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When is self-plagiarism ok?

When linkurl:Robert Barbato;http://saunders.rit.edu/directory/facstaff/28 of the E. Philip Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) heard he was being accused of plagiarizing his own work, he was a bit surprised. "I can't plagiarize myself -- those are my own words," he said. Image: Wikimedia commons, Guillaume CarelsAnd he is not alone in his views. Some scientists and publishers argue that it's "unavoidable" for scientists to re-use portions of their own text (

By | September 9, 2010

When linkurl:Robert Barbato;http://saunders.rit.edu/directory/facstaff/28 of the E. Philip Saunders College of Business at Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) heard he was being accused of plagiarizing his own work, he was a bit surprised. "I can't plagiarize myself -- those are my own words," he said.
Image: Wikimedia commons,
Guillaume Carels
And he is not alone in his views. Some scientists and publishers argue that it's "unavoidable" for scientists to re-use portions of their own text (not images or data, of course) from previous papers, and doing so may even be good practice. But others disagree, including many journals -- who have retracted papers in response. "There are many ways you can say the same thing even when it comes to very technical language," said linkurl:Miguel Roig;http://www.stjohns.edu/academics/undergraduate/liberalarts/departments/psychology/core/bi_psy_roig.stj of St. John's University, who has written extensively about plagiarism in academic literature. "It's a matter of what some have labeled poor scholarly etiquette." In Barbato's case, the institutional committee formed to review the case unanimously decided to dismiss it. While the authors had reused some text in the introduction and methodology sections in two papers they had submitted simultaneously on gender differences in entrepreneurial business endeavors, the data were different and the papers reached vastly different conclusions. "Nobody saw anything wrong with this really," recalled linkurl:Patrick Scanlon;http://www.rit.edu/cla/communication/faculty.php?user=pmsgsl of RIT's department of communication, who served on the committee. "Sometimes [text reuse] is just unavoidable," agreed Catriona Fennell, director of journal services at linkurl:Elsevier.;http://www.elsevier.com/wps/find/homepage.cws_home "Really, how many different ways can you say the same thing?" Because scientists tend to study the same topic over many years or even their entire careers, some aspects of their research papers, particularly the literature review and methodology, will be repeated. Once they've figured out how to word it succinctly and accurately, some argue, it's best left unchanged. "You're laying the groundwork for an ongoing discussion [so] making changes might actually be a bad idea," Scanlon said. "It would muddy the waters." Indeed, even editors that tend to be on the strict side when it comes to text recycling make exceptions. Anesthesia & Analgesia recently pulled a paper due to the offense, as linkurl:reported on the Retraction Watch blog,;http://retractionwatch.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/redundancy-redux-anesthesia-journal-retracts-obesity-paper-in-self-plagiarism-case/ but the journal's Editor-in-Chief linkurl:Steven Shafer;http://www.anesthesia-analgesia.org/site/editors/edshell.dtl?sshafer said that the publication does not retract papers that only reuse text in the methodology section. "This is a very difficult area," admitted Shafer. While the recently retracted paper contained "multiple areas of duplicated verbatim or nearly verbatim text throughout," he said, not all cases are so straightforward, and each one "must be a judgment call." With evidence that duplicate publications are on the rise, and estimates of more than 200,000 duplicates already archived in Medline, the scientific community is in dire need of better guidelines as to where to draw the line with respect to self-plagiarism -- and a better way of catching those that cross it. "It's unfortunately a very gray area," said linkurl:Jonathan Bailey,;http://www.plagiarismtoday.com/about-plagiarism-today/about-the-author/ a copyright and plagiarism consultant and a writer for the website Plagiarism Today. "[When people] come to me asking what the lines are, I always have to say the same thing: 'You're going to have to talk to the publication you're submitting to.'" The problem is that most publications don't have "hard and fast rules," Fennell said of Elsevier's journals. The most comprehensive guidelines with respect to self-plagiarism come from the linkurl:Committee on Publication Ethics;http://publicationethics.org/ (COPE), but these guidelines refer only to truly "redundant publication," in which authors are attempting to pawn off old research as fresh and new. They contain no advice about scientists re-using their own text. "There's nothing that says you can't have over 30 percent of your introduction being highly similar," said linkurl:Harold "Skip" Garner,;https://www.vbi.vt.edu/new_vbi_faculty/new_vbi_persons/vpp?personId=663 executive director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, who has published several articles on plagiarism in scientific publishing. "There's nothing like that because it's impossible to calculate." The good news is that with the bulk of publishing now done electronically and the advent of text similarity software to recognize possible cases of redundant publishing, identifying copied text is becoming a much less onerous task than it used to be. eTBLAST, for example, is a free text comparison program that searches the millions of abstracts archived in Medline, as well as a few other publically available databases. Once the publication spots a possible duplication, it's added to the Déjà vu database of highly similar citations, where scientists can evaluate and comment on the entries. Probably the most widely used program to spot plagiarism in scientific publishing is Crosscheck, launched in June 2008 by CrossRef. A total of 119 publishers (nearly 50,000 journals) subscribe to the plagiarism detection program, including Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, and Springer, who donate their full text content to the database, which currently holds some 25 million pieces of scientific literature, and is "growing steadily," according to linkurl:CrossRef;http://www.crossref.org/ Product Manager Kirsty Meddings. Crosscheck's subscribers can scan the database with the same iThenticate software used by Turnitin to check for possible duplications. So far, the journals that have put the technology to use say it's working. Of the 60 papers flagged as having a high percentage of overlap with other publications in the first three months that the Society for Industrial and Applied Mathematics used Crosscheck (starting last March), "about 60 percent were self plagiarism," said linkurl:David Marshall,;http://www.siam.org/about/pub_staff.php the publisher at SIAM. "That is the majority of what we're uncovering." "In my view, [having these programs] is one of the best things that ever happened because it puts scientists on notice," Roig said. Indeed, some journals have taken to explicitly announcing that they use Crosscheck in their instructions to authors, and/or post the Crosscheck logo on their website, hoping that just the threat of getting caught will act as a deterrent. Even with these programs, however, editors must be careful, Bailey warned -- even high degree of text similarity can sometimes be legit. "It really is about context," Fennell agreed. "It's good software, but it doesn't replace human judgment." The problem now is how to weed through the hundreds of thousands of suspected cases of duplicated publications currently in the scientific literature. "It's one thing to be a deterrent and preventative in the future," said Garner, but "who's going to clean up the mess that's already there?"
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Plagiarism retracts review;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57267/
[1st April 2010]*linkurl:You've been plagiarized;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55491/
[5th March 2009]*linkurl:UK psychiatrist suspended for plagiarism;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54763/
[23rd June 2008]
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Comments

Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

September 9, 2010

Because a person can plagiarize a paper, run it through eTBlast and tweak it until it passes, these tools are only so useful. Plagiarism, like data manufacturing, is an arms race.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 10

September 9, 2010

The only situation that can be considered as self plagiarism is the delibrate act of submitting the same work to multiple journals simultanmously. As it has been said so many times, there are only so many ways to say the same thing again and again. Similar wording is unavoidable. It may even be highly desirable if it is the most succint way to say it.
Avatar of: Jim Clark

Jim Clark

Posts: 14

September 9, 2010

Hi\n\nI don't see how the requirement for scientists to re-word everything they write about their work furthers the scientific enterprise, as opposed to the careers of plagiarism consultants. Would it not be more "efficient" if scientists could focus on the critical aspects of their work (designing new studies, analyzing and interpreting data), rather than on somewhat or entirely arbitrary requirements, especially as these have multiplied over the years (e.g., grant requirements, ethics approval, accountability measures, ...)?\n\nTake care\nJim
Avatar of: LUIS AMARAL

LUIS AMARAL

Posts: 1

September 9, 2010

It seems that there is a "silly season" in science too. It seems at the minimum strange that when the vast majority of papers published in the scientific literature are poorly written, some editors and researchers would be spending time discussing whether a researcher can reuse his or her own words. Is scientific publishing supposed to become a sort of written Twister? \n\nThe goal of scientific communication is clarity in describing methods and results so that the work can be reproduced. This means that, unlike for other types of writing, consistency in the use of terms is paramount.\n\nIt also means that once one comes up with a clear, concise way of describing something, one should not be forced to change it unless it would result in improved clarity.
Avatar of: Steve Simon

Steve Simon

Posts: 5

September 9, 2010

What is self-plagiarism? I define it as using the only reliable information source.\n\nSeriously, if we all published in open source journals, this would not be an issue.\n\nSteve Simon, www.pmean.com
Avatar of: Jack Woodall

Jack Woodall

Posts: 13

September 9, 2010

Re the concluding lines: forget about "who's going to clean up the mess that's already there?" Having these tools in use should help reduce in future the amount of papers, that seems to be galloping out of control.\n\n\n
Avatar of: Jeffrey Karns

Jeffrey Karns

Posts: 2

September 9, 2010

Retracting a paper because some words were recycled in the Introduction and Methods? that is just NUTS! Was there any reason to doubt the accuracy of the data or how it was interpreted? That is really all that matters. This is just another case of a product searching for a meaningful application...let's not over extend it. Develop software that searches for recycled data; that might be useful.
Avatar of: DENNIS HOLLENBERG

DENNIS HOLLENBERG

Posts: 26

September 9, 2010

Oh, this is good! Oddly, it isn't written in a way that reflects the abundant and unvarnished inanity.\n\nA solution is to simply use a word-randomizing software program. With disproportionate concern placed on word reuse, conflict-of-interest, journal rating, publishing score, minority bias and hall monitoring of intellectual efforts, nobody has time for contemplating a paper's actual content.\n\nOr this is an example of a cynical, hyperpedantic academic bureaucrat promoting the need for his/her parasitic navel gazing to solve a non-existent problem: compelling evidence that the inmates/body snatchers have taken over the asylum/world.
Avatar of: Shi Liu

