5

I have been working for 1-2 years on a manuscript to be submitted to a journal with a relatively high impact factor. The journal has pretty strict rules about the length of the paper which is partially the reason why it took so long. The specific field itself is relatively small and people know each other's work. I am aware of groups working with comparable methods, but not on the specific problem I worked on.

The response to the submission was "Resubmit", which I did 2 months later. The final decision for the resubmitted paper was "Reject" which of course is not a pleasant response but I can live with that, given the high impact factor and tough guidelines.

Some weeks later I noticed that a paper was submitted and accepted two months after my first submission by someone else to a lower IF Journal on this very same topic. While of course it can happen that two groups work on the same topic independently at the same time, this paper showed some red flags to me:

  • The title is a shorter version of the title of my manuscript, with the exact same wording just in different order
  • The overall goal of the work and conclusion is the same
  • The used methods are similar
  • Results are included that were specifically requested by the reviewers from my first submission
  • The time of submission. It was 2 months after my first submission and I do not think it is impossible to produce it during this timespan.

I now feel that I cannot simply submit my paper to another journal due to lack of novelty. My professor advised me to cite this paper and highlight the differences (there aren't many) and include additional results.

Should I inform the journal where I submitted about this or would you let this matter be without commenting about it?

5
  • and I do not think it is impossible - Did you mean possible?
    – henning
    Aug 27 at 9:50
  • 7
    "Should I inform the journal where I submitted about this or would you let this matter be without commenting about it?" I think it could be reasonable to describe the facts to the editor-in-chief and inquire if there is overlap between the authors of the paper with reviewers of your paper. This wouldn't be the first case of a paper being stolen this way.
    – Roland
    Aug 27 at 10:20
  • 2
    Do you have a preprint with time stamp? In any case, it is a good idea to signal to the editors that you are aware of a potential "lifting" - the editors know the reviewers and will be able to identify whether there is the possibility of some unethical appropriation of ideas and results; hopefully, the editors are impartial. Aug 27 at 11:16
  • 3
    "Do you have a preprint with time stamp?" No, I don't. This definitely is a lesson for me why a pre-print makes sense though.
    – PhilE
    Aug 27 at 11:35
  • @PhilE You still should try to contact the editors. If you are lucky and they are not overly tied to the authors, they might do some tracing. It also helps that the paper is published in a different journal - it is in the interest of their journal to make sure that submissions to them will not be diverted by unethical reviewers to separate outlets. Roland's advice is very pertinent. Aug 27 at 14:02
2

This seems a pretty clear case of getting scooped by parallel research unless there are other unmentioned facts.

If you are working in a "popular" area of research or one with a tight knit active group of researchers then this is a reasonable conclusion. The other authors had access to the same foundational papers and ideas that you do. If a lot of people are looking at those it is common for different researchers to come to the same results.

If they were just a bit quicker than you then this will happen.

I know of one case in which this occurred in two doctoral theses, submitted simultaneously. It took a year to decide that the work was independent and that both should (and did) receive their degrees.

But, for a paper, assume you just got scooped. Mine what you have for extensions and work to extend the work. If nothing else, you learned something about your area of expertise that you can build on.


I'm assuming that your results weren't available to the other authors, even if your general research direction was. If you are claiming plagiarism, you need to make it clearer. For example, if you have an earlier pre-print of your article already visible, then you have an issue to raise with the second journal, who should be vigilant about such things.

Note that the different standards of the journals doesn't seem to be a factor here, since the other paper was submitted soon after yours.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.