Got a manuscript accepted and then pulled because of a similar manuscript submitted by another group to the same journal. Per the request of the editor, two groups combined the manuscripts. Now the manuscript was held up for unknown reasons.

I re-read the other group's manuscript and found a number of serious flaws. I don't think any reviewer would pass those up. Now I really regret combining the manuscripts with the other group, but it was the editor's request.

In addition, there were some ethical issues with the other group (gift authorship), which may have been reported to the journal by our research integrity officer.

Should I just ask the editor if they will reconsider publishing our data alone with addition of the new data that the journal wanted without having to take the whole mess with us? I am really frustrated now.

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    I'll let others answer this because I may be wrong. I have never heard of an editor suggesting two groups to combine their manuscripts before and I can see a lot of potential issues with this. Is this a reputable journal? If you don't know the other research group I think you are better off withdrawing your paper and submitting it somewhere else. This sounds too sketchy to be good in my opinion. Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 0:04
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    Yes this is a journal with IF > 30, one of the best. I didn't really know the other group until one of our co-authors "betrayed" us and took a small part of our data to offer to the other group. The person has his name on both manuscripts, which the editor considered unprofessional. However the editor wanted us to "rise above" the situation to combine the manuscripts, since the other group has the missing data that the editor wanted. It is a bizarre situation that I have never encountered.
    – Max
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 0:25
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    @Hadi: here is an example of a paper in a top mathematical journal that combines the manuscripts of four groups ( as explained by the editor's note on the first page). Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 0:35
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    @MartinArgerami: that is interesting. Having read the editors notes I can see this happening if all the issues are worked out properly. However, in this case, where Max doesn't approve the other groups work the situation is a bit more difficult. I think I would not want to publish a merged manuscript like this. However, I suspect withdrawing may result in the other groups paper being published instead... Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 2:33
  • @MartinArgerami: We are trying to figure out what the hold up is at the journal: : bad data from the other group vs. ethical misconduct investigation. The editor was responsive previously but now no longer responds to our inquiries. I mentioned earlier that I reported the coauthor to our research integrity office for dual submission and gift authorship. Our research integrity officer told me he may have to contacted the journal.
    – Max
    Commented Mar 17, 2016 at 14:41

2 Answers 2


If there is any kind of ethical problem with the other group, you need to avoid involvement in unethical behavior as much as possible. Tell the editor that, owing to ethical concerns, you are no longer willing to work with the other group. You can ask them to consider publishing your work separately, but you should be clear that you would prefer to take your work to another journal instead of combining the manuscripts.


While I understand your ethical doubts, I see two reasons why going along with the merge may be in your best interest:

  • If you have access to their manuscript, I assume the other group has access to yours, and is possibly able to correct their flaws. If you pull out, the journal may accept them to publish the result without you.
  • As the other group is working on the same problem, chances of having them as reviewers in your next submission are probably not small. It is not unthinkable that they would have adversarial behavior and stall your paper while they try to get their own published.

I don't have all the details and I will not make a full judgement, but I hope this can be useful for your evaluation of the situation.

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    "chances of having them as reviewers in your next submission are probably not small" Tell the editor about the conflict of interest. Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 23:41
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    "If you pull out, the journal may accept them to publish the result without you." A better outcome than getting involved in an authorship scandal. Commented Oct 28, 2020 at 23:42
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    @AnonymousPhysicist Better for whom? OP will lose their high-profile publication, the cheaters will get the kudos, nothing will happen. If OP can, they should pull out and publish elsewhere, fast, if possible. IF 30 will be hard to top, however, and the other team may end up reviewing the paper, CoI or no CoI. OP may be left with nothing. Been there, witnessed that. Fortunately not in one of my papers. It would have been better to resist the pressure to merge in the first place, but that ship has sailed. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 1:44
  • Being left with nothing is unlikely, but still better than being involved in an authorship scandal. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 2:04
  • @AnonymousPhysicist Yeah, sure, because years of a scientists life and, who knows, missing out on an influential citation record are not important. If I were OP and think that this research is important enough, I would choose pulling out from the agreement if the shortcomings are not amended, scandal or not. If it's a mediocre result, I would cut my losses, no reason to give the other group too much publicity. Commented Oct 29, 2020 at 9:42

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