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Ten months ago, we submitted an article to a journal, which is still under review. In the meantime, we have made a few extensions/improvements to the submitted article. Can we submit the extended version to another journal? How can we cite the work presented in the article under review? Do we need to inform the editors of both journals regarding the submission of the extended version?

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The main issue here is whether the so-called extensions or improvements are substantial enough to classify the revised version as a separate paper. In general, I think not. In addition, that you've "improved" a paper means that the older version is "deficient" in some way (or else, why "improve" it?). If so, then you are doing the original journal a disservice by having them review a deficient paper.

I am part of the editorial team of a number of journals. In none of them would we appreciate you submitting essentially the same paper to another journal. In fact, if we found out, then we would contact the new journal and discuss the case in tandem. In addition, if we received a submission, we expect you to assert that the manuscript was not being reviewed elsewhere. It i likely that you would not be able to make this assertion to us, knowing that an earlier version of the paper was being reviewed elsewhere.

Perhaps you're thinking, "why not submit the revised paper to the same journal because it has improved on the original manuscript?" Even this is pretty frustrating from an editor's point of view. It is likely that, as editor, I'm waiting for reviews of your original paper to arrive. If you were to submit a revision to me during this process, it would be rather disruptive and I would ask why you submitted a half-baked manuscript to us in the first place.

What can I advise you? I suggest that you contact the Journal and ask for the deputy editor who's handling your manuscript. I would discuss your situation citing these two significant issues: (1) 10 months is a long time to wait and (2) during that time, we've made improvements to the manuscript. Then I would ask them what to do.

Deputy editors are human, too. If they understand your situation, then they can advise you accordingly.

Good luck!

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  • Depending on the research area, it can be quite normal to improve things that were not "deficient" in the first place. For instance, the original submission may describe an algorithm that does some task 10 times faster than the state of the art, while the improved submission modifies the algorithm to make it 100 times faster. – lighthouse keeper Nov 30 '16 at 8:10
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    I agree @lighthousekeeper. I needed a word to contrast against an improved paper. I thought that placing the word "deficient" in quotes would be okay without implying that there were any problems with the original manuscript. – user65587 Nov 30 '16 at 8:14
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    @ElmerVillanueva but I think that contravenes the point you are making. Almost any paper could be significantly improved and extended with 10 months of extra time to work on it. At some point you simply have to draw a line under what you have done and submit it for publication. If you wait until it is perfect, you will never submit (a trap some researchers fall into). – user24098 Nov 30 '16 at 10:02
  • @dan1111: Sure, papersd can be improved over 10 months and certainly they can always be improved, full stop. Tis is the theoretical point of the peer review process. However, I'm not disagreeing with this point. I'm simply stating how things are perceived from the point of view of the editorial staff, more specifically, in the journals with which I'm affiliated. – user65587 Nov 30 '16 at 11:08
  • 10 months is not a long time to wait in certain fields. – mikeazo Nov 30 '16 at 14:59
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In my research area, journals have clearly defined rules that are relevant for this situation. For instance, one particular journal, Software and Systems Modeling (SoSyM), has the following rules:

SoSyM Policy Statement on Plagiarism: Papers submitted to SoSyM must not be simultaneously submitted as is, in an extended form, or in a shortened form to other journals or conferences. Authors can submit extended forms of papers that have previously appeared in conference proceedings. Such submissions must clearly state that the paper has been published elsewhere, must reference the paper in the submission, and must clearly state how the paper significantly extends the published version.

[...]

No Self-Plagiarism. Manuscripts in which at least 75% of the content appears in a non-journal publication or in which at least 40% appears in a journal publication will not be published.

You should check the submission policies of your target journals carefully for such rules.

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  • One should be very careful what does it mean by 40%. Is it the outcomes of the experiments or the text? – Coder Nov 30 '16 at 8:32
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    @Coder That's indeed a bit vague in this formulation. To shed more light on the rule, one can look at its instances: in all examples of extended versions I have seen, the additional content were additional contributions, such as generalizations of the original work to a more diverse setting, rather than a more detailed presentation of the existing work. – lighthouse keeper Nov 30 '16 at 8:39
  • Right. Probably the extended version of the presented conference papers (in comp. sc field). – Coder Nov 30 '16 at 9:47
  • @dan1111 Thanks, I have added relevant excerpts. – lighthouse keeper Nov 30 '16 at 11:44
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As noted by others, there may be a problem if the extended paper isn't original enough to be a separate publication.

Another problem is: what about potential requests for revision when you get feedback from reviewers on the original paper?. They might ask for some of the very improvements you have already made. Or they might ask for changes that put this paper out of line with the "extended" version. In either case, you have a bit of a mess if the extended paper was already submitted elsewhere.

In any case, I think you need to wait until you have a decision on the first paper to proceed.

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