A different tack: A “notice of redundant publication,” rather than a retraction, for duplication

bjogHow should journals deal with duplication — aka “self-plagiarism?”

Scientists have engaged in vigorous debates here on Retraction Watch about whether such duplication is a minor form of scientific misconduct, or just a conflict between the interests of publishers and those of researchers who have better things to do than figure out different ways to describe their materials and methods.

So we thought we’d highlight how an obstetrics and gynecology journal recently handled a six-year-old duplication. Here’s the “notice of redundant publication:”

The following article[1] from BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology “Obesity among female adolescents in Vienna, Austria—the impact of childhood weight status and ethnicity” by S. Kirchengast and E. Schober published online on 31 August 2006 in Wiley Online Library (www.wileyonlinelibrary.com) and subsequently in volume 113, pages 1188–1194, October 2006 is subject to a notice of redundant publication. Since the publication of this article, it has been brought to the attention of the editors of BJOG that this article contains content of which much was included in a previously published article: Sylvia Kirchengast and Edith Schober (2006), “To be an immigrant: a risk factor for developing overweight and obesity during childhood and adolescence?” Journal of Biosocial Science, 38, 695–705, doi:10.1017/S0021932005027094. The original article was not referenced. The authors have agreed to the publication of this notice.

The BJOG paper has been cited nine times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, while the Journal of Biosocial Science article has been cited 17.

Would this have been a retraction in another journal? Probably, based on what we’ve seen. But how it’s labeled matters less to us than the fact that there’s a full accounting of what happened, which there is. We just wish it wasn’t behind a paywall.

6 thoughts on “A different tack: A “notice of redundant publication,” rather than a retraction, for duplication”

  1. It depends on whether BJOG claims to publish original research or not. The journal is free to publish rehashed, duplicated manuscripts if they wish.

    I think almost everyone here will agree that all serious journals demand novel, original research as a primary requirement for publication. Republishing the same figures or data is almost never done because there is almost never a reasonable, honest reason to do so.

    But what honest, ethical, reasonable purpose could be achieved by republishing your own data without a citation of an earlier paper? I can’t readily think of one…

    1. Yes, there could be. What about both the papers that has some overlap such as methods or even some results that need to be put together in order to elude to the story. Presume that both papers started at the same time. One took six years to get accepted the other did not. Now, authors had a chance after acceptance at the stage of proof to correct by citing the reference. Most (>99%) scientists will do that, but there could be a 1% bunch who are either wilful(>90% of this cohort) or simply lackadaisical (may be about 5%) and some who are fearful to do anything administratively (may be about 5% of this cohort). There are truely people who for monetary reasons or simply very scared to change anything during or after acceptance that they will let go. In general this 10% cohort of 1% are honest but need better courage and education. This is one explanation but other explanations may exist for honest error as well. It is possible that corresponding authors were different and with many people involved the lines got obliterated and all co-authors did not pay sufficient attention to details. Try correcting a manuscript 15 times and you will find things are getting obliterated and suddenly even obvious mistakes are not clear anymore. This could arise due to those situations. However, if this was an honest mistake then there could be other possibilities as well.

  2. Copy and pasting materials and methods is considered self-plagiarism? Really? Sometimes two different studies use very similar or the exact same materials and methods (e.g. same dataset), but do very different analyses testing different hypotheses. Do you really see cases of this type of self-plagiarism resulting in retractions? I guess this has already been discussed. Can you let us know where?


    1. Oops. Looks like the above second response might answer my question–but I can’t figure out how to cancel my previous post.

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