Shi Liu

Posts: 32

September 9, 2010

According to ORI, plagiarism is "substantial unattributed textual copying of another's work" (http://ori.dhhs.gov/policies/plagiarism.shtml ). So the evil of plagiarism rests on the stealing of other's work and presenting it as one's own work. When one steals his/her own work, it should be treated as a repetition of one's own work. Such repetition may be necessary sometimes in order to get a message across. If we evaluate the success of a scientist according to the discovery but not the publication, will we care how many publications a scientist is willing to pump out? Redundant publications may help selling a discovery but only unique discoveries will be counted.\nI think a change in evaluating "success" in science from publishing or perishing to discovering or gaining no credit will reduce the motivation for self-plagiarism. Of course, we need a way to settle records straight when dispute for credit happens as a result of nonself-plagiarism. The most effective way is to impose no limit on citation/referencing and reject no complaint against any neglect or overlook of any prior art. In the age of electronic publishing, all related works can be easily linked and comparison can be made to see who is the original or duplicate. However, such a totally transparent publishing system is available only in a few places such as Truthfinding Cyberpress. But I am confident more scientific publishers will adopt this philosophy of transparent and responsible publishing for all scientific works.\n
Avatar of: Richard Hull

Richard Hull

Posts: 3

September 9, 2010

The cost of journal publishing is enormous, as any subscriber individual or institution knows. So republishing essentially the same information, as a description of a piece of equipment or a methodology section that doesn't vary from one experimental report to another, is wasteful of valuable space.\n\nWhy not simply include a URL or other citation of the original passage in subsequent articles' methods sections (whether the original was one's own work or another's)? The length of the article, but not the completeness of the information, is reduced; a given issue of a journal might thus include more articles; and precious writing time is not spent trying to come up with equally accurate alternative descriptions of one piece of equipment or process.
Avatar of: EATON LATTMAN

EATON LATTMAN

Posts: 3

September 9, 2010

Plagiarism involves misappropriation of the work of others, and thus self-plagiarism does not exist. What is in question is unattributed self-quotation, and in this re-statement lies a step into managing the practice. Authors should treat self-quotation like any other quotation, identifying the source and setting the quoted text off with quotation marks, or in some other way. Thus editors can decide of the quoted text is appropriate.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

September 9, 2010

Paraphrasing language is common, but some cases of verbatim copying are clear-cut. For example, compare article in Curr. Microbiol. 54:97-101 versus earlier article in Microbiol 150:1637-1648.\nIt could be called plagiarism or copyright infringement. Investigators should strive for original authorship.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 107

September 9, 2010

This whole discussion is muddled by a tendency to conflate two different ideas. The term plagiarism should be used only to refer to the academic (not legal) offense of copying someone else's writing. I can plagiarize Charles Dickens, even though he is not under copyright. The more specific term copyright infringement should be used when legal issues are being discussed. Copying one's own writing may be a copyright infringement, if someone else owns the copyright, but it can never be plagiarism, as several commenters have already pointed out. Keeping this distinction in mind helps to sort out the problem, but there are still some gray areas, like multiple authorship. Is it plagiarism if one of the authors of a multi-author paper reuses some of its phraseology? It is tempting to say that whichever author drafted the language of a specific passage may reuse it without commiting plagiarism, while his or her coauthors may not, but this distinction would be impractical, I think. If you co-author something, you are basically giving (and taking) credit for the whole of it, so my impulse is to say that any of the authors may reuse any of it, without plagiarism (copyright issues aside).
Avatar of: Kenneth Pimple

Kenneth Pimple

Posts: 5

September 9, 2010

I would like the phrase "self-plagiarism" to disappear completely. As other commentators have pointed out, it is not possible to plagiarize oneself, so it cannot be an offense.\n\nThe actual moral concern is duplicate publication, which wastes resources, unjustly inflates the author's CV, and makes one finding look like two, which can actually be harmful when the duplicate articles are used in meta-analysis.\n\nThe question is not whether some words/phrases/sentences/paragraphs are duplicated, but whether two (or more) articles are substantially the same. This is of course a judgment call; surely sometimes the judgment is quite easy, while other times it must be agonizingly difficult. \n\nWe shouldn't even talk about plagiarism-detecting software, but repetition-detecting software. The time has not yet arrived when computers can actually discern plagiarism or duplicate publication.
Avatar of: William Hall

William Hall

Posts: 4

September 9, 2010

My research crosses many disciplines such as evolutionary biology, organization and management theory, and philosophy, and I believe my conclusions should also be accessible to those disciplines. It is a fact that many researchers do not look for ideas outside their specialties, so it makes sense to target relevant articles to these different disciplines. \n\nTo me this justifies publishing similar papers to different audiences, and in such circumstances, I often reuse graphics and other illustrative material (noting the original use) that I believe effectively communicate certain ideas. Also, I tend to avoid publishing in venues that do not allow me to retain copyright in such materials.
Avatar of: Mike Waldrep

Mike Waldrep

Posts: 155

September 9, 2010

Interesting!

