Worst practices for misconduct authors

arbitroThere are several ideas going around in my head regarding the reasons for the growing plagiarism in academic publications and that someone is willing to get into this game for money:

  • There is great pressure to publish.
  • Capitalism is pervading everything.
  • In general, professors are not well paid.
  • Some publishing activities are not remunerated, as academic editor or peer review.

And trying to clarify this issue in blogs and online discussions, I have been able to make a list of the types of plagiarism that currently exist, that could be seen as the worst practices for pirate-authors:

  • Plagiarism: kidnapping or appropriation of others thoughts and ideas without acknowledging its source.
  • Self-plagiarism or recycling fraud: reuse of your own texts without attributing previous publication.
  • Ghost writing: write books, articles or other texts that are credited to another person, generally for money.
  • Honorary authorship: include authors in a publication without adding value or contributing, inflating its credentials.
  • Duplicate publication: use your own publications more than once, changing the title and abstract.
  • Salami slicing: creating several short publications out of material that could have, perhaps more validly, been published as a single article in a journal or review.
  • Remix or mosaic plagiarism: mixing several publications to obtain more publishable units.
  • Image and data manipulation: modify data and results to obtain another document for publication.

It is amusing and dangerous at the same time the combination of some of the above activities, such as ghost writing and plagiarism, it would be that you pay for an article to be written but that in turn is plagiarized, so at the end, apart from wasting your money, you may run many risks, as the reputational one.

I am not sure before, but now with open access and the Internet is becoming easier to detect plagiarism of any of the existing types. Recently in Spain a professor has been condemned for plagiarizing a chapter of a student. In line with those worst practices above, the article could have been coauthored with the student – that is, the professor adds his name and the student the content, or that he did not even remember that it was not his? But I guess believing to be very smart is worse than plagiarism.

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Plagiarism is not unnatural

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This idea that plagiarism is not unnatural is very powerful, and the phrase is not mine, I copied it to a professor in a discussion on this topic in the social networks. The university (by the reports of students) and publishing world (by the papers in their journals) are concerned about plagiarism, as it is estimated that the level of plagiarism of digital content will reach 63% by 2014.

Now it’s easy to copy because technology facilitates it and there are much information available on the Internet, although it is a double-edged sword, because it will be increasingly difficult to say something new that is not in the network and also because there are increasingly better tools to detect plagiarism.

According the same estimates, more than half of the students think that plagiarism is natural and do not give it importance. Therefore, the best anti-plagiarism tool is to follow the work of each student. I’m tutoring several undergraduate and graduate theses, and the best guarantee is the weekly or monthly monitoring with the student, seeing their ideas, problems, their evolution, etc.

But this cannot be done with journals, as editors cannot track authors the same (we only need that!), but they have many options:

  • Set journal rules about previously published works. Now with open access is easier to know if there is something similar published.
  • Choose quality authors: university professors, PhD, academic affiliation, among other checks.
  • Use anti plagiarism tools to review manuscripts.
  • And there is always the peer reviewer filter, which will give a good look at the manuscript.

Returning to the main topic, we humans learn by imitating others, that’s how we improve as a species, allowing for the transfer of information between individuals and generations. Therefore, if plagiarism is not unnatural, what needs to be done is cite the sources, preferably by going to the original source, and use old ideas to build something new and give value to what we are providing. Well, that’s why the review of literature is an important part of a paper.

As professors, we lead and train generations, do you put enough emphasis on this issue? Do you teach students how to cite and deal with plagiarism?

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