I am a referee on a paper. I am concerned with the reuse in this paper of illustrations that appeared a year ago in a different article by the same authors in the same journal.

In the earlier article the illustration was found in the body of the paper and in the later article it appears in the Introduction section.

The illustration is of reasonable quality and it provides a concise metaphor of the framework the authors are working in, but the details of the illustration are not discussed below. I am concerned that the exact same look of the illustration might cause confusion to the readers who may come across the two papers.

On this site I have found an excellent discussion regarding the reuse of text. The accepted answer points to COPE Text recycling guidelines where a comment suggests that the practice regarding illustrations might be different.

In my field (Pathology), and probably in others as well, a much bigger problem than recycled text (probably not so bad in an invited review article, in which the authors are specifically invited to discuss their previous publication/s, obviously with appropriate citation) is recycled photographs, diagrams/drawings, Tables and the like. Again, the rule we usually follow is to require permissions from the original publisher/s and, obviously, citations. I must say, however, as an author as well as an editor, that it has always annoyed me to have to get permission from a publisher to reuse my own original illustrations.

Should I suggest the authors remove the illustration in question?

  • 1
    Maybe you could suggest that they alter the illustration or even better that they highlight/mark the parts that this paper is focusing on. So a reader who remembers the original illustration will remember the old publication and immediately sees what the new paper expands on. This would serve your concern and "improve" the paper.
    – asquared
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 11:44
  • @JayFromA I like the idea to alter the illustration. Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 11:49
  • 5
    I'd ask them to include a citation in the caption.
    – user2768
    Commented Nov 14, 2017 at 12:05

1 Answer 1


No, there is no need to suggest removing the illustration. Why would you be concerned about it being reused? There is nothing wrong with re-using an illustration, especially if it "provides a concise metaphor of the framework the authors are working in".

Of course, the authors should state that the figure was previously published and refer to the original paper, as well as obtain permission from the journal it was published in. Given that it is their own paper in the same journal it will probably be no problem to arrange that.

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