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Is it time to rewrite the rules on duplicate submission in the age of preprints?


KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Journals take a dim view of duplicate submission due to the effort wasted by duplicated peer review.
  • Uploading an article to a preprint server is not considered duplicate submission, despite preprints being available for informal peer review by the scientific community.
  • As the use of preprint servers increases, the way we think of duplicate submission and peer review may need to change.

Submitting a paper to more than one journal at a time wastes peer reviewers’ time and is considered unethical. Yet uploading the article to a preprint server is not viewed with the same disapproval, despite the potential to waste the same peer reviewers’ time. This seeming contradiction was the subject of a recent article by Dr Tim Vines in the Scholarly Kitchen, who explained how we may need to rethink our definition of duplicate submission.

When submitting a paper to a journal, authors are usually required to confirm that the manuscript is not being considered for publication elsewhere. So called duplicate submission is considered an act of academic misconduct, although this is largely due to its association with the more serious transgression of duplicate publication, where the intention is to publish the same article more than once to inflate an author’s publication record. Even when this is not the intent – for example, the author may be trying to minimise the time to publication by avoiding the need for sequential peer review, which would occur if the paper was initially rejected – duplicate submission is still taken very seriously by journals and publishers as the duplicated peer review is seen as a waste of editorial resources and the peer reviewers’ valuable time.

A thin line exists between legitimate discussion of a preprint and unethical duplicate peer review.

On the other hand, uploading a paper to a preprint server is not considered duplicate submission, as the paper does not undergo formal peer review by a journal. However, the article is made available to the scientific community where it is open to some peer review activity. Dr Vines described a range of possible scenarios for a preprint posted whilst undergoing journal peer review, including discussion of the preprint on Twitter and submission of the preprint to an overlay journal, and uses these scenarios to highlight the thin line that can exist between legitimate discussion of a preprint and unethical duplicate peer review. Dr Vines concludes that with the increasing prevalence of preprints, a new day may be dawning where duplicate peer review in one form or another is unavoidable, and this may signal the end of enforced sequential peer review.

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Do you think duplicate submission is an inappropriate publication practice?

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