|Year : 2016 | Volume
| Issue : 12 | Page : 869-870
Salami publishing: Walking on thin (sl)ice
Editor, Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, Chairman, Managing Director, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Pvt. Ltd., Wadala (West), Mumbai, Maharashtra, India
|Date of Web Publication||23-Jan-2017|
Editor, Indian Journal of Ophthalmology, Chairman, Managing Director, Aditya Jyot Eye Hospital Pvt. Ltd., Wadala (West), Mumbai, Maharashtra
Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None
|How to cite this article:|
Natarajan S. Salami publishing: Walking on thin (sl)ice. Indian J Ophthalmol 2016;64:869-70
“Salami Slicing” was a subject that I had briefly touched upon in one of my earlier editorials. This, however, is something that requires a more in-depth explanation. Salami is a type of cured sausage consisting of fermented and air-dried meat. At the time of consumption, this sausage is usually cut into thin slices before serving. In the domain of scientific publication, salami slicing refers to breaking up the results of a single research project – the sausage – into multiple papers – each representing a slice and scattering it into multiple journals as manuscripts of varying sizes to increase the number of publications, citations, and visibility. Salami publication or segmented publication is a distinct form of redundant publication where different papers from the same data set are published. The papers have the same hypothesis, methodology, or results but do not have similarity in the actual text, thereby evading the usually employed plagiarism checks.
Salami slicing is considered to be unethical for a variety of reasons. But, apart from being unethical, I believe it does more harm to than good. If a single study is fragmented and spread across many papers, the readers of each of those papers may not comprehend the true significance of the work presented. As a result, other authors and researchers may avoid citing these studies in their literature reviews. Also, the visibility and reach of the research project may end up getting diluted as some papers may have gotten published in journals of other disciplines which ones' peers may not necessarily read or in journals with lesser circulation and visibility or even in journals with lower impact factors. Furthermore, as Menon and Muraleedharan have pointed out, valuable conclusions, that could have been derived if the data were presented as a whole, are missed as a result of this fragmentation, and the entire exercise in fact contribute to stall scientific advancement. Instead, what we gain is merely incremental or repetitive findings that are at best, of limited value, and worse, it could even end up distorting scientific literature.
From an ethical perspective, as I have mentioned earlier, salami slicing in a way amounts to unnecessary “self-plagiarism” which is frowned upon. Different manuscripts, each presenting a “new study,” would end up having different conclusions. In the long run, over time, researchers will easily be able to decipher the reality, and as a result, the author's credibility may suffer. And finally, the most dangerous ramification of salami slicing is that it potentially encourages fabrication of data and unnecessary extrapolations of results. Any well-seasoned researcher can spot “salami publications:” They usually report on identical or similar sample size, research methodology and results, and very often have the same authors.
However, this does not mean breaking up the results of a single experiment into multiple papers is always unethical. There are certain scenarios when this is essential – for the benefit of the reader and the opportunity for the authors to explain themselves and their results in entirety. On occasions, there may be studies aimed at obtaining longitudinal data with several outcome measures that may warrant independent publication, but it is the authors' responsibility to ensure no overlap between the papers. It is also prudent to declare that the data set presented in that paper belongs to a larger study and part(s) of which have already been published/presented. Another case that could justify multiple publications from the same pool of data is a large epidemiological trial where multiple research questions are addressed simultaneously. In such cases too, the authors should specify the hypothesis being tested in each paper and should ideally disclose the information that the paper represents a fragment of a larger study. These hypotheses must have been framed a priori and not after the data have been collected. However, who is to say where the lines must be drawn and who is to be the judge of what is right and what is wrong?
In recent times, the usage of the term “Least Publishable Unit,” albeit informally, has gained traction. This jokingly refers to the smallest measurable quantum of publication, the minimum amount of information that can be used to generate a publication in a peer-reviewed venue, such as a journal or a conference. Whenever other interests take precedence over merit and quality, science suffers. What we should seek is to advance science in its true sense and not fall prey to enhancing our publication metrics. We should not try to achieve the maximum quantity of publications at the expense of their quality.
| References|| |
Natarajan S. Plagiarism – One disease, many manifestations. Indian J Ophthalmol 2015;63:299.
Supak Smolcic V. Salami publication: Definitions and examples. Biochem Med (Zagreb) 2013;23:237-41.
Menon V, Muraleedharan A. Salami slicing of data sets: What the young researcher needs to know. Indian J Psychol Med 2016;38:577-8.
von Elm E, Poglia G, Walder B, Tramèr MR. Different patterns of duplicate publication: An analysis of articles used in systematic reviews. JAMA 2004;291:974-80.
Natarajan S, Nair AG. “FakeBooks” – Predatory journals: The dark side of publishing. Indian J Ophthalmol 2016;64:107-8.