplicate publication is retraction, or the request by publishers or others to the authors and to their publishers to withdraw the duplicate work from the public access domain, label it as a duplicate in future referencing of the published paper, or issue a public notice of the work being a duplicate of other work. The public notice is commonly included in the involved journals and in literature databases such as PubMed, that is, “Notice of Retraction,” “Notice of Duplicate Publication.”1,2 Retraction as an outcome is as unappealing as inflation, distortion, and confusion.

Duplicate publishing in healthcare sciences could falsely convince healthcare professionals or consumers of healthcare that a certain data-based finding is more trustworthy than it really is and could thereby find its way into patient care. The mistake of authors now invades patient care and could be a source of harm for our patients.

Duplicate publishing in science and healthcare is concerning and increasing.3 Multiple software tools have been created to assist with detecting duplicate publication. These tools are readily available for purchase or limited-time free use and have a particular utility when authors are preparing to submit a manuscript to a journal for peer review. In addition, such software tools are used by a majority of peer-review journals at some point in their review process. We at Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care apply the software to submissions at the entry point of each submission to the journal. Each of the different software tools yields a coefficient of similarity to previously published work and provides the complete reference of the previously published works considered similar and a rating of the extent of the similarity. A coefficient of certain high similarity is sufficient for us at Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care to decline to submit the manuscript to our peer-review system and to return the manuscript to its authors with a letter of explanation. The frequency of this action in our system has varied over recent years but is less than 4% of all submissions annually.

Published descriptive reports are now available that include identified rates of duplicate publishing by country,4,5 specialty,6,7 and by discipline8; the rates of retraction and the rates of identifying duplicate papers as part of investigative efforts are the basis of calculating the duplicate paper frequency. The reported rates of retraction because of duplication at the country level range from 0% to 37.5%4 and at the level of specialty from 1.8% to 8.3%.6,9 Distinct patterns of duplicate publishing have been identified, one of which reflects intention to deceive.10 Importantly, rates of duplicate publication decline when attention and education are provided about what it is and the harm that it causes.11 We cannot accept the risk of duplicate publication in our oncology literature. To that end, we will increase our efforts to work with authors regarding the importance of attribution of previous work and with reviewers and editors of other journals to identify duplicate manuscripts. We invite you to work with us to not allow our literature or our patients to be harmed by duplicate publication.

Our very best to you,

Pamela S. Hinds, PhD, RN, FAAN

Editor-in-Chief, Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care

Angela Richardson

Senior Publisher, Health Learning, Research & Practice

Wolters Kluwer Health

Amy Bedinger Miller

Managing Editor, Cancer Nursing: An International Journal for Cancer Care

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