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Advice for Plagiarism Whistleblowers



Scholarly open-access publishing has made it easier for researchers to discover and report academic misconduct such as plagiarism. However, as the website Retraction Watch shows, plagiarism is by no means limited to open-access journals. Moreover, various web-based services provide plagiarism detection software, facilitating one's ability to detect pirated content. Upon discovering plagiarism, some are compelled to report it, but being a plagiarism whistleblower is inherently stressful and can leave one vulnerable to criticism and retaliation by colleagues and others (Anderson, 1993; Cabral-Cardoso, 2004). Reporting plagiarism can also draw the threat of legal action. This article draws upon our experiences as plagiarism whistleblowers with several goals in mind: to help would-be whistleblowers be better prepared for making well-founded allegations, to give whistleblowers some idea of what they can expect when reporting plagiarism, and to give suggestions for reducing whistleblowers' vulnerability to threats and stress.
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Advice for Plagiarism Whistleblowers
Mark Foxa & Jeffrey Beallb
a Judd Leighton School of Business & Economics, Indiana University
South Bend
b Auraria Library, University of Colorado Denver
Accepted author version posted online: 22 Nov 2013.Published
online: 18 Jun 2014.
To cite this article: Mark Fox & Jeffrey Beall (2014) Advice for Plagiarism Whistleblowers, Ethics &
Behavior, 24:5, 341-349, DOI: 10.1080/10508422.2013.866047
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ETHICS & BEHAVIOR, 24(5), 341–349
Copyright © 2014 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC
ISSN: 1050-8422 print / 1532-7019 online
DOI: 10.1080/10508422.2013.866047
Advice for Plagiarism Whistleblowers
Mark Fox
Judd Leighton School of Business & Economics
Indiana University South Bend
Jeffrey Beall
Auraria Library
University of Colorado Denver
Scholarly open-access publishing has made it easier for researchers to discover and report academic
misconduct such as plagiarism. However, as the website Retraction Watch shows, plagiarism is
by no means limited to open-access journals. Moreover, various web-based services provide pla-
giarism detection software, facilitating one’s ability to detect pirated content. Upon discovering
plagiarism, some are compelled to report it, but being a plagiarism whistleblower is inherently stress-
ful and can leave one vulnerable to criticism and retaliation by colleagues and others (Anderson,
1993; Cabral-Cardoso, 2004). Reporting plagiarism can also draw the threat of legal action. This
article draws upon our experiences as plagiarism whistleblowers with several goals in mind: to
help would-be whistleblowers be better prepared for making well-founded allegations, to give
whistleblowers some idea of what they can expect when reporting plagiarism, and to give suggestions
for reducing whistleblowers’ vulnerability to threats and stress.
Keywords: plagiarism, whistleblowing, retaliation, academic misconduct
In this article we draw upon our experiences as plagiarism whistleblowers in the hope that we
can give others some idea of what to expect when they make plagiarism allegations. We start by
discussing some reasons why plagiarism should be reported. Next, we provide guidance on how
to report plagiarism in ways that are more likely to be favorably received by investigating parties,
such as journal editors and university research integrity officers. We also provide suggestions on
how to deal with legal threats and how to reduce the personal vulnerability and stress associated
with making plagiarism allegations. The primary focus of this article is blatant word-for-word
Correspondence should be addressed to Mark Fox, Indiana University South Bend, Judd Leighton School of
Business & Economics, Room 204H, Administration Building, 1700 Mishawaka Avenue, South Bend, IN 46634.
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Perhaps the most compelling reason to report plagiarism is to ensure that authors of origi-
nal work are given due credit for their research and that this credit is not misappropriated
by plagiarists. This is why “plagiarism is widely thought of as perhaps the most grievous
academic crime” (Rosamond, 2002, p. 167).
