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I am in a desperate situation. I made a mistake and committed academic misconduct.

I have submitted my article to two journals in parallel, let's say in j1 and j2. Once I received acceptance from journal j1 I wrote a withdraw email to j2.

However, after the article came online it was found by the reviewer of j2 that the withdrawal article was actually a parallel submission.

I am 3rd year PhD student and my professor was unaware of this act. How can I handle this situation?

Should I write an apology email to j2? If j2 accept the apology, will j1 keep the article or still it will be retracted?

What is the best way to come out of the situation?

*I am reviewer of both journals as well.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal May 7 '17 at 1:51
127

If you are a seasoned reviewer you should know the rules, so falling back on being an inexperienced graduate student probably won't hold water. So clearly this was less a 'mistake' and more of a 'gamble'. You should pull the article from both venues and state -unequivocally- that your advisor had no knowledge.

You didn't mention if your advisor was a co-author on the submission, but if he/she was, the infraction is even worse, because not only have you submitted without consent, you risked damaging their reputation with the journals as well.

The best path forward is to own your mistake wholly and apologize. On the positive side, it's not like you committed the mortal sin of fabricating data or plagiarizing - you violated a rule (and likely the terms and conditions of the journal). Probably not grounds for dismissal but you might be on a leash for a while.

Don't do it again! The rule is in place for several reasons, not the least of which is respecting reviewers' time and effort (reviewers' time is precious and usually pro-bono. We can't have every journal reviewing the same work).

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    This! The scenario does indeed sound like a gamble and the remorse seems to be based on being caught out. – user70612 May 2 '17 at 21:43
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    The odd thing is that it was never a very good gamble. j1 and j2 have enough subject overlap to share reviewers and receive similar papers. The paper is in their overlap area. The probability that nobody involved in reviewing it for j2 would also read it in j1 must be close to zero. – Patricia Shanahan May 2 '17 at 22:52
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    "You should pull the article from both venues and state -unequivocally- that your advisor had no knowledge." @Kumar I just want to jump in here to say that I don't think that this warrants withdrawal of an accepted paper. Just apologise to the j2 reviewer, and don't do it again. If he pursues it further you have a problem, but he may not You don't say exactly what the reviewer said/did. Ahd who did he communicate with regarding this? – Faheem Mitha May 3 '17 at 8:33
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    @FaheemMitha I wouldn't go so far as to retract from both journals, but I do think both journals deserve an apology and the opportunity to decide for themselves if they are going to reject the paper. Only apologizing to j2 will get you in very hot water once j1 gets wind of it. – Sumyrda May 3 '17 at 9:22
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    @innisfree Retraction might not be absolutely required, but telling both journals definitely is - you likely violated their submission rules. Most reputable journals will be very miffed at you for simultaneous submission and may even pull the paper post-acceptance because of it. You messed up your reputation, and if you don't want to damage it further, you need to be honestly contrite about it. This involves honestly apologizing to all parties about the error, and offering to pull the paper (i.e. removing any benefit from your deceit) is part of that. – R.M. May 3 '17 at 14:37
48

Your best course is to write your professor, both journals, explain your reason sincerely, and let them handle the situation as they see fit.

Everyone make mistakes, and sometimes they are bad mistakes. In my opinion, trying to hide these mistakes or covering up would cost you more than the mistake itself in terms of academic reputation.

  • 6
    I would not advise writing at once to both the advisor and both journals. I'd go talk to my advisor - and my coauthors - first, immediately and face-to-face if possible; and this will definitely affect how I write the letter to the journal publishers. – einpoklum May 4 '17 at 21:49
  • The action can be altered, but main idea is to keep all the parties up-to-date. – padawan May 5 '17 at 12:24
34

TL;DR: Come clean with your advisor and coauthors first and hope that they help you.

Concurrent submission is a big no-no, because it means you are wasting the time of the reviewers and editors by creating twice as much work as is necessary and you are effectively queue-jumping by doubling your chances of acceptance, which is unfair to other authors. Unless you have a good excuse, people will be very unhappy about this.

You will need to talk to your advisor and coauthors before taking further action. They will find out sooner or later and it is best if they hear it from you first. You must explain what you did, why you did it, that it was a terrible mistake, and that you sincerely regret it. Hopefully they will decide to help you resolve the situation.

Your advisor and coauthors will need to help you apologize to the journals.

Everyone makes mistakes. The important thing is that you must rectify them as soon as possible. If you appropriately apologize, then hopefully it can be forgiven and you can move on having learned an important lesson.

Concurrent submission is nowhere near as serious as, say, falsifying data. I hope that you are able to learn a lesson from this and that your reputation can be recovered. Good luck!

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    +1 for letting your coauthors know first. As a coauthor, I'd want to know what happened and I'd want to proofread your apologies to the journals, because it'd be my reputation on the line as well. – Sumyrda May 3 '17 at 9:15
10

I can't speak for how these journals will react, but i can say that as a conference program chair the course of action was to reject from both venues. My expectation would be for j2 to contact j1 and for j1 to rescind the acceptance.

