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I have submitted my review paper for publication to more than two journals. I was unaware of the consequences. The paper got accepted at al three journals. They asked for payment and copyright etc. I haven't processed anything as I only want to publish it in one journal only. I also became aware that it's unethical. So far, I only have the acceptance emails, but no further processing has been done by me. What can I do now to publish my paper? I think that one of the three journals is best one and I want to publish my paper there. What do I have to do so that I'm not being unethical nor breaking any rules?

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    1) why did you submit to three papers in first place? 2) why do you use your real name? 3) did you claim at submission each one was the only submission?
    – EarlGrey
    May 30, 2022 at 8:47
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    "What can I do now to publish my paper?" if you act unethically, then you would be better off thinking of those that you have treated unethically, rather than considering only yourself. You ought to email the editors of the three journals explaining the circumstances and apologising. Hopefully at least one of them will still be willing to publish the paper, and then you can make a choice without further ethical issues, May 30, 2022 at 11:20
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    To expand on @JoelReyesNoche’s comment: There are a few things about your situation that are unlikely unless you have been submitting to predatory publishers: 1) All three journals accepted the paper about the same time. 2) All journals are pay-to-publish. 3) All three journals accepted your manuscript (assuming that you have little publishing experience and no proper mentoring on this). 4) You have not previously wondered what to do about peer-review comments from one journal when improving the manuscript for another.
    – Wrzlprmft
    May 30, 2022 at 12:37
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    "They asked for payment" What? The only situation in which I would pay someone to take things I produced from me is when I need a garbage disposal. Of course, if your work is of that quality, then I have nothing to say, but otherwise my recommendation would be to withdraw from all three and to submit to some decent place. And don't worry about the ethics: anything short of outright murder would be super-duper ethical with respect to such scoundrels.
    – fedja
    May 30, 2022 at 18:35
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    Please don't downvote this question just because you disagree with OP's behavior. This looks like a perfectly legitimate question to me, and having it here is helpful for future visitors, so that they don't repeat the same mistake. Punishing openness with downvotes only encourages more lies. Jan 4, 2023 at 11:17

2 Answers 2

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To get to a stage where your paper has been accepted, multiple people from each journal have spent their time and effort to assess your paper (editors, reviewers) - while in the case of the reviewers not even getting payed for their efforts. By submitting the paper to three journals at the same time, you have basically wasted the time of all people involved in the submission process of two of the journals. The proper way to do it (for the future) is to submit to your first choice, and then if you don't get accepted send it to the next one in line. This is a more time-consuming process but the morally and ethically correct one (see also the answers to this question).

As this train has already left the station (and you already behaved unethically by wasting peoples' time and resources) you should try to do damage control and inform the other two journals as politely as possible that you have to decline the offer. Don't try to make up lies (like you don't have funding anymore) as the editor of one journal might be well aware of what articles are published in the other, related ones and will probably see that your article will be published there.

You could try to be brutally honest and tell the other two journals what you did and that you are very sorry, but being an unexperienced academic you did not know better and will not do so again in the future.

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    In addition, the person has possibly lied to the typical clause that no paper under consideration elsewhere is to be submitted. It could be that the journals are predatory because they have a short response time, because otherwise journal reaction times differ widely. In this case the fraudsters would have been defrauded. May 30, 2022 at 11:32
  • @ThomasSchwarz and in that case all three will probably try to publish the paper regardless and pressure OP to pay the charges. They don't really care about multiple submissions as long as they make good money. May 13, 2023 at 9:13
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I agree with the answer by @Sursula but I think that there is a pitfall with some journals that is just waiting to trap the unwary or inexperienced. I regularly submit to several journals where the succession of informative responses from the editorial desk is along the lines of:

  1. received
  2. on editor's desk
  3. under review
  4. 1 of 3 reviews received
  5. awaiting editor's decision ...

The pitfall is that some of those same journals ask "Is your paper currently under review by another journal?"

You can see where this is going ... If one is inexperienced, one might think that the journal means what it asks, in which case one would quite reasonably reply "NO" until a notification of the kind at point 3 above has been received. But of course, what these journals actually mean by their question is, "Have you submitted your paper to another journal without a decision having yet been made?" .

It only happens with a few journals, but they do bear some responsibility for problems.

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