Much attention is being given to a Commentary in the current issue of Nature (Nature 451, 379-399; 2008), A tale of two citations, some of which I have attempted to encapsulate in this Nautilus post, for those interested. Although the issues immediately concern a possible increase in duplicate publication and plagiarism, as detected by software systems and database searches, peer reviewers are an integral part of the check/balance procedures that journals use. For this reason, I thought it well worth highlighting here the comment by Brian Derby at the Nature Network forum currently discussing these questions. Part of Dr Derby’s response:
“As a referee I have identified duplicate or severely overlapping content while reviewing papers in the past (for reasonably high profile/impact factor journals). I do not search for duplication routinely but, as someone who is used to referee papers in particular niche areas, I received both papers in one instance and in another I had read an on-line pre-pub before receiving the duplicate. The authors will not be named as that would break referee confidentiality but they were from well known institutions in the developed world.
What was the common factor (apart from the paper!) – the authors were relatively junior new appointments. Younger academics seem to feel themselves under a lot of pressure to publish. In my department I believe that my younger colleagues are much more sensitive to impact factor than is possibly healthy when they consider where to publish an article.”