Journal of Postgraduate Medicine
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Year : 2001  |  Volume : 47  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 233-4  

A few steps towards responsible authorship (and editorship).


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. A few steps towards responsible authorship (and editorship). J Postgrad Med 2001;47:233-4

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. A few steps towards responsible authorship (and editorship). J Postgrad Med [serial online] 2001 [cited 2023 Jun 10 ];47:233-4
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In last two years, we witnessed some cases of duplicate articles, salami publications, plagiarised reports, and contributions with numerous flaws in referencing. We tried to discuss these and other issues related to authorship in medical journals in our previous issues.[1],[2],[3],[4] The purpose of these articles was to inform our readers and contributors of the international guidelines and rules related to writing in medical journals. We expected that our contributors would be aware of international guidelines and adhere to these. However, the results have not been very satisfactory and we have been forced to take some bold, may be not so pleasant, steps towards responsible authorship.

The most common and may be the least serious of the ‘offence’ committed was quoting incorrect references. For a few issues of the year 2000 and 2001 all the references cited by the contributors were crosschecked with the citation in MEDLINE from PubMed. To our utmost surprise, up to 40% of these references had some inaccuracy in citing; the percentage was higher up to 60-70% in certain cases. The errors included incorrect names, article title, journal title, publication date and page numbers apart from erroneous and/or incomplete bibliographic elements. The major problem with these errors was inability to trace the articles from MEDLINE, requiring use of multiple combinations of journal title, publication date, authors name, etc. to search the articles. What does this suggest? Either the contributors are not experienced or are careless. Considering the previous number of publications of most of the contributors the second conclusion becomes most befitting. The carelessness seems not in just writing the references, but it is more likely that the references are quoted either from a cross reference or from abstracts without reading the full-text. To avoid such inaccuracies from now onwards we will solicit a photocopy of first page of all cited references. At the time of submission of a revised manuscript it will be imperative for the contributors to send these photocopies.

On the serious side of the misconduct, we have noticed, were attempts at publication of salami, duplicate or plagiarised articles. We offer the facility of providing the MEDLINE abstracts to our referees; this gives us an opportunity to scrutinise the articles for the possibility of salami publication, duplicate publication or plagiarism. Such articles were promptly rejected. Most journals have their well-defined policies for taking action in such cases, which is lacking with most of the Indian journals. Here we are laying down our policies based on the Guidelines on Good Publication Practice, Committee on Publication Ethics.[4] Depending on the seriousness of the misconduct we would take the following actions:

1. A letter of explanation (and education) to the contributors, where there appears to be a genuine misunderstanding of principles. However, this will not be a regular policy, as we have given enough opportunities now for the contributors to understand the principles.

2. A letter of reprimand and warning as to future conduct.

3. A formal letter to the relevant head of institution and department or funding body.

4. Publication of a notice of redundant publication or plagiarism and formal withdrawal or retraction of the paper from the scientific literature.

5. An editorial in the journal giving full details of the misconduct.

6. Informing the editors of other medical journals and the indexing authorities. We are already in process of discussion to form a group of editors of medical journals from India, who would share such information on regular basis and would not allow such contributors to publish article in their journals. Irrespective of the nature of the misconduct, we will share all the information within our group. It may happen that on finding such a case, the contributor would be barred from publication in all the journals whose editors share our views.

7. Refusal to accept future submissions from the individual, unit, or institution responsible for the misconduct, for a period of two to five years depending on the seriousness of misconduct.

8. Reporting the case to the Medical Council of India, or other such authority or organisation which can investigate and act with due process.

Occasionally, we have also received same case or a similar study from two different groups of contributors from the same institution not aware of each other. We have informed the group sending the article second. However, it is quite possible that the second group would try for publication in some other journal. In such cases, it is the responsibility of the institution and departments to keep records of their publications and to make sure such inadvertent duplication of publication is avoided. We will require a certificate signed by the head of the institution and department stating that the work was done in their institution and has not been published elsewhere.

One may question that we are asking for too much from our contributors. It should be understood that relationship of contributors and journals or journal editors is a reciprocal one; if we are expecting our contributors to give us their best, we are also ready to offer our best. We have taken all the efforts to make sure that the journal is indexed with most of the indexing authorities. Now the full-text of the journal is available on the net assuring more readers of all the articles. The website also provides large number of author-friendly services such as online submission of articles, tracking of submitted articles, etc. The Journal promotes published papers by electronically supplying the records to the National Library of Medicine at the time of online publication, making it sure that the citations are retrievable from MEDLINE as early as possible. Similarly, the citations in MEDLINE are cross linked from the official site of MEDLINE to the journal’s site, thus the readership of published articles is increased many folds. The average time taken for taking the decision on submitted manuscripts has been brought down to about 30 days; of course we must thank our referees for this. Moving ahead with all these we are now appointing a ombudsman, who would investigate complaints of any contributor who is not satisfied with work/decisions of the editors of the journal. We hope that this will make even the editorship more responsible.


1 Abraham P. Duplicate and salami publications. J Postgrad Med 2000; 46:67-69.
2Fernandez AR. Publication and promotion: call for breaking the link. J Postgrad Med 2000; 46:163.
3Sahu DR, Abraham P. Authorship: rules, rights, responsibilities and recommendations. J Postgrad Med 2000; 46:205-210.
4Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). Guidelines on good publication practice. J Postgrad Med 2000; 46:217-221.

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