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I (a grad student) wrote a paper and sent it off to a journal for review as first author, with my coworkers as the other authors. A professor on the team says that another student wrote much the same paper, using possibly some or all of the same data (it's mostly secondary data), and, I suspect, the same or very much related theory. I am not on paper 2, which I haven't read. This seems a little weird to me. Is it? I wonder if it will impact my chances of getting my paper published if, say, the paper gets rejected where it's been sent.

Both of those individuals are on my paper. Also, I don't think they could not know this was happening since the team has a formal paper proposal process related to publication that has to be followed to prevent problems . Who knows, though?

If anyone has suggestions about how to broach this topic with my professor that would be great.

  • Seems as though you should coordinate a bit better in your group. Parallel work in a small field is very common, but if it happens within a small group something bad happened with communication. Why not work to fix that problem? I blame the professor, though, who should know better. – Buffy Apr 25 at 12:14
  • Thanks, Buffy! Response to this comment added to the original post. – Guest Apr 25 at 19:13
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Yes, the situation is weird. Yes, it could cause you problems with your paper and also with the other paper. But it is pretty hard to say how it would play out as it depends on who sees the paper (editors, reviewers, ...) and the minute-by-minute timing of things.

But the problem goes deeper than that. Two nearly identical papers out of the same lab at the same time is what is weird here. It should not have happened. There is some mis-communication within the lab that should be fixed. I can't say whether it is a general problem or not, but that should be investigated.

My suggestion isn't very satisfying, however. If you want to maximize your future collaborative opportunities beyond your degree then a way should be found so that this doesn't become a zero-sum game.

One way to do that is to put a hold on publication of both papers and a short period of discussion about going forward. One possibility is to merge the papers (along with the authorship). If your field isn't overly anal about who is "first" author then it should be easy to work out authorship.


I know of one case in CS, and know both parties, where two students at different universities did essentially the same work at the same time and submitted their theses simultaneously, both for graduation and for publication. It was really good work that answered a fundamentally important outstanding question. However, the graduation of both students was held up for a year while people at both universities investigated the situation. It was determined that the work was truly independent and so both graduated and have gone on to great careers. I think that both theses were published though they overlapped considerably. But the determination was not only that the work was independent, but that it was not the case that either should have known about the work of the other. That is to say, it was neither malfeasance nor negligence that caused the issue. But still, it took a year.

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