I have gathered online that SpringerPlus is legit. thing and not some scam. But they emailed me (a PhD student) and called me a Professor and asked me to review an article which was accepted in some other journal.

I feel like i should do the review because it's good for one's career, but this seems very strange. What to do?

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    Did you know that the article was already accepted in another journal, or did they tell you so? – O. R. Mapper Sep 18 '15 at 9:21
  • @O.R.Mapper A simple Google search of the article title (I did it so I could try to read it on arXiv if present) showed it was published. So they didn't tell me. – C_Al Sep 18 '15 at 9:23
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    I see, very reasonable and certainly a good idea and a good catch. However, I now wonder - what is the advantage for you when you "ead it on arXiv"? Did you not get a digital version of the manuscript from SpringerPlus? – O. R. Mapper Sep 18 '15 at 10:01
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    @O.R.Mapper: Some, if not most journals only give you the paper after you accept to review. – Wrzlprmft Sep 18 '15 at 10:38
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    A sidenote: Most journals address all reviewers and authors by Dr. or Prof., probably to be on the safe side as it is actually not that easy to find out the current highest academic title of somebody. Think nothing of it. I have stopped counting how often I have been addressed with higher honours than I actually have. – Wrzlprmft Sep 18 '15 at 10:40

You should immediately inform the editor and let them decide how to proceed further.

If this is indeed a double publication, reviewing it is a waste of time for you, other reviewers and the editor. In the unlikely event that there is some good reason for this (e.g., the other journal is a scam), the editor should be able to find out quickly or already know about it and tell you.

As for your reputation as a reviewer: If you see something very suspicious, reporting it is the proper action and is a job correctly done.

You should also ensure the following:

  • The other journal is really a journal and not, e.g., a preprint server like the ArXiv.
  • The mail asking you for a review did not mention this fact.
  • The mail asking you for a review really came from a reputable publisher (and did not only claim this).
  • Thanks for advice. I think it is better for me to just reject the review. Because if report it and write "this is already published" then the authors may be annoyed at me (sometimes the authors can suggest reviewers). – C_Al Sep 18 '15 at 9:25
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    @C_Al: That does not make sense to me. If you are actually detecting a double publication here, the authors will probably never know that it was a reviewer who detected it. And even if they do, there is no way for them to tell that it was you – they cannot know whether the editor followed your suggestion of referees and then there are usually at least two of them. Peer review is anonymous for such reasons. – Wrzlprmft Sep 18 '15 at 9:28
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    @C_Al I second Wrzlprmft's advice to report to the editor. Even if the authors did suggest you, one usually suggests more than one referee, and there is know guarantee the editor will make use of the suggestion. So the authors have no way of knowing (or even necessarily suspecting) that you were asked to referee and you have nothing to fear. For that matter, the editor could just as well have discovered the other article on their own. – xebtl Sep 18 '15 at 9:29
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    @C_Al: And if you do not report a double publication when you detect one, but decide to ignore it, everyone else will be annoyed at you. I think that is a terrible rationale for not reporting possible misconduct, and I would categorize it as quite unethical. Think about it this way: If you conclude that you have to suggest a rejection of the paper based on your review, do you think the authors will be any less annoyed? – O. R. Mapper Sep 18 '15 at 9:58
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    @C_Al Don't worry about the wrong title: speaking as an editor, they probably called you "Prof" because their software uses it as a default. I regularly deal with a journal system that calls random people "Ms." because it defaults to that when the person who first entered them into a database didn't select a title entry, and I don't have the permissions to change it. Every automated email thus goes out with the wrong title, as do the non-automated emails if I don't specifically change the template each time. – jakebeal Sep 18 '15 at 12:10

Double publication is considered to be a major ethical misconduct (as it is mentioned in nearly all journal licenses during manuscript submission). You should do the rightful regardless of the knowledge of the authors concerning your identity and notify this to the editor as suggested by @Wrzlprmft.

But, before any hasty action, ensure whether the manuscript is an exact replica of the authors' previous publication. It is customary for authors to improve their methods over their past publications and publish them in another journal for better visibility. Such an act is not to be confused with "double submission". Nevertheless, the reference of the article suspected of double submission ought to be reported to the editor too.

Most reputed journal publishers use proprietary plagiarism tools that could also detect double publication. TBH, I guess the journal editor might have access to such tools (such a situation would not have risen otherwise). Which does give rise to another question of reliability of the journal itself. SpringerPlus is part of the SpringerOpen series, it is surprising that an editor from such a reputed publisher would provide a manuscript possible of double publication to an unsuspecting reviewer. It could be a security threat - a phishing attack to be precise. Does the mail provide any link other than the official site to submit the review result or for any other purpose? If so then it would be best to not to even reply to the sender. The rightful thing to do would be to contact the board of SpringerPlus mentioned in the site and report the incident to ascertain the reliability of your mail.

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    I get requests to review what turn out to be duplicate publications fairly routinely from some reputable journals, including Springer journals. I don't find this incredibly surprising, or see any reason to suspect a phishing attack based on what the OP describes. – ff524 Sep 18 '15 at 13:34

I think I'd:

  • make sure that the other publication is not in some conference proceedings (which might publish something with the same title but reduced content)
  • talk to a senior colleague about it (if you can without running the risk that the paper author catches wind of it)
  • check whether that other Journal belongs to Springer in some way -- maybe that's who you'd be reviewing for? Maybe they accepted based on one reviewers opinion but now need a second one?

If all of these things fail to remove the suspicion, tell Springer. They should not publish under such circumstances. Not saying anything in such situations only encourages people to continue doing it. There have been some frauds in the community who were not found out for decades...

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