Assessing and Raising Concerns About Duplicate Publication, Authorship Transgressions and Data Errors in a Body of Preclinical Research

Andrew Grey*, Alison Avenell, Greg Gamble, Mark Bolland

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Citations (Scopus)


Authorship transgressions, duplicate data reporting and reporting/data errors compromise the integrity of biomedical publications. Using a standardized template, we raised concerns with journals about each of these characteristics in 33 pairs of publications originating from 15 preclinical (animal) trials reported by a group of researchers. The outcomes of interest were journal responses, including time to acknowledgement of concerns, time to decision, content of decision letter, and disposition of publications at 1 year. Authorship transgressions affected 27/36 (75%) publications. The median proportion of duplicate data within pairs of publications was 45% (interquartile range 29–57). Data/reporting discrepancies [median 3 (1–5)] were present in 28/33 (85%) pairs. Journals acknowledged receipt of concerns for 53% and 94% of publications by 1 month and 9 months, respectively. After 1 year, journals had communicated decisions for 16/36 (44%) publications. None of the decision letters specifically addressed each of the concerns raised. Decisions were no action, correction and retraction for 9, 3 and 4 publications, respectively: the amounts of duplicate data reporting and data/reporting discrepancies were similar irrespective of journal decision. Authorship transgressions affected 6/9 (67%) publications for which no action was decided. Journal responses to concerns about duplicate publication, authorship transgressions, and data/reporting discrepancies were slow, opaque and inconsistent.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2069-2096
Number of pages28
JournalScience and Engineering Ethics
Early online date31 Oct 2019
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Bonnie Boyle for assistance with data extraction and preliminary assessment of publications.

The Health Services Research Unit at the University of Aberdeen is funded by the Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Government Health and Social Care Directorates. No other funding support.


  • Authorship
  • Duplicate publication
  • Journals
  • Research integrity
  • Retraction


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