In a previously-published paper we have one chart with about 6 traces — a pair of controls, and four test subjects. We are now preparing a follow-up paper in which one of the test subjects now acts as a control, with another half-dozen new traces compared to it. Assume that each of the experiments is technically valid (i.e. presenting either figure alone would be fine in terms of replicates, stats, setup, etc.) Is it OK to re-use the data for the shared trace in both papers? We would prefer not to repeat the whole experiment — aside from cost, there's an ethical issue (animals are involved and we want to minimize suffering). We are tentatively thinking that we can re-use the data along with an explanatory note ("Trace X in Figure 3 is re-used from reference Y") but I'd appreciate other thoughts.

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    What makes you think it's not okay, given your assumption that both experiments are valid?
    – Jeff
    Nov 16, 2016 at 18:36
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    Recycling data wholesale is not acceptable. I'm wondering whether that's considered absolute, and if not, where the boundaries of "acceptable" are
    – iayork
    Nov 16, 2016 at 19:08
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    Data is constantly reused in research. With the assumption of the technical validity of reusing it, on what grounds would you be expected to throw it out after one use? Maybe there's something very specific to your field I'm not seeing.
    – Jeff
    Nov 16, 2016 at 19:13

1 Answer 1


Looking for guidance in journal instructions, I find that at least one journal-running society says

In the event that the authors' previously published figures and/or data are included in a submitted manuscript, it is incumbent upon the corresponding author to (i) identify the duplicated material and acknowledge the source on the submission form, (ii) obtain permission from the original publisher (i.e., copyright owner), (iii) acknowledge the duplication in the figure legend, and (iv) cite the original article.

That makes it clear that some data re-use is acceptable so long as it's clearly indicated as such. The journal also says

It is incumbent upon the author to acknowledge any prior publication, including his/her own articles, of the data contained in a manuscript submitted to an ASM journal. A copy of the relevant work should be submitted with the paper as supplemental material not for publication. Whether the material constitutes the substance of a paper and therefore renders the manuscript unacceptable for publication is an editorial decision.

which makes it clear that it's not a blanket okay, and the editor will use their judgement as to how much is acceptable.

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    I don't believe that's saying it's not okay to reuse data. It's saying the new paper must contribute something new and significant that the first paper doesn't... in other words they're not going to just republish the first paper, which seems both obvious and not what you were asking. Also, this sort of thing might be better edited into your original post.
    – Jeff
    Nov 16, 2016 at 20:05
  • In climate science model simulations are produced. Large data sets. Long computation times. There are a lot of studies re-using theses data sets. Analysing them in new ways, comparing them to other data sets, ... All open data projects are based on the re-use of data. Are there other/special conditions in your research field? Jan 28, 2017 at 19:00

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