Reporting plagiarism may lead to corrections to the scientific record. Hence, one conse-
quence of reporting plagiarism is that editors may retract work by plagiarists. In this regard,
plagiarism is one of the major reasons for retractions. For example, Grieneisen and Zhang
(2012) looked at the justifications stated for 4,232 scientific retractions across a wide range
of disciplines. Of these retractions 47% were due to “publishing misconduct, primarily
plagiarism and author-initiated duplicate publication” (p. 6).
Reporting plagiarism sends a consistent message to students, that is, that as academics we
will hold ourselves to the same standards that we expect of our students.
Reporting plagiarism can also highlight flaws in the review or editorial processes of jour-
nals, particularly when plagiarism should have been detected prior to publication. This
appears to be a more prevalent problem for predatory open access journals. In this regard,
Arnold (2009) observed “journal misconduct, carried out by publishers and editors, often
with an evident profit motive. One example is a sloppy or sham peer review process
designed to produce the impression of a serious scholarly journal without the substance”
(p. 1). The increasing prevalence of predatory open access journals (Bohannon, 2013)may
be one reason that “in general, duplicates are often published in journals with lower impact
factors (undoubtedly at least in part to minimize the odds of detection)” (Errami & Garner,
2008, p. 399). Plagiarism is also a problem in well-established, reputable journals. The edi-
tors of Research Policy opined that “journal editors and referees, however knowledgeable
and diligent, cannot prevent all instances of plagiarism and other research. ...Hence, read-
ers of journals and books should be alert to possible instances of plagiarism that may have
slipped through the peer-review process” (Martin & other editors of Research Policy,2007,
p. 908).
One consequence of plagiarism is that impact factors for the original authors of research
are undermined when plagiarists misappropriate their work (Martin, 2009). As career pro-
gression in academia and research institutions is typically tied to research outcomes and
to research impact, plagiarism gives an unfair advantage to plagiarists relative to others by
giving others a misleading impression of the research skills and contributions of plagiarists.
One unfortunate alternative to reporting plagiarism is to do nothing. In some cases inaction
may be partly motivated by colleagues who provide advice such as, “No one will thank you
for this,” “Be very careful that this doesn’t hurt your career,” or “Don’t be surprised that this
gets covered up if you do complain.” As the authors of a special report on plagiarism in the
Chronicle of Higher Education observed, “academe often discourages victims from seeking
justice, and when they do, tends to ignore their complaints—a kind of scholarly ‘don’t ask,
don’t tell’ policy” (Bartlett & Smallwood, 2004, p. A8). However, inaction may lead those
who have discovered plagiarism to experience a lingering unrest as to whether they have
done the “right thing.” An Office of Research Integrity (1995) study provided some insight
into whether whistleblowers regret their actions. For whistleblowers that experienced no
negative actions, 86% would definitely blow the whistle again and a further 5% would
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probably do so. Surprisingly, 60% of those who suffered one or more adverse actions as a
result of their whistleblowing would do so again, and 15% probably would do so.
The focus of the remainder of this article is on providing advice to plagiarism whistleblowers.
One particular piece of advice that resonates with us is to “do the right thing even though such
action may place you at considerable risk” (Sprague, 1993, p. 131). However, we hope that the
advice that follows will lessen these risks.
Would-be whistleblowers should be aware of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE)
definition of plagiarism. COPE provides guidelines to journal editors, including guidance
on investigating suspected plagiarism. Within this guidance, COPE mention three types of
Clear plagiarism (unattributed use of large portions of text and/or data, presented as if they were
by the plagiarist) ...
Minor copying of short phrases only ...([e.g.] in discussion of research paper from non-native
language speaker) With no misattribution of data
Redundancy ...(i.e., copying from author’s own work) ....(Wager,2011,p.2)
Also, the Committee on Publication Ethics (2008) published a guide entitled What to
Do if You Suspect Redundant (Duplicate) Publication. This guide is useful for potential
whistleblowers and editors alike.
