Q: How should I deal with a breach of ethics I unknowingly made in case reports published 5 years ago?

Detailed Question -

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?

1 Answer to this question

This would be either a case of duplicate submission or self-plagiarism 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
  • Retraction

Your best course of action would be as follows:

  1. Write to the Japanese journal first and seek permission for reuse the photos.
  2. Write to the English journal explaining the entire situation clearly, mentioning that you just came to know of these regulations.
  3. Explain that you have retrospectively taken permission from the Japanese journal to reuse the pictures.
  4. 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).


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