Q: How should I deal with a breach of ethics I unknowingly made in case reports published 5 years ago?
10 years ago I published a case report for a rare disease in a Japanese paper. And 5 years ago I published two case reports in an English paper. However, these two have include the contents of the Japanese paper, and I did not cite the original. Also, the photos were reused without permission. Although I did not know the applicable rule then, now I am struggling to resolve this problematic situation.
Should I request a withdrawal of the English papers? Or can I request for revision after getting approval from the Japanese paper?
This would be either a case of duplicate submission or depending on the extent of content similarity. Also, since the English journal included some photos without permissions, this could also be a copyright breach. What makes the matter more complicated is that this seems to have come to your notice several years after being published.
You can request a withdrawal before a paper gets published; once it is published, corrective measures would mean either of the following:
- Corrigendum or erratum
- Expression of concern
Your best course of action would be as follows:
- Write to the Japanese journal first and seek permission for reuse the photos.
- Write to the English journal explaining the entire situation clearly, mentioning that you just came to know of these regulations.
- Explain that you have retrospectively taken permission from the Japanese journal to reuse the pictures.
- Ask the journal editor what would be the best course of action: a self-retraction or a corrigendum citing the Japanese article.
As it has been a considerable amount of time since both the papers were published, do expect that the correspondence and corrective steps may take some time (perhaps months).