  • 1
    Thanks for the answer. What if j2 somehow accept the apology, bearing in mind I served j2 as a reviewer and reviewed 10s of articles. Still j1 will cancel the acceptance of article? – Kumar May 2 '17 at 18:20
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    I don't think serving as reviewer has any bearing. – Fred Douglis May 2 '17 at 18:21
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    As for the apology... that's up to them, and how seriously they treat the infraction will dictate what they do about it. – Fred Douglis May 2 '17 at 18:25
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    The question is: if you are that experienced as a reviewer - what was the reason for making the mistake? State that reason and apologise, perhaps they will give you the benefit of the doubt. However, I really do not hope your reason was "hedging", because that would be really not a good one to have. – Captain Emacs May 2 '17 at 21:11
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    If the answer was something other than hedging, I'd expect that to have come out in the question. My money is on hedging, and I agree, OP should have known better, and most submission systems explicitly ask this. If they did here, for either j1 or j2, it is inexcusable. – Fred Douglis May 2 '17 at 21:18
2

I think you have already got proper answers; however, the outcome of your apology depends on several factors.
1- if both journals belongs to same publisher I will expect a warning letter and maybe no further action will be taken.
2- If journals belongs to different publisher than you are in tricky situation. First you need to apologise to j2 and inform your apology to j1. If j2 rejects your apology I will expect strong action from j1; at least retraction of article and possible ban. However, if j2 shows flexibility and just issue a warning than there is a high possibility that j1 will endorse the warning issued by j2 and matter will solved.
My recommendation to is don't hide or don't try to play smart. Apologise and you should mention about your services to journal. Might be Editor will show little flexible behaviour based on your voulenteer work.
Finally, never repeat such mistake.

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    I actually have the opposite reaction. If they are the same publisher, I would think they are more likely to be bothered by the overlap, and more likely for the two EICs to communicate, meaning that it is IMHO more likely that j2 is peeved and gets j1 to rescind. If they are independent, j2 has no sway with j1. – Fred Douglis May 3 '17 at 3:08
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    @FredDouglis If two publishers are involved, copyright issues might play a role. I'd expect publishers to take a dim view of misconduct that could potentially cause legal problems for them. – Roland May 3 '17 at 5:03
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    If they viewed it all along as simultaneous bites with the intention to withdraw one, they wouldn't think copyright would ever come into it. Only a waste of time and breach of ethics. That being said, I have met Ph.D.s who have never been informed these rules apply. That's why it matters whether either submission system explicitly reminded the authors of this, as so many now do. If so, the apology rings hollow. – Fred Douglis May 3 '17 at 10:02
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    Downvoted; whether the journals have the same publisher or not has no bearing whatsoever on the issue. Parallel submission isn't frowned on because it creates legal issues for the pulbisher(s); it's an issue of professional ethics. – JeffE May 4 '17 at 14:42
  • JeffE two different publishers adds difficulty to deal with two different set of rules. why its hard to understand :) – MBK May 5 '17 at 2:35
1

Like it was stated in the other answers, your co-authors should be aware of the current state of this situation and the fact of parallel submission itself.

In terms of informing journals j1 and j2, as I see it: you may write a brief message to j1 (editor?) just informing that the (accepted) article has been also submitted to j2 due to your neglect but it is withdrawn from there, and write an apology letter to j2 (it would be good if you specifically indicate that it happened due to your mistake, neglect, etc.). By writing to j2 (reviewer) you 'pass a ball' to j2. So, then it is up to j2 whether to accept your apologies, escalate it to the next level (e.g. by contacting j1 and asking them to withdraw your manuscript) or do something else.

0

You came here to ask an advice on how to handle this issue. But actually, you have no option. Let your supervisor know, and he/she will tell you what you should do and how to handle it. For me, your university has a bigger responsibility than you. Your university should educate you regarding the scientific community before it allows you to submit a paper in a scientific journal, and not by giving you just a booklet with some info of Do and Dont. However, I am not removing your responsibility. Your supervisor and both journals are the real victims of all this situation.

-12

It might not help you much right now...

But a more tactical approach is to send two versions, differing by as much as you are comfortable in explaining the differences if this happens. Obvious obligatory differences:

  1. different titles
  2. different focus on results
  3. explaining your method differently, example: many fields today are a mixture so researchers have literally each toe in a different field. Each field have their own journals and expect you to write things which are readable by their audience.
  4. different comparisons to previous work done by others.

Voila and you have almost a whole new paper. Yes some extra work required, but not nearly as much and probably not nearly as stressful work as risking being pointed out as a cheater.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – eykanal Jul 21 '17 at 2:20
-29

I tend to disagree with everyone here. One fellow noticed you submitted in parallel. So? That's not a problem yet.

Were you allowed to do that? Probably not. Should you have done it? Absoulutely.

Currently journals gamble with us. They take your article, hold it up for months and reject it in the end. Why shouldn't we do the same?

You can apply dor several jobs or schools at once just as schools and employers can consider a lot of options at once. The same should be true and acceptable for journals. The fact that it currently isn't is not your fault but the fault of journals displaying their power.

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    Couldn't disagree more. If you don't like the system - fine, don't use it. Or work to reform it. But abusing the system will make the situation worse, not better. – user2390246 May 3 '17 at 10:17
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    Additionally, it is terrible advice to give: people following it will be hurt badly. Don't confuse your dislike of the current rules with the proper way to handle them. – Benoît Kloeckner May 3 '17 at 10:27
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    "Were you allowed to do that? Probably not. Should you have done it? Absoulutely." Ah yes, the classic way to get respect and help your career in every field. If there are rules about something, generally there is a reason. Breaking those rules is an invitation for punishment. Regardless of if you agree with those rules, this is not good advice. It doesn't address the potential repercussions of choosing to ignore rules and regulations. If you want to publish in other peoples journals, it's best advised to follow their rules. – JMac May 3 '17 at 11:30
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    This doesn't answer the question. The question was not "Was I allowed to do that?" or "Should I have done that?", but "What should I do now?". I assume that your implied answer is "You should take no immediate action, keep making multiple submissions, and ignore any negative consequences of doing this.", but it would be helpful if you could make that explicit. – Pont May 3 '17 at 13:43
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    It sounds like you have never been on the reviewer/editor side of the publishing process. It's a lot of work and authors should respect that by not spamming journals with concurrent submissions. – Thomas May 3 '17 at 16:17

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