Note that COPE also provides guidance to editors on what action to take in light of dif-
ferent forms of plagiarism. If a journal is a member of COPE, it is worth pointing out the
definition of plagiarism when contacting the journal editor and to explain why you believe
the plagiarized text meets COPE’s definition. Alternatively, when journals are published by
professional societies or associations these bodies are likely to have their own professional
codes of ethics that include mention of plagiarism and the procedures that will be followed
when allegations of plagiarism are made.
If you are a plagiarism whistleblower, pointing editors to the COPE definitions of plagiarism
should help reinforce that there are indeed generally held definitions of plagiarism. Such
definitions are also useful to combat those who defend plagiarists by using arguments such
as “[there is no] universally acceptable definition of plagiarism” or “attempting to pin this
down is like catching smoke in a butterfly net” (see Green & Wenger, 2013).
Plagiarism of the works of others is more likely to be taken seriously by editors than is, say,
plagiarizing of one’s own work, although editors do appear to be increasingly concerned
about duplicate publication issues.
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Also, to use the language of the earlier COPE definitions, “clear plagiarism” is more likely
to be taken seriously by others than is minor copying of short phrases. The cases of pla-
giarism that we have pursued tend to involve multiple paragraphs or much of entire articles
being plagiarized from the works of others.
Be cautious about reporting plagiarism that occurs in the Methods section of a publication.
For many scientific processes, there is only one way to describe the approach taken. As a
result, editors may overlook text with similar phrasing in methodology descriptions. For
example, the Office of Research Integrity (ORI; 1994) of the U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services noted that they “generally [do] not pursue the limited use of identi-
cal or nearly-identical phrases which describe a commonly-used methodology or previous
research because ORI does not consider such use as substantially misleading to the reader
or of great significance.”
Consider carefully whether you want to give a suspected plagiarist the opportunity to
respond to your allegations before progressing. Authors of plagiarized material may respond
in different ways. Consider the example of duplicate publication and plagiarism in the
medical field. Long, Errami, George, Sun, and Garner (2009) looked at responses from
60 “duplicate authors.” Of these, 28% denied doing anything wrong, 35% admitted that
they had “borrowed” from previously published authors, 22% said they were coauthors
who were not involved in writing up the manuscript, and 17% said they did not realize their
names were on the article in question.
One compelling reason to give a suspected plagiarist the opportunity to respond is that what
appears to be plagiarism at first glance may have a straightforward explanation such as the
original author changing his or her name (Errami & Garner, 2008).
On the other hand, giving a suspected plagiarist the opportunity to respond buys them time
to attempt to thwart your making the allegations known to others or to preemptively retaliate
against you.
In the event that a plagiarist does “come clean,” this may make it easier to proceed further
by, for example, pursuing the timely retraction of a work that largely contains plagiarism.
When contacting a suspected plagiarist, you should be clear about what wording you believe
is plagiarized (and why). You should also give a reasonable deadline for a response so that
they do not delay matters indefinitely.
When an author is accused of plagiarism, he or she may choose to fight the charge and/or
retaliate against the whistleblower. One way the author may fight the charge is by hiring an
attorney. Usually, the attorney will initially compose and send a demand letter to those mak-
ing the plagiarism accusations, asking them to withdraw the statements and apologize. If the
requested conditions are not met, then the accused plagiarist may initiate legal proceedings
alleging defamation.
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With respect to legal issues, you should have a clear idea of what support you can expect
from your own institution. If you work for a college or university, it is not a given that
your university will defend you if someone you have accused of plagiarism decides to file
a lawsuit.
Whistleblowers should be aware that they could be threatened with legal action, but
they should also understand that truth is a complete defense to a defamation law-
suit. Carefully wording any allegations on plagiarism can lessen the likelihood of a
lawsuit arising. Moreover, legal action is probably unlikely, as this would involve
considerable cost and may well draw additional, unwanted attention to a plagiarist’s
Before making allegations of plagiarism, you should take all steps necessary to ensure that
the allegations are true and justifiable.
Justifying plagiarism allegations is easier for word-for-word plagiarism, but it is more
difficult for plagiarism of general ideas. Several approaches to verifying word-for-word pla-
giarism include plagiarism detection software and checking the work manually. The latter
approach will often involve searching for individual sentences or phrases using an Internet
search engine such as Google or Google Scholar.
