The research process expects ethical behaviour and good practice. As plagiarism and self-plagiarism are on the increase, scientific publishers are using software to detect these instances of scientific misconduct.
Dedicated software scans articles, books and conference proceedings to detect plagiarism. The material is compared against a database containing published papers in academic journals and books.
Universities and research bodies have also expressed concerns regarding plagiarism (standard and self) and developed policies and detailed guidelines for academic researchers.
What is plagiarism?
The University of Cambridge has a dedicated website to plagiarism and academic misconduct. It identifies plagiarism as “using someone else’s ideas, words, data, or other material produced by them without acknowledgement” and self-plagiarism as “using the Registered Student’s own ideas, words, data or other material produced by them and submitted for formal assessment at this University or another institution, or for publication elsewhere, without acknowledgement, unless expressly permitted by the assessment”.
Scientific publishers offer guidelines to authors. In scholarly publishing, self-plagiarism occurs when an author uses his/her own material published elsewhere without acknowledging its reuse. If this happens in a minor way, the paper is sent back to the author for revision, if it’s considerable, the paper is rejected.
Plagiarism has dire consequences as it could severely limit academic job prospects and potentially end a professional career. There is also a serious legal consequence: copyright infringement.
Type of self-plagiarism
Scientific publishers consider it as serious as standard plagiarism. This occurs when:
- Text, previously published, is recycled, which could lead to misuse of copyright if the published work does not belong to the author.
- An author publishes two similar papers in different journals.
- Results of one study are repeated in separate papers, known as “salami slicing”.
How to avoid plagiarism
Although most people understand what plagiarism is, there are still many cases of researchers having their papers rejected or retracted due to plagiarising their sources unintentionally. It is not simply a question of copying and pasting text but also of subtler issues such as improper paraphrasing, invalid citation formats or even work done by a co-author, which can be detected by increasingly sophisticated plagiarism software.
Summing up, authors should avoid:
- Duplication – reusing his/her own work from a previous paper or study without correct attribution (leading to self-plagiarism).
- Paraphrasing – using another author’s words with own words but without citing the use of the author’s original words. Even changing the words is not acceptable if the idea is someone else’s.
- Incorrect citing – using a secondary source but only cite the primary sources contained in the secondary source.
- Re-using own work unless it is required, for instance summing up own research in a book chapter, but copyright should always be respected.
- Blatant plagiarism – a researcher copying an author’s work without attribution or, in some extreme cases, submitting another researcher’s paper under his/her own name. It’s best to avoid copying and pasting text in a working paper without a citation – genuine mistakes can also have serious consequences.
Global organisations tackling scientific misconduct
The World Conferences on Research Integrity Foundation (WCRIF), established in 2017 is a non-profit organisation based in The Netherlands that organises conferences on research integrity. It also publishes policies and guidance for authors and scientific publishers on the responsible conduct of research.
COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) is celebrating its 25th birthday. This organisation aims to educate and support academic editors, scientific publishers and those involved in publication ethics across the world. It offers resources and support of members and encourages professional debate in the wider community. Its database includes cases of misconduct, including plagiarism.
Sciendo, as a scientific publisher, offers all customers a Similarity Check system, provided by Crossref. This is part of all publishing packages (Standard, Classic and Premier) for journals, books and conference proceedings. The system prevents scholarly and professional plagiarism. Scientific publishers are expected to provide a high standard of service and a quality peer-review process, which are crucial to achieve a high Impact Factor for journals and a reputation of excellence for books and conference proceedings.