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Objectives: To examine the perspectives of journal editors and authors on overlapping and redundant publications in clinical research.
Design: Pretested cross-sectional survey, containing both forced choice and open ended questions, administered by mail to the senior editors (N=99) and one randomly selected author (N=99) from all journals in the Abridged Index Medicus (1996) that published clinical research.
Main measurements: The views of editors and authors about the extent of redundant publications, why they occur, how to prevent and respond to cases, and when the publication of overlapping manuscripts is justified.
Results: Seventy two per cent (N=71) of editors and 65% (N=64) of authors completed the survey. There was consensus between both groups that redundant publications occur because authors feel the pressure to publish and journals do not do enough to publicise, criticise, and punish cases, and that the publication of most types of overlapping articles is unacceptable. Sixty seven per cent of authors but only 31% of editors felt, however, that it was justified to publish an overlapping article in a non-peer reviewed symposium supplement, and 68% of editors but 39% of authors supported imposing restrictions on guilty authors' future submissions. In written comments, 15% to 30% of both groups emphasised that it was justified to publish overlapping articles when there were different or non-English-speaking audiences, new data, strengthened methods, or disputed findings.
Conclusions: Editors, authors, and other academic leaders should together develop explicit guidelines that clarify points of contention and ambiguity regarding overlapping manuscripts.