When using plagiarism detection software, you should be aware of the potential limitations
of such software. For example, some plagiarism detection programs provide a numerical
score (a “similarity index”) that quantifies the wording that is in common with other sources.
A paper with a low score may still contain some serious plagiarism, as the source of the pla-
giarized text may be outside of the database that is being searched (Garner, 2011). Likewise,
a similarity index will likely include some wording that is coincidental or that is not plagia-
rized (e.g., a reference list within a publication). Also, to make sure that your allegations are
verifiable by others, you should consider asking a trusted colleague to see if he or she can
duplicate the allegations. In such cases it is better to just give the colleague the allegedly
plagiarized publication and have the colleague work from scratch rather than to provide the
colleague with the sources that you believe were plagiarized.
You should also make multiple backup copies of both the plagiarism examples (e.g., arti-
cles that contain plagiarism) and the sources where the text originally appeared. This is
important, as the articles containing plagiarism may disappear from journal websites. (This
has occurred multiple times with at least one predatory open access publisher, namely, the
Academic and Business Research Institute.) Likewise, the sources of plagiarized content
may also vanish over time, particularly if they are blogs and the like. Having said this, one
way of searching for material that is not currently online is to use the Internet archiving site
The Wayback Machine (
Be wary of using licensed plagiarism checkers such as This software is
licensed for institutional use and for checking the work of students who are enrolled in
your classes. To use the software for checking for plagiarism by a colleague could create
legal problems. Given this, you may be better off using software such as WriteCheck or
iThenticate, or making use of the manual method just described.
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You should document everything, not just the plagiarism allegations themselves. For
example, institutional research integrity offices may prefer phone conversations that provide
a degree of deniability regarding what advice they give. After engaging in such conversa-
tions, you should follow up with e-mails that reprise what you understood to be the key
points from the conversation.
In documenting plagiarism, you also need to decide how far you are prepared to go. If you
find plagiarism in, say a single article, will you stop there, or will you widen your search to
other publications by the same author(s)? In our experience, those who engage in plagiarism
tend to do so in multiple publications; plagiarism tends not to be an isolated, one-off event.
To minimize the likelihood of legal action you should be careful how you phrase allega-
tions and to whom you communicate those allegations. For example, it is preferable to
write “Professor X has multiple passages in various articles that appear to be identical to
those of earlier published scholars. Accordingly, we ask that you investigate whether or not
plagiarism has taken place” rather than “Professor X is clearly a plagiarist.”
Also consider whether you want to seek the support of those whose work has been plagia-
rized. You may find that some authors are simply uninterested in becoming involved in such
matters, and others may even be flattered that their work was plagiarized.
Do not expect that journal editors will necessarily be all that receptive to retracting work
that contains plagiarism. Retractions point to shortcomings in the review and editorial pro-
cesses, and editors may prefer that attention not be drawn to the publication of plagiarized
work. This concern may be greater for predatory online journals, which earn their income
from article processing charges and page fees paid by their authors. These journals want
to maintain their income, so they may well be less likely to act on plagiarism charges that
could potentially decrease their income.
If allegations of plagiarism involve a college or university employee, do not assume that uni-
versities will look into allegations in a timely manner. Most universities have a multiphase
process (Office of Research Integrity, 1993,2000). Typically, a preliminary examination of
the allegations occurs to determine if they are prima facie credible. If the allegations do war-
rant further examination, the next step is typically an inquiry to “determine whether there
are sufficient grounds to proceed with an investigation, which can result in a finding of mis-
conduct” (Loui, 2002, p. 530). After an investigation has occurred, a final decision is often
made by a senior university official such as a VP for Research or by some body constituted
to handle such matters such as a standing committee on scientific misconduct. Following
a finding of misconduct or imposition of a sanction, the person accused of plagiarism can
appeal, and the appeal process will entail additional time.