September 9, 2010

The definition of plagiarism is "the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work." (Dictionary.com)\nKeywords: unauthorized, another author, one's own original words.\n\nSelf-plagiarism is an oxymoron and by definition impossible. Would I not grant myself authorization to use or imitate my own language and thoughts? And obviously they are my own original work.\n\nThe fact that people occupy themselves with this 'problem' is beyond ridiculous. \nOnce someone has found a phrasing and specific wording that they feel most clearly conveys the intended information, why change it? \nOther than to avoid being accused of/sued for using your own words as if they are your own (How dare I?!), that is... \nI might sue myself next time I have the audacity to re-use part of my method-section where the method used is in fact identical! ("I'll see ME in court!")\n\nScience has so many serious problems like fraud with data and funds, unethical treatment of new papers by reviewers in direct competition (or friends with the authors on the flipside), inadequate or biased fund allocations, etc. Fight real problems, don't create new ones where there are none. \n\n
Avatar of: howard doughty

howard doughty

Posts: 11

September 9, 2010

It is said that we stand on the shoulders of giants. It seems more likely that we are ground down by the cumulative weight of [insert politically correct term for non-giants].\n\nAt a time when anyone with the wit to stroke a key can find herself in print/pixels (e.g., here), the entire concept of plagiarism/recycling slides from the arcane to the merely annoying.\n\nBeing exposed by chance or by choice to innumerable "hard-copy" and electronic journals, often with dubious content, I am thrilled to find something worth reading wherever it can be found. If it was previously published in whole or in part in an obscure periodical to which I had no access, well and good. I'm just happy to have found it for the second/third/Nth time.\n\n
Avatar of: Alan Price

Alan Price

Posts: 14

September 9, 2010

As my colleague Migel Roig knows, investigators have used text comparison programs to find and calculate the extent of so-called "self-plagiarism" to try to support allegations of "research misconduct" against professors. As one professor noted in this article, it is not "plagiarism" to reuse one's own wording. Thus, such reuse does not fall under the definition of research misconduct for plagiarism. Unfortunately, I have had profesors as clients who had to defend themselves against such mis-informed allegations, spending months showing that the articles were substantially different and that even the editors did not consider them to be copyright infringement. \n
Avatar of: Nirmal Mishra

Nirmal Mishra

Posts: 22

September 10, 2010

Self- plagiarism is a kind of selfishness that you cannot completely do away with.\nBut there must be a conscious effort on the part of scientists not to repeat or reuse the expression, data, and content of their works. In an attempt to make their CV impressive, some, not all, go in for publication mixing their past results with the present one. It is the duty of the referee to point out to them where they have become redundant and repetitive.\nPapers that are published in quick succession from a lab or from an author have greater chance of self-plagiarism primarily because they have pummeled their thoughts like a monologue and have become unduly influenced by the expression contained in the papers quoted in the references. Innovation is required so that they become free from the clutches of lethargy in finding new expressions or new way of looking at things. Pressure must be applied from various sources to see the cult or habit is given up.\n\nNirmal Kumar Mishra\nRetd. Professor of Zoology, Patna University, Patna, India\n
Avatar of: RON HANSING

RON HANSING

Posts: 20

September 10, 2010

20 lashes with a wet noodle is just punishment. \n\nOr let really crack down, how about burning at the stake, or a good garrotting, public guilitining. better yet drawn and quarter. \n\nThis takes the plagiarism debate to the hightest level of the absurb.\n\nron hansing\n\n
Avatar of: VETURY SITARAMAM

VETURY SITARAMAM

Posts: 69

September 10, 2010

Under self plagiarism, we see trivial and not so trivial issues mixed up. If one is doing PASER (Paper Amplification based on Scanty Experimental Results, a phrase I read long ago in journal of Irreproducible results), that is not acceptable. This specifically includes data, which is repetitive (can be a a gel re-printed even), to create an aura of fresh data. To repeat an idea is what paradigmatic or normative research is all about. One needs words even to repeat an idea. To steal an idea or to omit a citation is most unacceptable but the terms are not anywhere as pejorative as plagiarism is. The extent of dishonesty among scientists in this regard may be the same as general population. But these are self evident issues. A genuine problem comes when one has to describe methodology, particularly a quantitative one. Well accepted phi-psi plots now need no explanation for the practitioners. Once they needed to be told.There comes the true conflict on how much text and how much figures need to be recycled. We certainly faced this issue with osmotic phenomena where everybody believes that the reciprocal plots of osmotic pressure approximate the volume in cells, which they don't. When basics are misunderstood as a rule, one has to go on repeating oneself and the referees are quite relentless. People really do not read the back literature in judging others' work and impressions can be deadly when mistakes are commonplace. One is forced repeat oneself to be understood in every paper, if the methodology involves counter-intuitive inference. One way is to specifically permit a section RECAP, where critical theory and data are admittedly restated. We need to innovate.
Avatar of: Shi Liu

Shi Liu

Posts: 32

September 10, 2010

In 1990 I discovered that one mother bacterium does not "divide" into two "daughter" bacteria but instead reproduces one and then more daughter bacteria while it continues to live and thus age. From this observation and re-examination of literature of microbiology and cell biology I concluded that cell "division" is an illusion and "immortal" bacteria or cells do not exist because all bacteria/cells will age and then die, just like we human beings and all other macro-organisms do.\nBut I had a hard time to publish this "common sense" discovery in all western journals that I have tried but eventually got part of this discovery published in Science in China in 1999 in its English and Chinese editions after a lengthy peer review lasted over one and half year. The I launched the world-first double-open (open-access and open-review) scientific journal called Logical Biology and published many publications there to promote my discovery and further enhance my discovery. By the standard of the Cross-Check definition of "plagiarism", many of these publications would be treated as "self-plagiarism". However, what is wrong with repeatedly publishing more articles to promote a discovery that is prevented from getting into a mainstream when this discovery actually explains much better many enigmas existing in the mainstream?\nThe repetition of some exact texts that precisely and consistently describe a same discovery is absolutely necessary. Otherwise I may need to say at the first time "bacteria age", at the second time "bacteria also age", at the third time "bacteria may also age", at the fourth time "bacteria may also show aging", at the fifth time "bacteria might age, too", and so on to avoid being caught for "self-plagiarism". But If I do so, should I laugh at myself for being the most stupid scientist?\nInterestingly, despite that many "self-plagiarism" publications out there in the public domains, my pioneer status in discovering an intrinsic cause for bacterial/cell aging has never been recognized. My publications including peer-reviewed ones have been INTENTIONALLY neglected by others. Some of them actually heard my discovery in person or knew the existence of my publications. Interestingly, when a top journal received my complaint and investigated my accusation, it reached a conclusion that my earlier written descriptions about my discovery "conforms" to a later publication claiming the same discovery by the others. Is that ironical or not?\nFortunately there is a Google search engine in this world that can be used for setting the records straight. Please Google "bacterial aging" and see for yourself if there is any plagiarism happened.
Avatar of: JOHN GARST

