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Facts:

  • In 2019 I gave a presentation at an international conference. The paper, a systematic review of my field of study, was uploaded on the website of the conference.
  • One person in the audience approached me and asked me questions on the methodology of the paper.
  • A few months later, this person invited me to submit my paper to a journal that she was curating. I refused because my paper was already under review in another journal.
  • Yesterday, I found out that she has published a paper in her journal with the same structure, method, and conclusions of mine.

To be noted: the bibliometric datasets are slightly different, but the images are very similar. Also, the conclusions of her paper resemble mine.

Anyone doing a systematic review of the field of study would reach similar conclusions, but existing work with similar findings should be cited. My unpublished work was never cited or mentioned. Moreover, my study was the first one to do a quantitative thematic review. Now, her paper is the first one to do it. I feel the novelty of my paper has been largely lost.

To be honest, this seems like a case of plagiarism. It is too convenient to copy the structure of an existing paper and change the wording to not make it look like plagiarism.

It can happen that similar papers get published at the same time. But her paper did not happen by chance. She copied my idea and decided to publish it before me.

I just find the behavior highly unprofessional, but I am not sure if copying the method, the topic, and the structure of a paper constitutes plagiarism. The fact that she never cited my unpublished work tells me that she had ill intentions. But maybe I am wrong. What do you think I should do? Can I ask the journal to retract the her paper?

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    Your paper is not "unpublished": you presented it at the conference and it is/was available on the conference website. What you describe is a clear case of plagiarism. If things get ugly you can prove it (assuming she asked you to submit the paper to her journal by email, that shows she was aware of it) – UJM Sep 4 at 7:05
  • Thank you for the answer – Misclogo Sep 4 at 7:54
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    @UJM, you should make it into an actual answer, not a comment. – Buffy Sep 4 at 8:54
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    @Buffy It answers the title, but not the actual question, which is "what should I do". I can think of many options but all of them entail risk; considering I left academia years ago and diplomacy is not my strong suit I do not feel qualified to answer that. – UJM Sep 4 at 16:33
  • Yes, I am clueless about what to do. Since she rewrote my article, there are no clear signs of plagiarism. However, knowing our our previous interactions, it becomes clear that she appropriated of my original work and rewrote the paper without giving the due credit. – Misclogo Sep 4 at 23:40
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(I agree with the comment from UJM.)

Since she was "curating" the journal, I guess that means it was a special issue, and there are other, permanent editors. You can approach them. I think if you do this carefully, there is not a great risk. What I mean by that is to focus on yourself: you have concerns that your paper is damaged by this. Don't speculate on her process or motivation.

If you are a student, obviously discuss it with your supervisor first.

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  • Yes, I will contact the editor in chief and the people managing the journal. I will not speculate on her process or motivation. The facts speak for themselves. – Misclogo Sep 7 at 5:49

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