Given the procedural steps involved, the university process for pursuing allegations of pla-
giarism often takes a considerable amount of time. In some cases this may be more than a
year (Gantert, 2011). It may also be in the interests of a university to delay an investiga-
tion so that the allegations are less timely if they are reported in the media or if an alleged
plagiarist is near retirement.
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Do not assume that universities will make public their findings when their investigation is
over. If the complaint does not involve federally funded research, the university is likely
to cite “employee confidentiality” as a reason for not disclosing the outcome of an investi-
gation. If you complain about plagiarism within a doctoral thesis, the institution may treat
the plagiarist as a student who is subject to the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
As a result, the outcome of any investigation will not be disclosed to the complainant.
Universities may ask employees who are reporting plagiarism to remain silent about the
allegations until any investigation is over. This may mean that, for example, you would
not be allowed to discuss the allegations with journal editors. Or, if journal editors have
retracted articles of someone you have made allegations about, then you may be instructed
to not disclose that fact to others. This may prove professionally frustrating, as knowledge of
this matter could affect other matters within your institution, such as whether a plagiarist is
viewed as a credible person to serve on a promotion and tenure committee or on committees
that evaluate research proposals for funding purposes.
If plagiarized work was federally funded, the procedures followed will differ from research
that was not funded by the government. The procedures followed (and the implications for
the accuser and the accused) will also differ depending on the funding agency.
You should carefully consider the implications of speaking to the media, as to do so may
increase the possibility of subsequent legal action. If you do decide to speak to the media,
be thoughtful as to why you are speaking to the media and of your message.
Do not assume that allegations themselves will be of interest to the media, or to higher edu-
cation publications such as InsideHigherEd or The Chronicle of Higher Education. Higher
education publications tend to publish allegations only when an investigation has been com-
pleted (e.g., by a university), or they may provide coverage if a plagiarism allegation is
already mentioned in a mainstream outlet such as a daily newspaper. Newspapers them-
selves may be wary of publishing allegations of plagiarism, and are more likely to do so
when the story has additional hooks. One example of this is publicity by the Baltimore Sun
of plagiarism by a Towson University law professor who was also Chair of the Baltimore
City Schools’ Ethics Commission (Green, 2013). Student newspapers may also be inter-
ested in publishing stories about plagiarism by faculty members. In some cases this has led
to wider media attention (see, e.g., Sullivan & Hardner, 2013).
Also, carefully consider what, if any, use you want to make of the Internet: Do you want
to create a blog that highlights the plagiarism? Do you want to make a website such
as Retraction Watch aware of any articles that have been retracted as a result of your
Making allegations of plagiarism is inherently stressful. One way of dealing with this stress is to
seek support and advice from others who have made plagiarism allegations. Making plagiarism
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allegations is a lonely business and one that few academics will go through. In our experience,
those who have made allegations seem only too willing to talk about their experiences and offer
advice and support. In particular, seek support from those who have made allegations to the
same or a somewhat similar institution or journal, as this will provide you with insights into the
complaint process itself.
Do not assume that you will be applauded for raising allegations. In particular, it is unlikely
that colleagues and friends of the plagiarist will applaud your actions. Indeed, they may retaliate
by examining your own published works, so it is not a good idea to report plagiarism if you your-
self have ever committed research misconduct. Others may wish that plagiarism allegations be
dealt with quietly, as publicity may adversely affect the reputation of the institution or journals
where the misconduct occurred. Having said this, you should keep in mind the benefits of report-
ing plagiarism, namely, that this serves as a deterrent to others and helps maintain the integrity of
the academic and scholarly record.
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... Through attention to changes in tone and writing style we identified over 20 sections of writing containing nearly word-for-word matches to previously published material, with our suspicions supported by plagiarism-checking software. Following Fox and Beall (2014), we communicated our observation to the journal of publication and the authors but did not receive actionable response. While considering writing a piece on these types of integrity issues, we were advised against naming authors suspected of plagiarism, because of the possibility of legal ramifications. ...