JOHN GARST

Posts: 6

September 10, 2010

My Random House dictionary defines plaglarism as "the appropriation or imitation of the language, ideas and thoughts of another author, and representation of them as one's original work." So by definition any concept of self-plagarism is unadulterated garbage. \n\n
Avatar of: GAYLEN BRADLEY

GAYLEN BRADLEY

Posts: 5

September 11, 2010

It is disappointing that those engaged in communication of science fail to express themselves unambiguously. There is a need to recognize the differences among duplicative publication, copyright violation, failure to follow journal guidelines, lack of standards for quotations and citations, and plagiarism. Scientific publication has evolved a grammar of its own that is viewed as careless, if not inappropriate, by literary scholars. Those responding to the article "When is self-plagiarism ok?" almost uniformly argued that the term self-plagiarism is an oxymoron. The short, provocative article did not unambiguously identify the editors' concerns. A journal may stipulate that it only publishes 'original' articles and the author is asked to assert that the submitted manuscript is 'original.' It may be argued that extensive re-use of phraseology renders an article 'Not Original" and therefore violates journal policy. This is certainly not plagiarism but it may be a transgression sufficiently serious that an editor may decide to impose penalties. I suggest that The Scientist encourage the authors of its articles to say that they mean, using a minimum of ambiguous words that fuel misunderstanding.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

September 12, 2010

Christian Kortleven is on the mark by presenting the dictionary definition of plagiarism. The focus should mostly be on content (the scientific merit) not the process (the way in which the the science is conveyed) as long as acceptable English is used. Rejecting a significant paper based on (oxymoronic) self-plagiarism is is anti-progress and is a time waste.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

September 13, 2010

For decade scientists have chosen to publish essentially identical work in different journals so as to reach a different audience. The Nobel Prize wining research of Woodward and Hoffmann was published at least three times with nearly identical titles, figures and text. \n\nThe issue was clear: Not all scientist read all journals, hence to make sure that relevant work reaches the appropriate audience one must publish in multiple journals. \n\nWho does this hurt? Well the publishers for one. If the same work can be obtained from multiple sources, then there is less demand for specific journals.\n\nAre there any other adverse effects? Well only if one is using the system to up their publication numbers. But anybody who judges quality based on numbers deserves what they get.\n\nAll-in-all this an issue only because the journals and bean counters want to make it an issue.

September 14, 2010

Self-plagiarism is not only ok but necessary in mathematics. If you have found the best formulation for a mathematical theorem it would be nonsense to express it in some other way. Is it not the same in some other fields?
Avatar of: Roselyn Cerutis

Roselyn Cerutis

Posts: 19

September 14, 2010

I agree with Jim Clark, as quoted below;...we already have too much of our precious time frittered away by other administrative requirements- \n>"I don't see how the requirement for scientists to re-word everything they write about their work furthers the scientific enterprise, as opposed to the careers of plagiarism consultants".< \n\nIf I need to re-word everything in my methods (Ex.)just for an exercise, that is a true waste of life's minutes....let's worry about the truly malicious plagiarism out there!\n\n\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

September 15, 2010

According to the article re-using text is "...a matter of...poor scholarly etiquette." We are doing little to move out of the Ivory Tower, while living off the public's money. The public pours millions into health research every year, and expects results, not this kind of elitist nitpicking. We need to be practical and realistic. Re-using text won't take away from the work expected of us. We don't own this work. The investor--the public--does. If the public only knew about the misguided priorities of journal editors and scientists, it would make the already questionable, selfish practices of academia seem much worse. They want results. The editors need to get their priorities straight. \n\nRead more: When is self-plagiarism ok? - The Scientist - Magazine of the Life Sciences http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/57676/#ixzz0zafUuyKB
Avatar of: krishna balasub

krishna balasub

Posts: 1

September 15, 2010

My position is that self-plagiarism is OK only for certain sections of the manuscript such as the Materials and Methods which provides a factual information on how the experiment was performed or reagents acquired/synthesized. It would be an unnecessary waste of the Investigators' time and resources to ask for making changes to this section to counter plagiarism. On the other hand authors should be expected to show some creativity while writing the other sections in their manuscripts. This does take some effort but can be achieved with limited effort from the Senior PI, who can designate other co-authors to write the draft instead of copying verbatim from an earlier lab paper. Senior PI's should see this as a means for mentoring postdocs and junior researchers in written expression.
Avatar of: Vance Frickey

