Acceptable Secondary Publication: Publishing the same research in Multiple Languages
Researchers often come up with the question:
If I wish to publish a paper in English that has already been published in another language, would this be considered a duplicate submission?
Duplicate publication and acceptable secondary publication
Duplicate publication refers to the publication of a paper that overlaps substantially with an existing published paper without citing the previous publication. Therefore, publishing translations of articles without adequate declaration and permission is indeed considered a duplication.
However, publishing a translated version of an already published article is permitted under certain circumstances. When a translated version of an already published article is published, it is known as a ‘secondary publication’, and it is acceptable if conditions of transparency and disclosure, proper permission and appropriate attribution are met. In fact, an acceptable secondary publication is a good way to relay your findings to a wider audience.
Guidelines for acceptable secondary publication
The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has established guidelines for acceptable secondary publication. (You may view the guidelines here.) Let’s examine the conditions that need to be met to justify the publication of the same research in different languages.
- Approval: Approval should be obtained from the editors of both journals – the journal where one version was published (primary publication) and the journal where the one in a different language is intended (secondary publication).
- Interval: A publication interval may be negotiated by both journal editors and the authors regarding the priority of the primary publication.
- Title: The title of the translated publication should indicate that it is a secondary publication resulting from the translation of a primary publication.
- Citation: The secondary version must cite the primary reference.
- Consistency: The authors must ensure that the authorship, data and interpretations in the secondary version do not deviate from those in the primary version.
- Declaration: The translated version must inform readers that the paper has been published in whole elsewhere, e.g. with a statement such as, ‘This article is based on a study first reported in the [journal title, with full reference].’
Requesting a journal to accept your secondary publication
When considering publication of your work in multiple languages, examine the reasons why publication of your work in more than one language is essential. If it is justifiable, proceed in the following manner.
- Seek written permission from the journal that published the original paper. Request them to allow you to publish a secondary version in another language.
- Approach the target journal for the secondary publication. In your cover letter, explain that this is a translation of a previous publication, and that you have obtained the required permission from the journal that published it. Be sure to include the permission letter that you obtained. Further, in the cover letter, explain why you feel that your research findings should be accessible to a wider audience and not be limited to just readers of a specific language.
- Ensure that your manuscript adheres to the ICMJE guidelines. Ensure that your submission adheres to the points 4-6 listed above (title, citation, consistency and declaration).
When deciding to proceed with a secondary publication, make sure that the handling editors of both journals approve of the publication and that the translated version faithfully reflects the data of the primary version, cites the primary paper and clearly informs the reader about the prior publication. Finally, note that submission of the same manuscript, in the same or different languages, to more than one journal at the same time is a case of duplicate submission and is unethical.
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