Full-text available
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The spread of misinformation and disinformation related to science and technology has impeded public and policy efforts to mitigate threats such as COVID-19 and anthropogenic climate change. In the digital age, such so-called fake science can propagate faster and capture the public imagination to a greater extent than accurate science. Therefore, ensuring the most reliable science reaches and is accepted by audiences now entails understanding the origins of fake science so that effective measures can be operationalized to recognize misinformation and inhibit its spread. In this chapter, we review the potential weaknesses of science publishing and assessment as an origin of misinformation; the interplay between science, the media, and society; and the limitations of literacy as an inoculation against misinformation; and we offer guidance on the most effective ways to frame science to engage non-expert audiences. We conclude by offering avenues for future science communication research.
This article investigates experimentally, in the income tax context, how whistleblowing intentions are influenced when a tax fraud perpetrator is of a different race than a potential whistleblower. In particular, it examines the impact of a message highlighting the social value of whistleblowing and how fear of being perceived as racist influences whistleblowing decision‐making. Using insights from the fear elicitation and processing literature, we find that a potential whistleblower from a majority racial group who learns about a fraud perpetrated by someone from a minority racial group is significantly more likely to blow the whistle anonymously when a social value message is present versus absent, as the presence of a social value message reduces fear of being perceived as racist. However, we do not find that race dissimilarity is significantly associated with non‐anonymous whistleblowing intentions, irrespective of the presence of a social value message. Furthermore, in non‐anonymous whistleblowing situations, potential whistleblowers have to disclose their identities to the tax authority to become eligible for a cash reward. Even when potential whistleblowers can choose the amount of a cash reward they would have to be paid in order to blow the whistle, our results show that whistleblowing intentions do not increase significantly when perpetrators and potential whistleblowers are of different races. Overall, our results suggest that the societal value of tax whistleblowing and the use of cash rewards for whistleblowing are limited by other sociological considerations.
Scientists have the same weaknesses and temptations as people in any other line of work. One could argue that scientists require a stronger moral foundation since they receive considerable resources from grant funding, but they do not have a direct supervisor. Faculty are their own bosses, a situation that many people would regard as desirable. In order to maintain that status, university professors must bring in money. The competition for funding increases every year as more scientists are hired in universities and state and federal budgets do not keep up with that growth. Since universities depend on the income that professors generate, and government funding is not keeping pace, there is increasing pressure to work with corporations, patent or even found a company. While the traditional pressures on scientists had more to do with prestige and recognition, today recognition goes hand-in-hand with being a producer. It is an enormous challenge to manage many projects and responsibilities without a mistake or ethical lapse. Many research misconduct cases arise because of sloppy work, not checking a student’s manuscript or quickly writing the last section of a grant application without proper reflection. When seen in the light of history, we can see that moral failing has been part of science from the beginning, but today the challenges are greater than ever because of the financial pressure.
Between 2009 and 2012, Jeffrey Beall published four articles which analysed 18 publishers (17 of which he identified as predatory). He also introduced the term predatory in the context of scientific publishing. In 2012, he started Beall's List, which maintained a list of predatory publishers and journals. This became a valuable resource for those who wanted to know if a journal was legitimate, although others were very critical of the list. This article considers what he wrote and the list he developed and the criticisms that have been levelled against Beall's list. Beall's legacy can be considered to ensure that the problems of fraudulent or inappropriate publishing practices are highlighted and that the scientific community remains aware of the problem. Unfortunately, his legacy has not led to an eradication of predatory journals, and the problem appears to have become worse in the past decade. Although there is opportunity to build on his legacy, there have been few practical moves, and this article suggests that there is an opportunity for clearer, more universally accepted guidelines and approval criteria for quality journals.
