Q: Is it unethical to publish one of the cases in the original paper submitted to the journal as a case report?

Detailed Question -

We have collected and analyzed about 10 rare disease cases. It has been submitted to the journal in the form of an original article (clinical and pathological analysis). But one professor said one of these cases is unique and interesting, so he wants to write a case report separately.

I think it is not unethical because sometimes original articles are published in that way i.e. by gathering case reports which have been published. Nonetheless, I am wondering if it could be salami slicing.

1 Answer to this question

Salami slicing should be considered on a case-by-case basis. According to experts, if the “slice” of the study in question tests a different hypothesis as opposed to the larger study or has a distinct methodology or populations being studied, then it is acceptable to publish it separately.

As you rightly guessed, your example will not strictly be a case of salami slicing. The original article dealt with clinical and pathological analysis of ten cases. Describing a particularly unique case out of those in a case report would be fine, assuming the analysis and approach would be different (original article versus case report), as well as the objective and conclusion. Be sure to cite the original article as well.

We would also like to point out that if you were to do the same with the remaining cases (a case report for every case in the original study), that could amount to dividing the original paper into multiple slices and would not be ethical.

You might find answers to similar questions posted on our forum interesting:

Hope that helps. All the best for your paper!