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As the title states. I recently submitted a manuscript for one of the flagship journals of Springer.

Not long after, I received information that they used my work for their external recruiting process (edit: as in they were hiring for staff), meaning that my paper got leaked to random strangers. This information did not come from them, by the way - it just so happens that one of their candidates was my colleague.

It is my understanding that they are not supposed to do that. We usually transfer copyrights upon acceptance, which means that they are not allowed to distribute my work before then. There are other ethical issues at play, but this is the most pressing one for me.

Now I am concerned that someone might just steal my work, while it simmers during a lengthy peer review. My office forbade me to put in open repositories because of patent issues.

Realistically speaking, what are my options here? Or do I have no rights in this case and next time should just choose another publisher?

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    I think the patent issue is important here. Were they aware that patent issues are involved?
    – Buffy
    Jun 3, 2023 at 14:46
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    can you specify what you mean with an external recruiting process? It is not immediately clear to me what that means (I thought editors would only use manuscripts to recruit reviewers of said manuscripts...)
    – BioBrains
    Jun 3, 2023 at 14:48
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    It means that they were hiring for editorial staff, and used my manuscript for their recruiting process. I also do not see how the patent issue is relevant for the leak from their side. It should not have happened in the first place. Jun 3, 2023 at 15:33
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    Maybe the candidates signed an NDA. Still, this is very unethical. However, I do not see how you protect your patent when submitting your work to publication. Publication precludes patentability. Jun 3, 2023 at 18:35
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    The people who forbade you from putting your paper in an open repository because of patent issues should also be concerned about this leak because of the same patent issues. Have you informed them about the leak? Jun 3, 2023 at 19:26

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I do think it is not uncustomary for a rapid assessment of multiple manuscripts to be part of the interview process for new editors. I can also see how they would want to use manuscripts in the recruitment process that these job candidates could never possible have seen before.

I would also hope (and I guess assume) that they would stress to their candidates that this is confidential information.

In that respect, it sounds a bit like your colleague who informed you might also have been crossing a professional boundary and disclosed information they shouldn't have.

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    I don't see why. A prospective candidate does not need to abide by the rules of the prospecrive employer - he is not afiliated in any way to the publisher. If anything, my work got used for profit of the publisher without my permission, and now my work is out there in the hands of random people that have no association with the journal whatsoever, and are not reviewers either. Jun 3, 2023 at 17:29
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    I would happily lease my work for their use in recruiting process, which is not associated in any way with editorial screening or peer review. But not like this. And definitely not for free - have you seen the publishing fees? Jun 3, 2023 at 17:34
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    This practice may be customary, but is seems unethical. Jun 3, 2023 at 17:36

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