Q: Inquiry about the duplicate submission

Detailed Question -

I made a very stupid mistake. I inquire this since I haven't slept for a few days and I am really, really worried.

In early June, I submitted a paper to Journal A. A few days later, I received an email requesting to transfer the paper to Journal A's sister journal. I turned down the offer because SCI journal performance is essential for my promotion. Then I thought journal A reject my paper (I had a similar experience 8 years ago).

With all the thoughts of rejection in my head, I didn't think about looking into it in more detail, and I just thought I should submit it quickly in another journal. So, a month later, in early July, I submitted a submission to journal B. However, in early August, I received a review from journal A. What should I do?

Should I be honest about this stupid flow of my thoughts to journal B and request the withdrawal of the submission? The editor of Journal B is someone I have always admired. So, I am really upset about myself… Moreover, the editor of journal A and journal B are close to each other. So, I am really anxious and worried that if I notice this issue to journal B, journal A would know this as well and it might happen the paper submission itself will be canceled.

I really need a journal paper acceptance performance by this year. I didn't mean it but it is literally a duplicate submission. Is it not possible to withdraw the submission for any reason other than duplicate submission? Please help me. I'll be waiting for your response. Thank you!

1 Answer to this question

We are sorry to hear that this predicament is giving you sleepless nights! Let’s hope we can help you resolve this.

First, let’s see how this situation could have been avoided in the first place:

  • Always ensure that you are keeping track of the manuscript status through your emails and the online tracking system (if applicable). Did you go through all communications with journal A to check if any reminders or alerts had been sent, which you might have missed?
  • Be patient! Some journals take a little longer than a month in getting back to authors, especially if it is not a desk rejection. Always wait for a confirmation from the first journal that your paper has been withdrawn from consideration before you submit it to a different journal.
  • In this case, however, a sister journal was recommended. If you did not agree with this, you should have clarified this with the editor and either requested a withdrawal of the manuscript or pushed your case for continuing with that journal itself, with solid reasons why journal A rather than the sister journal was a better option.

However, it does seem unusual that your manuscript ended up being peer reviewed after you were told to submit it to a sister journal! Nevertheless, to avoid red flags being raised by journal A and/or journal B, we recommend that you take immediate action. We understand that you performed a dual or simultaneous submission without any unethical intent. In such situations, it is best to be upfront and honest and admit your mistake. Assuming that you prefer going ahead with journal A, we recommend the following:

  • Immediately inform the editor of journal B about the situation in detail. First, thank them for allowing you to submit your manuscript (or for sending it for peer review, as applicable at the time of writing your response).
  • Please explain the situation in detail, i.e., that you simply assumed that journal A had rejected your paper (because they recommended submission to a sister journal). Admit to the editor that your mistake was not clarifying the journal’s stance about your paper.
  • However, now that you know the situation, and you have received peer review feedback from journal A, you would like to go ahead with that journal and immediately withdraw the manuscript from journal B.
  • Please remember to apologize about the error and the unnecessary inconvenience to the editorial team of journal B.
  • You may also clarify that your intention was not to perform a simultaneous/dual submission. At most, you could attribute your error to your carelessness and ignorance of the process of manuscript withdrawal; you just assumed that it was rejected. In fact, this can be testified in terms of the time gap between the two submissions.
  • Remember to be very polite in your tone!
  • Once the manuscript is formally withdrawn from journal B, there will be no concerns from journal A. We hope your manuscript is accepted after your revisions and is successfully published!

Please note that this would be the recommended approach irrespective of the journal editors knowing each other (or knowing you and vice versa).

You are not alone. Other researchers face similar problems. You might find this question and response interesting as well: Will my manuscript be considered as a duplicate or simultaneous submission?