On the myth of "Scooping"

Excellent editorial from @sfmatheson’s team at Cell Reports, setting forward their guidelines on scooping:


At Cell Reports, we reject the concept of scooping if the similar paper we receive contains findings related to recently published work and when it could reasonably be deduced that the timing of the findings overlapped. This is not a new policy, but we are making it permanent and explicit. What do we mean by ‘‘overlapping?’’ We consider two or more papers to be overlapping if we know or can reasonably assume that the research itself overlapped and if the first paper was recent enough that it couldn’t have been the basis of the second paper’s conception.

When reviews come back indicating the need for revisions, we
have three tools we can use:

  1. If revisions are critical for the paper to be published at Cell Reports, the authors get as much time as they need, with the ‘scoop clock’’ stopped.

  2. If revisions are important but not critical (a judgment we will make, often in consultation with reviewers), we will require use of a specific Discussion section, ‘‘Limitations,’’ that explains not just limitations but specific unanswered questions that were tabled due to lab closure.

  3. We will redouble our ongoing efforts to ensure that suggested revisions are central to the paper’s scope and argument. This is not a pandemic-specific goal, but it is all the more important given that peer review and revision have become even more complicated.

This is really good. I hope more journals follow @sfmatheson’s lead.


I’m glad you like it and agree with it!


Do you have any more editorials in works?

Are any other editors considering what you are proposing here?

We have things to say about pursuing equity but I don’t think we (alone) will have any editorials about that. But we’ll see.

The concept of “scoop protection” that begins when a paper is submitted has been policy at EMBO for a few years. The 6-month “scoop window” was already in place at PLoS when we announced our policy and we cite them in the editorial. I don’t know whether others are considering this.

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This is a common concern of bench scientists I occasionally work with, who are often is a terrible hurry to get results out before they are scooped.