The two journals I am considering for my paper each demand that the paper be submitted exclusively to their journal for consideration.

What do I win if I don’t keep this rule?

  • If I get rejected by both, I will have found out earlier that the paper is not worthy of publication.
  • If I get accepted by one of the journals, this is very good. I will have found out faster which of the two journals is willing to publish me.
  • If I get accepted by both, this is really a dream. I should probably find a reason (excuse) to withdraw the publication from one of them.

In any case how can submitting to two journals negatively impact my reputation more than the gain by being actually accepted? (More so considering I will probably leave academia after my PhD dissertation.)

What can I lose if I don’t adhere to this rule? What sanctions, if any, can I expect?

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    "What can I lose if I don't keep this rule?" — Your reputation. – Jukka Suomela Sep 6 '14 at 11:47
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    If you're going to lie, quit the PhD and just tell everybody you finished it. While you're at it you can fabricate research results. – David Ketcheson Sep 6 '14 at 14:36
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    How is it in your best interests not to date two people while telling each of them that they're the only one? If they both break up with you, then you'll have found out earlier that you are unworthy of love. If one wants to marry you, then you'll have found the right one faster than you would have by dating only one at a time. If they both want to marry you, then it's really a dream and you should probably find an excuse to break up with one of them. In any case, how can cheating on them with each other negatively impact your reputation more than the gain from finding your soul mate? – Anonymous Mathematician Sep 6 '14 at 16:43
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    Wasting two groups of people's (from editors, reviewers, staff, etc.) time for your personal favor. It is absolutely unethical. – Enthusiastic Engineer Sep 7 '14 at 9:23
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    @Michael: The other cases you mention aren't analogous because nobody is asking for exclusivity. The same applies to dating or academic paper submission: there's nothing wrong with dating two people at once if they both understand that the relationship is not exclusive, and there's nothing wrong with submitting a paper to two journals at once if they both allow simultaneous submissions. (That's how law reviews work, for example.) The ethical problem lies in pretending to comply with the other party's conditions while not actually doing so. – Anonymous Mathematician Sep 9 '14 at 12:54
  1. It is quite likely that there is an overlap in who gets asked to referee the two submissions, which would lead to the double submission being detected.

  2. Double submission of papers is sufficient ground for retraction - even after the paper has been accepted for publication. As some journals publish submission dates with published papers, it is conceivable that your double submission is uncovered after publication - and that you end up with a retraction, ie no published paper.

  3. Academic misconduct (and double submission is such) typically is sufficient for dismissal from a PhD program.

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  • This answers the "what" but not the "why". – Raphael Sep 8 '14 at 16:10
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    @Raphael There is no "why" in the OP. – Hagen von Eitzen Sep 9 '14 at 11:08

Simultaneous submission to more than one journal can be lethal to your reputation.

For an example, see this article from COPE (Committee On Publication Ethics). In that case, the author(s) were effectively blacklisted by all the journals to which they had submitted simultaneously, and the information was made public. Even if you are planning to leave academia, you do not want a reputation of being willing to break the ethical norms in your field. And it is taken seriously.

Editors take this so seriously that they may ban authors from submitting to their journal if they have broken the rules.

As @Arno noted, double submission may be sufficient to get you dismissed from your PhD program--this is serious academic misconduct. Also, if the double submission is discovered after acceptance, you may well see your paper being retracted. You might thus end up with neither a publication or a doctorate!

Other answers have touched on the reasons why you should not submit to more then one journal at once, including the non-trivial consideration of wasting reviewers' time with a submission that you will retract if another journal accepts first. In addition, simultaneous submission to multiple journals will increase the cost of publishing journals, thus increasing the subscription cost for every one of us.

There are multiple reasons to submit to only one journal at a time, from respect for others' time and effort to consideration of your reputation and future in the field. As mentioned, the stigma of being perceived to have attempted to cheat the system is so severe that it may well follow you even outside academia. Just don't do it!

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  • Putting it more briefly: It may help you get published the first time but keep you from getting published again. I believe you'd agree that this is "not to your advantage." – keshlam Sep 7 '14 at 19:55

Just as a note which won't fit in a comment, the use of single submission is wide-spread in the western academy outside of law. Legal academics in the US, on the other hand, are expected to pursue a multiple-submission strategy where they shop their articles to many journals at the same time. There is all sorts of gamesmanship and politicking when it comes to finding one to publish it, which I see as a negative for their publishing environment. Some of their issues are probably also due to the fact that the vast majority of law journals are the so-called "law reviews" which are run and edited by second and third-year law students with little to no faculty input. There is no peer review or blind (single nor double) review.

The standard accusation about this model is that articles are accepted based on author prestige not quality or correctness since third year law students are not experts and cannot evaluate quality. Furthermore, it is often asserted that authors choose their venue based on the highest prestige law review that makes them an offer. As such, there is some brinksmanship around who offers when and how long authors have to accept. As a result of all this, many submitted articles by prestigious professors are not ready for publication and require substantial work with the student editors.

If you'd like to know what it's like to publish in such an environment, there's lots of blogging and literature on the state of legal academic publishing. I think you'd find that since peer review is volunteer and that acceptance happens after all the reviews are conducted, reviewers would dry up. I certainly wouldn't volunteer in an environment where I knew that the article could get yanked out of the journal I reviewed for because it got accepted by a more prestigious one. Single-submission helps prevent the volunteer peer-reviewing model from falling apart.