Vance Frickey

Posts: 3

September 15, 2010

Copyright law is clear on the subject; authors have a complete and inalienable right to their own words. So in that sense, "self-plagiarism" is an oxymoronic concept.\n\nHowever, there is an etiquette to publication in general; one doesn't subscribe to a journal to see rehashed communications from the same people. And space in journals - at least those with significant editorial standards - is precious enough to make one hope that editors don't permit mere restatement of old results and conclusions.\n\nEven - perhaps especially - now that so many journals are electronically accessible (yet still expensive to purchase content from), one hopes that journal editors and referees have judgment enough to still act as gatekeepers for their readers and prevent authors from unscrupulously padding their publication lists with mere repeats of old scientific communications.\n\nI can't remember if the Vancouver Style for biomedical communications (my personal touchstone for appropriateness in scientific communications as a onetime medical writer) specifically addresses this point. A quick online survey of the requirements as reproduced on the Monash University Web site (http://www.lib.monash.edu.au/tutorials/citing/vancouver.html) doesn't seem to show that it does. \n\nBut the issue of self-referencing and reuse of old scientific data in new publications should definitely be addressed by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors and other fora for determining standards for scientific publications. \n\nWe ought to refrain from using the term "self-plagiarism," however until consensus exists that such a pejorative is justified or meets reasonable standards for exactness. You can't plagiarize yourself, I think - but you can abuse the time and budgets of fellow scientists by sending stale data for republication for no reason than to fluff up your CV or that of coworkers.
Avatar of: William Winter

William Winter

Posts: 2

September 15, 2010

Years ago the group that I was in published a large number of papers using x-ray diffraction to study a number of fibrous polymers. Hydration was critical and the exact same procedure and apparatus was used with each different polymer. We used the same phrase to describe that procedure in perhaps 20 + papers and I continue to believe that that was appropriate.I believe we did reference the original paper where the work procedure was reported, but we did not put the phrase in quotes and to do so would have, in my opinion, appeared foolish to readers of those articles.\n\nI also note that none of the comments in your article come from people who identify themselves as physical or biological scientists.
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anonymous poster

Posts: 1

September 15, 2010

If you used the same methods on a different set of samples, then the method section should be identical.
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anonymous poster

Posts: 107

September 15, 2010

Vance Frickey is wrong. Authors don't automatically own the copyright to their own works, although perhaps it should be so in a fair world. Copyrights to scientific publications often belong to the publisher, not to the authors, who signed them away as part of the publication process. This problem is probably better known in the music business, where it is commonplace for songwriters to lose control of their own works, for one reason or another. Paul McCartney can't sing any Beatles songs without paying royalties to the estate of Michael Jackson, who owned the copyright to the Beatles songbook. There are many other examples. Plagiarism and copyright infringement are two quite different concepts.
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anonymous poster

Posts: 1

September 15, 2010

Catriona Fennell must have plagiarized the sentence "how many different ways can you say the same thing". I googled it and it yielded about 5,330 results.\n\nThis whole issue about self-plagiarism in scientific publication is plain silly. This is not literature folks! As long as the author does not intend to deceive then why should it be a problem? The whole point of publishing science is to communicate and the key driver is clarity not original prose.\n\nAnd by the way self-plagiarism is an oxymoron!\n\n\n\n
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john salerno

Posts: 24

September 15, 2010

Whoever came up with the bogus description 'self-plagiarism' to describe multiple publication has much to answer for. Plagiarism is stealing the work of others. (According to Miriam-Webster: to steal and pass off (the ideas or words of another) as one's own : use (another's production) without crediting the source.) The Scientist isn't doing science a service by perpetuating such claptrap. \n Multiple publication of results is clearly also wrong, but even in the worst cases is an offense of a different kind and order. As many here have pointed out, reusing short descriptions from methods and introduction sections is almost unavoidable and harmless. As long as the new paper presents new results and draws fresh inferences that move things forward, a few repeated sentences aren't cause for a witch hunt. Don't we have better things to do?
Avatar of: David Hill

David Hill

Posts: 41

September 15, 2010

There is nothing morally or ethically wrong with using the same expressions, figures, etc. more than once. However, if you have a contract that says that the material that you are submitting is original and has never been published before, then you may have a legal obligation. No one can copyright specific scientific results, but it seems silly that authors have to permute their ideas and redraw their figures to republish them in a different location. The solution for scientists is to stop making these contracts with commercial publishers, retain all copyright, and then do as they please with their results. Why people keep giving their work away to commercial publishers, and even paying for the right to do so (!) is beyond me. It is about time that intelligent people realize that they are being personally exploited through an arrangement that lost its utility long ago with the advent of digital publishing.
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anonymous poster

