January 25, 2008

Plagiarism and preprints

Hilary Spencer

In the Publishing in the New Millenium forum, Corie Lok asks about a recent paper in Nature by Mounir Errami and Harold Garner. The paper, A tale of two citations, suggests that there is a high level of duplicate papers being published. These papers may illustrate co-submission, plagiarism, or self-plagiarism (which also occurs when papers have different sets of overlapping authors). In a comment, I suggest that preprint servers may help with detection of plagiarism and self-plagiarism prior to publication by providing the full text of articles for journals to check against. (Steven Harnad, Peter Suber , and others have made the same suggestion.)

A 2006 study identified a number of papers posted to the physics preprint server, ArXiv, which copied papers in ArXiv. In 2007, a minor scandal erupted over the discovery that about 30 papers published in low-profile peer-reviewed journals were heavily copied from other papers in ArXiv (see coverage in Nature). Had the original authors not posted their papers to the preprint server, this plagiarism might never have been detected.

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