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    I had no idea that the legal model was so ridiculous. Shopping for journals and forcing multiple editor groups to waste their time seems like a horrible way to decide things. – aeismail Sep 6 '14 at 15:30
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    It's a different community with different goals. I tend to think it's suboptimal, but it seems to work for them. I wouldn't want my field done this way, but it's not my field. I could put up a strong criticism of the way we do things, too, for what it's worth. My understanding is that most of the editor's work of prepping an article in the legal academy is done after acceptance, not before, so it's not as bad as you think, workload-wise. Also, tradition is a very powerful thing. – Bill Barth Sep 6 '14 at 15:34
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    @DavidRicherby, it does, just not in the way that you'd like. Everyone here seems ignorant of other academic cultures where multiple simultaneous submission is not only normal but practically required. I think it worth having a counter-point to our typical model on display so that people who read this question understand that the model is historical, culturally contingent, and not the only option. – Bill Barth Sep 7 '14 at 15:10
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    @BillBarth Answering the question in a way I don't like would be saying, e.g., "Sure, go ahead and submit to multiple journals against their rules. It won't hurt you at all." That is not what you're saying. The question is whether there is any disadvantage to breaking the rules for submission to journals (in this case, rules that forbid multiple simultaneous submissions). You are discussing whether journals should have different rules for submission (in this case, allowing multiple simultaneous submissions). That is interesting but it doesn't answer the question. – David Richerby Sep 7 '14 at 15:43
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    When I read this, I understand the answer to "How is it in my best interest not to submit a paper to two journals simultaneously?" to be "It's in everybody's best interests, including yours, to disallow double submission. Here's an example illustrating why." Bill, if that's accurate, perhaps you could add a line like that at the top (and remove the "just a note" thing.) – ff524 Sep 7 '14 at 15:54

To submit the same material to two journals simultaneously is against the ethics of publishing. When you submit to many journals, you will be specifically asked to verify that your work is not under consideration in another journal. This has to do with copyright. Your paper will be published somewhere and under a specific copyright. If the same paper then appears somewhere else, it will likely be subject to a different copyright. Journals and publisher's therefore look very seriously at such attempts. You may be rejected by both in the end and as was stated in other answers, your reputation will be ruined very quickly.

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    Copyright doesn't really come into this at all. Plenty of journals just ask for a non- exclusive permission to distribute, but you still musn't double-submit. The point of the rule is not to waste other peoples time, and to discourage submitting bad stuff everywhere in the hope that it slips through eventually. – Arno Sep 6 '14 at 12:51
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    You are not correct when you say "at all". ... and I was merely trying to add to the points made by, for example, yourself. – Peter Jansson Sep 6 '14 at 13:56
  • I think you have a good point. It may be that journals are no longer all requiring exclusivity, though some still do, AFAIK. The point is not that you will publish twice, thus breaking the requirement, which could mean legal trouble. But it may force you to confess that you have to withdraw because you also submitted elsewhere. Since double submission is poorly regarded for reasons expounded in other answers, copyright requirements may be a good guarantee that you will be uncovered. But acadenic cheating is always a dangerous game. (+1) – babou Sep 6 '14 at 22:06

Aside from the ethical problems, I would think that trying to prepare the paper for two publishers simultaneously would be counterproductive, and that the quality of the paper would suffer.

Each journal has different requirements for article length, organization, style, abbreviations, and so forth. Journal requirements may overlap, but a paper prepared for one journal generally requires at least some revision before it's ready to submit to a different journal.

Journals are more likely to publish papers that match the background and interests of their audience. Considering what the audience understands and what bits of knowledge need to be explained rather than assumed is best done for one audience at a time.

Most journals I've worked with require the authors to state (as part of the submission process or in a cover letter) that no part of the article has been published, and that the paper is not under consideration elsewhere.

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    This is very much field dependent. Most of the journals I submit to (theoretical computer science) have no length requirements and no particular formatting requirements at the point of submission. Organization is up to the authors and there are no standard abbreviations. – David Richerby Sep 8 '14 at 8:21

Being honorable means striving to meet all the things that are expected of you. It would be dishonorable to game the system as you appear to be contemplating doing.

Be honorable. It's that simple.

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    I can't get more out of this answer than "You should strive to be honorable at all times. Indeed, not doing so would be dishonorable." True, but... – Pete L. Clark Apr 5 '15 at 0:37
  • I think being honorable implies "over time". A single act of honor does not make one "honorable." However a single act of dishonor could very well make you dishonorable. Given that it can be exceedingly hard to recover from that, it's probably best to keep it on the up and up, the straight and narrow, and stay away from slippery slopes and gray areas. If you poke the tiger and git bitten nobody will feel sorry for you. – CommaToast Apr 5 '15 at 18:17

One thing not mentioned yet is that publisher policies typically have a line forbidding multiple submission. For example, Springer's publishing ethics page requires that "The manuscript has not been submitted to more than one journal for simultaneous consideration", whie Wiley's research integrity page says "The Copyright Transfer Agreement, Exclusive License Agreement or the Open Access Agreement, one of which must be submitted before publication in any Wiley journal, requires signature from the corresponding author to warrant that the article [...] is not being considered for publication elsewhere in its final form."

If you dual submit, you are violating the publisher's policies. If you are detected, there's a chance you'll be blacklisted by the publisher (not just the journal), which will close all the publisher's journals to you.

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