Posts: 11

September 15, 2010

I am personally of the opinion that a scientist reserves his write to use his own set of data or ideas for reinterpretation or on reflecting some other kind of correlation with a certain phenomenon already explained/ published. It is quite possible that an author of any set of data may miss correct interpretation and some other reader or researcher may interpret the same in a more correct perspective. There are a good number of examples in the history of science when correct interpretation of the set of data has been made by those who happened to glance through the original data by chance. Therefore, all scientific literature should remain an open book with intellectual honesty to acknowledge the source and credit. It is the commercial interest that has started the mad race for property rights and restrictive growth of science and scientific information and communicartion, crimes in hiding scientific truth and suppression of negative results for commercial reasons. In fact like practice in medicine and taking charge of a constitutional position in a government, a scientific research career should be allowed on start on an oath and alligiance to the cause of the society and service of the people. Any one who breaches this oath on moral, practical and ethical grounds should be disowned by the scientific community.
Avatar of: Matt Silliman

Matt Silliman

Posts: 1

September 24, 2010

Odd as it would feel to be accused of plagiarism when the words are your own, it does seem legitimate, if you have previously published them, to expect you to supply a proper citation, and present the iterated passage as a quotation if it is verbatim. If you do so, I can't see how there could possibly be a problem. In fact, by explicitly referencing the prior publication you would be furthering the aims that some claim are the justification for the practice of re-using text, and definitively undermine any accusation of dishonestly presenting prior work as new.\n\nThis solution just seems too obvious. Am I missing something?
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David Everett

Posts: 1

October 20, 2010

I'm not sure how many posters for this article are editors, but it seems to me that straw men are being set up then knocked down. As an editor who routinely uses similarity detection software, I never reject a manuscript unless I carefully read the similarity report (the software I use never refers to is as "plagiarism") and see what is similar to other papers. I have accepted papers for review with more than 30% similarity as the allegedly copied sections are no more than fragments of sentences. Editors are much more lenient with the materials and methods section, although there is scope for referencing perviously published methods.\n\nThe issue is not about punishing people who write a few identical phrases in their own papers. It is an issue of what we refer to as "salami slicing" where authors try to publish "least publishable units" from a given amount of work. This adds to the enormous amount of published material, some of which is a waste of paper in my opinion. Some authors are just plain lazy and don't have anything substantial to add to the body of scientific literature when they write a paper. This is the purpose of using software to detect similarity. The other serious issue of plagiarism is also detected by similarity detection software and is dealt with accordingly, although it occurs much less often.
Avatar of: ELLEN S VITETTA

ELLEN S VITETTA

Posts: 2

December 13, 2010

We all write review articles, use the same Material and Methods sections, phrases in our Intro. etc. Once you get the wording right, why change it? There are more important ways to spend your time. \n\nAs noted by others, try this: \n\n1. As described in ( ),...... \n2. As published previously and with copyright permission ( )...... \n\nLet's not make it more complicated than this! There are plenty of other battles to fight...\n\n\n
Avatar of: Richard Hull

Richard Hull

Posts: 3

December 13, 2010

Why cannot this issue be resolved with the requirement of a manuscript that, when one copies one's own work as when one copies another's, it is put in quotes and a citation of the work from which one took the passage is given? That gives the editor due notice that material is not original to this article, and permits a decision as to whether, e.g., a link or citation might given in place of the repeated passage in order to save precious space, and gives the reader notice that the passage (whether methodology or other material) has been published before.\n\nResistance to this by an author is evidence of deliberate resume padding; cooperation with this is evidence of good faith.\n\nRichard Hull, Executive Director, Text and Academic Authors Association, Inc.
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anonymous poster

Posts: 1

December 14, 2010

The real challenge of scientific publishing is quality. This problem is still unresolved. \n\nThe purpose of a paper is to distribute unambiguous and valuable information. I think that a "self-plagiarized" (partial) text, which perfectly describes the information is 100% preferable to a "unpublished" text of lower quality. Scientific texts are not novels.\n\n"Self-plagiarism" is an artifact of similarity software in the hands of people, who hoped that an automatic quality control would be possible. Nobody would ever have complained, if this software would not exist.\n\nUnderstanding the content of a text is still the only real way to distinguish good and bad scientific manuscripts.\n\n\n\n
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Eric Murphy

Posts: 7

December 14, 2010

Self-plagiarism comes in a lot of forms and like money they are not all created equal. It is difficult for an author who uses a standard set of techniques to write 50 papers in which these techniques are used and have 50 vastly different descriptions of these techniques. Technical writing does not provide even the most gifted writer that amount of flexibility. \n\nAs an Editor-in-Chief, methods sections are the least of my worries and frankly I would prefer a well written methods section that permits the reader to understand how the experiments were done, samples and data analyzed. In addition, if an author published multiple papers on a single protein, their first couple of paragraphs may be a bit similar. The author should try and make them distinctive, but at times that is difficult.\n\nI challenge everyone to rewrite this sentence, "Alpha-synuclein is a 140 amino acid protein that is widely distributed in the central nervous system." To make this point to students, I take two paragraphs from my own work and have them rewrite the paragraphs in their own words. Sounds easy write? Wrong, it is very difficult to rewrite technical writing, which means in this case they end up plagiarizing the work.\n\nI had one case involving a manuscript that self-plagiarized major portions of four other published papers from the same group. While there were other misconduct issues as well involved in this case, self-plagiarizing the results, introduction, and discussion is just not acceptable. This clearly crossed the threshold. \n\nForensic programs merely give homology of similarity, it is up to the EIC to examine the manuscript and other potential published work for similarities and duplication of text. The judgment call is made by the EIC, not by the computer. \n\nInterestingly, all of our cases of plagiarism have not been caught using a computer, just really good humans in our peer-review process. Amazing how it works in real life.
Avatar of: Mitchell Wachtel