Despite an increased recognition that plagiarism in published research can take many forms, current typologies of plagiarism are far from complete. One under-recognized variety of plagiarism—designated here as compression plagiarism—consists of the distillation of a lengthy scholarly text into a short one, followed by the publication of the short one under a new name with inadequate credit to the original author. In typical cases, compression plagiarism is invisible to unsuspecting readers and immune to text-matching software. The persistence of uncorrected instances of plagiarism in all its forms—including compression plagiarism—in the body of published research literature has deleterious consequences for the reliability of scholarly communication. Not the least of these problems is that original authors are denied credit for their discoveries. When unsuspecting researchers read articles that are the products of plagiarism, they unwittingly engage the arguments of hidden original authors through the proxy of plagiarists. Furthermore, when these researchers later publish responses to the plagiarizing articles, not knowing they are engaging products of plagiarism, they create additional inefficiencies and redundancies in the body of published research. This chapter considers the particular ways in which compression plagiarism weakens the quality of scholarly argumentation, with special attention paid to the field of philosophy.
Disguised plagiarism often goes undetected. An especially subtle type of disguised plagiarism is translation plagiarism, which occurs when the work of one author is republished in a different language with authorship credit taken by someone else. I focus on the challenge of demonstrating this subtle variety of plagiarism and examine the corruptive influence that plagiarizing articles exert on unsuspecting researchers who later cite them in the downstream literature as genuine products of research. I conclude by arguing that an open discussion of plagiarizing articles in philosophy is necessary for maintaining the reliability of the body of published research and for restoring integrity to scholarly communication.
Falsification, fabrication, plagiarism, and other forms of misconduct undermine the foundation of science – trust in the integrity of researchers and their reported results. As research team members, therefore, library and information science (LIS) professionals share responsibility for addressing research misconduct. Intended as a primer, this article defines misconduct, discusses it causes, and notes its consequences. The article then empowers LIS professionals with a set of strategies, escalating from gathering information, to engaging in conversation, to submitting formal allegations, to respond effectively when they suspect or detect misconduct.
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The number of retracted scholarly articles has risen precipitously in recent years. Past surveys of the retracted literature each limited their scope to articles in PubMed, though many retracted articles are not indexed in PubMed. To understand the scope and characteristics of retracted articles across the full spectrum of scholarly disciplines, we surveyed 42 of the largest bibliographic databases for major scholarly fields and publisher websites to identify retracted articles. This study examines various trends among them. We found, 4,449 scholarly publications retracted from 1928-2011. Unlike Math, Physics, Engineering and Social Sciences, the percentages of retractions in Medicine, Life Science and Chemistry exceeded their percentages among Web of Science (WoS) records. Retractions due to alleged publishing misconduct (47%) outnumbered those due to alleged research misconduct (20%) or questionable data/interpretations (42%). This total exceeds 100% since multiple justifications were listed in some retraction notices. Retraction/WoS record ratios vary among author affiliation countries. Though widespread, only miniscule percentages of publications for individual years, countries, journals, or disciplines have been retracted. Fifteen prolific individuals accounted for more than half of all retractions due to alleged research misconduct, and strongly influenced all retraction characteristics. The number of articles retracted per year increased by a factor of 19.06 from 2001 to 2010, though excluding repeat offenders and adjusting for growth of the published literature decreases it to a factor of 11.36. Retracted articles occur across the full spectrum of scholarly disciplines. Most retracted articles do not contain flawed data; and the authors of most retracted articles have not been accused of research misconduct. Despite recent increases, the proportion of published scholarly literature affected by retraction remains very small. Articles and editorials discussing retractions, or their relation to research integrity, should always consider individual cases in these broad contexts. However, better mechanisms are still needed for raising researchers' awareness of the retracted literature in their field.
A spoof paper concocted by Science reveals little or no scrutiny at many open-access journals.
An editorial on integrity in mathematical scholarly publishing
Few would dissent from the view that plagiarism is an academic crime of the worst sort. Attention to the issue has been heightened recently by the growth of websites supplying ‘off the peg’ or customised research papers. This article argues that the definition and detection of plagiarism involves several complexities and that the resolution of the problem depends less on the development of coercive instruments to deal with the ‘crime’ than on the development of norms that emerge through reflective pedagogy and processes of academic socialisation.
