I recently read two journal papers from the same set of authors published in different journals.

In the first paper, the authors proposed an algorithm and tested it on a real-world system and published the results.

In the second journal, the same set of authors added some new steps on top of the old algorithm and tested it on the same real-world case, used the same data. The steps described in this paper is "Do the old algorithm first, get outputs and then do the second algorithm using the outputs of first". In this paper, they don't execute the old algorithm rather they refer to the results published in their first paper and build on top of it directly.

I personally felt that they could have potentially included the second paper scope into the first journal as it is just an additional step and provides less value. Is this an example of salami slicing? Is this a good strategy?

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    Its a good strategy if their job success depends on the number of papers. At some jobs 3 papers in impact factor 2 journals is better than 1 paper in impact factor 5 journal. For others the reverse. – DBB Jan 12 '18 at 1:27
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    Can you tell us when the journals were published? – user6522399 Jan 12 '18 at 6:50
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    "Is this a good strategy?" It's good for the authors but maybe not so good for science. As a reviewer, I try to prevent salami publication when it's obvious. – Roland Jan 12 '18 at 7:08
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    « I personally felt... », most probably the reviewers of the second paper did not feel that way - they had the chance to query and address any concerns... – Solar Mike Jan 12 '18 at 8:24
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    I once put two different but related results in the same paper. Nobody even realized the second one existed, because people expect one result per paper. Putting two different, but related, results in two different papers is not necessarily salami slicing. – Peter Shor Aug 3 '18 at 23:04

This can be a salami slicing strategy, if the authors deliberately split their results into two papers, where the second one has only a slight incremental value.

However, it also might be that "some new steps" they added significantly improve the algorithm so it becomes faster / more accurate / more reliable. It might also be that the improvement has not been known when the first paper was submitted. In this case this is not a salami publishing, but a normal development of their method.

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    So is salami slicing is so subjective? Does it depend on the person who reads that article? If it adds only small value, could that be submitted for a conference instead? – Gnan Jan 11 '18 at 23:11
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    @Muk Conferences have lesser meaning in some fields. In some fields it's all about the journal publications, and conferences are purely for spreading the word, socializing, and stumbling into new collaborations. And I happen to be in a situation where I have made public some specific results, and several months later when I got around to wanting to publish it I had an epiphany: I could do it all in a more general way that makes the prior results just detailed examples, and I could go more in depth. Am I wrong to keep these as separate publications, or wrong to delay for months and combine? – zibadawa timmy Aug 3 '18 at 20:17

Many journals will include a 'first submitted' date. Compare those dates, if it interests to you. Its possible the first paper was submitted in the distant past, additional work was performed and subsequently submitted to a separate journal (separate for any variety of reasons) and the two publications just happened to have similar publish dates.

Not everything in life is Machiavellian maneuvering. But yes, of course it is good strategy to have as many publications as possible, for both selfish and practical reasons. Selfish in that publications are the currency of academia. Practical in that it reaches a larger audience and likely provides easier reading.

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It is not per se bad to publish papers that build on one another. In contrast, a researcher who is an expert in a given topic should be encouraged to improve his methods.

The crucial point is if the contribution of every publication is high enough to justify a new paper. This is, of course, quite subjective, but the same rule ("the contribution has to be high enough") applies to every publication and every reviewer should be able to make an appropriate judgment. So what is so special about the salami slicing technique that it should be considered in particular?

In the case of salami slicing, the pitfall for a reviewer is that he is making the judgment based on the whole contribution by the author built up over several publications and not only on the new contribution. Far fetched example: Imagine someone has developed a vaccine for HIV and describes it in a first paper. Then in a second paper he describes the same method, but also describes how to add raspberry flavor. He might use the words "We developed the first reliable HIV vaccine and it tastes like raspberries". A reviewer reading this might get the impression that the contribution of that paper is the development of a raspberry flavored HIV serum (that would surely be worth for publication), while in fact, it is only about adding raspberry flavor to a given serum (not very impressive).

My rule of thumb to avoid this pitfall is to ask the following question. Imagine the second paper would have been written by another, previously completely unknown researcher and the actual author would review it, would he accept this paper? If you expect the review sounds like "These researchers do nothing than adding raspberry flavor to the serum previously developed by us", then the second paper is a salami slice and should be rejected.

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