Did you know that authors cannot submit an article to more than one journal at a time?
The International Committee of Medical Journals and Editors (ICMJE) warns authors in their Recommendations for the Conduct, Reporting, Editing, and Publication of Scholarly Work in Medical Journals to not submit the same manuscript simultaneously to more than one journal. The reasoning for this standard, says the ICMJE, is the potential for disagreement between journals because each could claim the right to publish what has been submitted, or even worse, “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.”
For every article submitted to the Ochsner Journal, the editorial staff first ensures that all necessary components of the submission are present (eg, signed Patient Consent and Author Attestation/License for Publishing forms, cover letter, title page, blinded main document, figures in the appropriate format, figure legends, references). We use plagiarism software to check for prior publication or heavy borrowing from other people’s work. We’ve caught a few duplicate publication papers this way. If the manuscript makes it through this first found of checks, it is sent to volunteer peer reviewers who know something about the topic of the paper. After peer review, the author is generally asked to revise the paper according to the reviewers’ comments. If the paper is accepted after the same peer reviewers review the revision, the editorial staff formats the manuscript and performs a thorough copyedit, communicating with the author and documenting all changes. Finally, when the manuscript is in final form and has been approved by both the editorial staff and the author, it is sent to a third-party vendor for layout. Even after layout, authors and the editorial staff review the proofs for errors. This is a fair amount of work and takes quite a bit of time.
If the same manuscript is submitted to more than one journal simultaneously, the work is at least doubled, and because a manuscript can only be published by one journal, a great deal of work and time are wasted.
In addition to the waste of peer reviewers’ and the editorial staff’s time, duplicate submissions have a cost for authors too. Duplicate publication does occur—despite journal editors’ safeguards—and is often a breach of copyright law. When the duplication is discovered, one of the papers has to be retracted, and evidence of such behavior can be published online at sites like the Retraction Watch Database. Having your name on a retracted paper is not exactly a resume booster.
Further, duplicate publication without proper notice can be a disservice to science because it can lead to distorted data. Researchers reviewing the literature could potentially double count data and therefore skew results based on that data.
Of course, exceptions exist. Practice guidelines and recommendations papers from national societies are often published in multiple journals to ensure the widest possible dissemination. An article may have two different audiences, therefore making publication in two journals reasonable—as long as both journals agree.
The key here is disclosure. In the Ochsner Journal’s Author Attestation/License for Publishing form, we ask authors to certify that neither the manuscript they are submitting, nor one of substantially similar content, has been published under their authorship or is being considered for publication elsewhere.
Best practice? Right thing to do? Submit your paper to one journal and wait for the decision.