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Plagiarism in the Academy:
Now What Do We Do?
T. Scott Plutchak
UAB Lister Hill Library
November 10, 2009
[no competing interests]
1. To steal or use (the ideas or writings of
another) as one’s own
2. To appropriate passages or ideas from
and use them as one’s own.
The American Heritage Dictionary, 2nd edition.
The use of others' published and unpublished
ideas or words (or other intellectual
property) without attribution or permission,
and presenting them as new and original
rather than derived from an existing source.
The intent and effect of plagiarism is to
mislead the reader as to the contributions of
Publication Ethics for Medical Journals.
WAME Publication Ethics Committee
Nylenna M, Simonsen S.
Scientific misconduct: a new approach to
Lancet. 2006 Jun 10;367(9526):1882-4.
• 7,000,000 Medline Abstracts
• 70,000 “highly similar records”
• Estimate 50,000 true duplicates
• 1/3 may be simultaneous submission
• 9,120 high levels of citation similarity
with no duplicate authors (2/20/09)
• 212 pairs with signs of potential
• Sent questionnaire to authors/editors of
Authors of earlier article
• We were very sorry and somewhat
surprised when we found their article. I
don’t want to accept them as scientists.
• We DID NOT give any permission to
duplicate or publish our articles… I can’t
imagine how it is possible that people
DO things like that.
• Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery?
Authors of later article
• We as coauthors look only at the
methodology of research papers. … The
principal author is responsible for its
credit and blame.
• I would like to offer my apology to the
authors of the original paper… I was not
aware of the fact I am required to take
Editors of earlier article
• None of the authors or the Editors seem
inclined to pursue this, but we are
grateful to you for letting us know about
• It is my understanding that copying
someone else’s description virtually
word-for-word, as these authors have
done, is considered a compliment to the
person whose words were copied.
Editors of later article
• Believe me, the data in any paper is the
responsibility of the authors and not the
• This news has taken us by surprise and a
sense of deep concern. We are calling an
emergency meeting of the editorial
• In the future I hope that every article can be
scrutinized prior to review by similar
How does this happen?
Ignorance of accepted norms
The level of confusion over acceptable
The perception that there is a high
likelihood of escaping detection
(Errami & Garner, Nature, 24 Jan 2008)
“If journal editors were to use more
frequently the new computational tools to
detect incidents of duplicate publication
– and advertise that they will do so –
much of the problem is likely to take care
(Errami & Garner)
But that’s still not enough…
• Figure manipulation
• Conflicts of interest
• Training… training… training…
Chicago Collaborative Founding Members
Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries
Association of American Medical Colleges
Council of Academic Societies
Association of American Publishers
Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division
Association of Learned and Professional Society Publishers
Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology
International Association of Sciences, Technical & Medical
International Committee of Medical Journal Editors
Society for Scholarly Publishing
The Bottom Line
• Clear statements of expectations in
Instructions to Authors
• Adherence to policies advocated by
• Incorporating text-checking into the
• Establishing COPE-based policies for
handling allegations of misconduct