As a result of the public demand for higher ethical standards, business schools are increasingly taking ethical matters seriously. But their effort has concentrated on teaching business ethics and on students' ethical behavior. Business faculty, in contrast, has attracted much less attention. This paper explores the context and the implications of an alleged case of plagiarism in a master's dissertation submitted to a university lacking both an ethical code of conduct and a formalized procedure to deal with academic misconduct. The events evolved into a bitter political process in which the more ethically aware members of faculty challenged efforts to cover-up. Here the focus is on the motives and behavior of faculty members involved in this case rather than the alleged plagiarist's. The role played by the main actors involved in the process in examined using the theory of moral development and the organizational politic perspective. The paper discusses the mechanisms available to raise ethical awareness and prevent academic misconduct, and the limitations of self-regulation and self-monitoring that prevails in the university system. It also examines the impact of ethics instruction and faculty ethical standards on students' behavior and concludes that ethics instruction can only be effective when the principles taught are in line with daily actions of their instructors.
This editorial examines the question of whether plagiarism may be on the increase in the social sciences and, if so, what needs to be done to keep the problem in check. It was prompted by the discovery of an alert reader in June 2007 that a 1993 paper in Research Policy appeared to have plagiarised a 1980 article in the Journal of Business. The allegation was investigated, and it was agreed by the Editors that the 1993 paper constituted a clear and serious case of plagiarism. However, the author concerned has published over 100 articles and books. Already, two other publications have been judged by the editors of the journals concerned to have plagiarised previous publications. Two more are under investigation, but the great majority of the remainder still remain to be checked. The fact that academic misconduct on this scale has gone unchecked over such a prolonged period raises serious issues about the efficacy of the processes used to police the conduct of researchers. Furthermore, the unexpected discovery that a paper by the author under investigation appears itself to have been plagiarised poses a fundamental question as to whether plagiarism may be far more common than previously assumed. The editorial concludes that a measured degree of vigilance and a greater willingness to pursue any well-founded suspicions of research misconduct are required by editors, referees, publishers and the wider academic community if the scourge of plagiarism is to be kept at bay.
About 3,000 new citations that are highly similar to citations in previously published manuscripts that appear each year in the biomedical literature (Medline) alone. This underscores the importance for the opportunity for editors and reviewers to have detection system to identify highly similar text in submitted manuscripts so that they can then review them for novelty. New software-based services, both commercial and free, provide this capability. The availability of such tools provides both a way to intercept suspect manuscripts and serve as a deterrent. Unfortunately, the capabilities of these services vary considerably, mainly as a consequence of the availability and completeness of the literature bases to which new queries are compared. Most of the commercial software has been designed for detection of plagiarism in high school and college papers; however, there is at least 1 fee-based service (CrossRef) and 1 free service (, which are designed to target the needs of the biomedical publication industry. Information on these various services, examples of the type of operability and output, and things that need to be considered by publishers, editors, and reviewers before selecting and using these services is provided.
The world of academic research has been described as ‘The Republic of Science’. This has various characteristics, one being that it operates on the basis of ‘self-policing’. This self-policing is believed to be effective in ensuring that academic misconduct is rare, generally low-level and selfcorrecting. Any serious misconduct, it is assumed, will be quickly detected by peer review and stopped. The risks of being caught and the severity of the sanctions that follow are presumed to be so great that few will be tempted to stray down this route. While plagiarism is increasing among students, such misconduct has not generally been seen as a major problem among academics. However, the case described below should force us to reconsider our preconceptions about the efficacy of self-policing. I focus here on plagiarism, one of three main forms of research misconduct (the others being data fabrication and falsification). “Plagiarism is the copying of ideas, data or text (or various combinations of the three) without permission or acknowledgement”. In the academic world, plagiarism is generally regarded as a serious ‘crime’. If it were allowed to flourish unchecked, researchers would be discouraged from publishing their findings, and the reputation system operating in the academic world would be seriously damaged.