Mitchell Wachtel

Posts: 30

December 16, 2010

"Null hypotheses were rejected when P < 0.05" appears in 99% of my publications; never has a reference been supplied. Odd would be considering that plagiarism.
Avatar of: Paul Thompson

Paul Thompson

Posts: 2

December 28, 2010

I can name any number of persons in my area who have essentially published the same article in several journals. They change the article a little, but it's the same stuff over and over. Either you publish in obscure second-level journals, or you publish overseas. Another trick is to publish in journals from different disciplines. It's a cheap trick.
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Anibal Morillo

Posts: 3

December 28, 2010

The term self-plagiarism is not necessarily contradictory, and it should not be discarded as an oxymoron. If self plagiarism was a figure of speech, it would qualify, if anything, as a reiteration or a pleonasm, not as a contradiction in itself. To use the ideas of others without proper credit is a clear-cut example of plagiarism. Self plagiarism is not a matter of having to ask for permission to express one's own ideas in different scenarios. \n Once ideas get published, it gets more complicated than merely considering that an original idea does not need permission by its author to reproduce it. Duplicate publication is one of the ways in which plagiarism presents itself. It is clearly a case of misconduct, since publication usually counts in academics: the more you publish, the more prestige and tenure opportunities you achieve. Surprisingly enough, the most renowned cases of plagiarism come from the academic realm. Academicians are, in essence, human beings. That is why they can incur in the same misdeeds that the rest of mortals. That might explain why many prominent figures in science do not receive a fair punishment for their sins. \nAny scientist interested in a specific area of knowledge begins his or her research with a scientific literature search, that is, a scrutiny about what other researchers have published on the subject. To find several versions of the same research, published in different journals, with different titles but with the same content, is a total loss of time for any researcher. This is precisely what scientific journals try to avoid when their editors adopt international rules of publication. Potential authors are compelled to declare on the originality of the papers they submit for publication. The way to prevent possible instances of duplicate publication or blatant plagiarism is by the proper use of citations. To cite a source, either by a quote or by an explicit mention of its existence, implies that the author acknowledges the work of others, and that he or she is capable of presenting an argument based on previously published opinions or findings. If there is not a reference or quotation, the reader can assume that the ideas presented are original, or previously unpublished. Once published, ideas cease to be mere ideas to become sources of information, no matter if they are opinions on letters to an editor, or a paper presenting the results of a scientifically rigorous research. Publication assures the endurance of ideas. Once they exist in a printed, electronic, or any other retrievable format, opinions transcend; they can be found, they can -and should- be quoted properly everytime they are used. That is one of the purposes of references: they allow tracking the ideas on any subject. A reference implies that an idea has been exposed before. When an author submits a paper for publication, some rights are waived. Even if it seems unfair to some authors, publication rights can be transferred to a publisher in a tacit or straightforward way. In that respect, scientific publications are similar to other publication industries, as in fiction literature or the music industry. Once owned by a journal (or record company) ideas (songs and scientific papers alike), need permission to be reproduced, even by their authors. There is no such thing as a tacit permission to reproduce a text without authorization. This happens in fiction and in non-fiction literature, and it sure applies in the scientific literature. \nThese rules do not apply exclusively for the biomedical sciences. Historians, physicists and many other academicians have been implied in accusations of fraud. Plagiarism is just one way in which fraud is manifest. Even with the continuous sophistication of software for the recognition of duplicate use of words and sentences, accusations of plagiarism should not be based exclusively on automated processes. \nAs any researcher knows, some parts of a publication can be very similar among different papers, from the same or from diverse authors. Methodology can and sometimes must be copied in order to assure reproducibility of results. Automatization can help in the initial process of plagiarism detection, but the final verdict should be the result of a close examination of each case.\nAs can be expected, those investigated on cases of plagiarism present irate opposition to charges presented. Depending on the level of recongition and fame of those investigated, many supporters and opponents appear, willing to defend the honor and the ethics of those accused of plagiarism or other forms of fraud, or inclined to advocate the crucifixion of their peers. Ethics for scientific publication entails rights and responsibilities. One of those responsibilities is honesty. To avoid revealing conflicts of interest is dishonest. To duplicate publications is dishonest. The use of intricate maneuvers to try to conceal dishonesties, such as ghostwriting or salami slicing, is just as censurable. It doesn't seem honest to try to trivialize self plagiarism as if it were a simple question of semantics.\nOf course there are just so many ways to say something in science. The issue is to reveal if what is being said has been said before. But, if something has already been said too many times (especially by the same author), maybe it is time to stop saying it.\nSelf plagiarism is for real. It is one of the many faces of fraud, it can be esaily dismissed as absentmindedness, and it thrives on the academic world.\n\n\n
Avatar of: RAM B SINGH

RAM B SINGH

Posts: 6

December 28, 2010

It is a waste of time discussing this subject.Many ideas are used by experts from the western word who are better in English and scientific presentation, without mentioning original contribution from others.However, many experts use the same language for presentation of the same idea which they are working on for decades. It is most important that we should be honest in our heart apart from mind.

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