I got a paper to review and the authors of this paper already published a conference proceedings on the same topic but supposedly a different device. When comparing the figures of the conference proceedings and the submitted paper it becomes apparent that the data is exactly the same. This should not be possible as even the noise patterns are agreeing and the device structure is different enough to show different results. What are my options?

  • What field are you in? I'm in the life sciences and conference proceedings/abstracts usually do not carry much weight. However, I've heard that other fields such as computer science and mathematics gives much more weight to conference proceedings. – Richard Erickson Apr 20 '15 at 0:02
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    I think a word or two might be missing from the title: "...supposed to be obtained from a different device", perhaps? As it is now, the title seems to refer to the paper itself as a "device", which is confusing. – Trevor Wilson Apr 20 '15 at 0:45
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    @RichardErickson: The field is irrelevant here. One or the other paper commit academic fraud by presenting data that does not match the description. Whether the paper is worth a lot of not does not matter. It's the same as stealing a silver ring from a store -- not worth as much as a gold ring, but still theft. – Wolfgang Bangerth Apr 20 '15 at 3:10
  • @WolfgangBangerth, You're correct. I misread the original post and didn't notice the research-misconduct tag. I was placing more emphasis the plagiarism. The question title places the emphasis on coping data rather than fraud, which is the bigger issue regardless of field. (PS thanks for you calling me out on that). – Richard Erickson Apr 20 '15 at 3:22

I didn't quite understand the nuances involving "different device", but if I have the rest right: you've observed that the data of the present submission is identical to that of a past submission. The present submission involves something different enough so that identical data is not plausible, and therefore you strongly suspect that the data included in the present submission is not legitimate. Is that it?

If so, I see just one reasonable option: bring this information to the attention of the editors. It is serious enough that you need not (and perhaps should not) make a recommendation of acceptance or rejection: this needs to be resolved first.

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    Having been in this position as both a reviewer and an editor, I concur: There is no need for your to write a complete review. Just send an email to the editor (and maybe the managing editor at the publisher) with a note that you have found an instance of academic fraud. They will (hopefully) handle the rest. – Wolfgang Bangerth Apr 20 '15 at 3:12
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    I believe the poster means "a different experimental device." (If true, this would allow the author to publish a second paper.) – aparente001 Apr 20 '15 at 6:03
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    @WolfgangBangerth, apparent academic fraud. I wouldn't be comfortable saying it is academic fraud (as opposed to, say, accidentally pasting the wrong graph into the paper) without better evidence. – Mark Apr 20 '15 at 9:56
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    All fair points. That said, I don't believe that there are cases of "accidentally pasting the wrong graph into a paper". I believe that there are only cases where people do it knowing full well what they are doing and later claiming that it was accidental. – Wolfgang Bangerth Apr 20 '15 at 13:34
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    If someone did manage to write a whole paper in which they accidentally analyzed the wrong data in a way that looks like fraud, then that is staggering negligence even if it's not fraudulent (and I wouldn't be unhappy to see it treated similarly to fraud). – Anonymous Mathematician Apr 20 '15 at 13:48

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