Thursday, January 07, 2016

Self-plagiarism: is it ethical, or not?

On the topic of self-plagiarism, IPBiz wrote in 2011:

Prior to the Poshard plagiarism matter at SIU, there was the Wendler self-plagiarism matter [Walter Wendler copied material he created while at Texas A&M into a proposal while he was employed at SIU ]. SIU gave self-plagiarism a pass.

See the 2011 post
Self-plagiarism and the "repurposing" of research

Fast forward to 2016, and we have Former Act Party leader Jamie Whyte engaging in self-plagiarism. See Jamie Whyte defends 'self-plagiarism' claim

Within the post in the New Zealand Herald, one finds the text

Political commentator Giovanni Tiso accused the former politician of "self-plagiarism".

"And by the way, in case you're confused, self-plagiarism really isn't okay. As an academic, Whyte would have had this hammered into him," Tiso wrote on Twitter.

While IPBiz finds self-plagiarism problematic, IPBiz disputes Tiso's assertion that academics frown upon self-plagiarism.
The case of Wendler is a firm example.

Note also text from a December 30, 2015 post on IPBiz:

Separately, IPBiz takes issue with statements appearing in Plagiarism or text recycling? It depends on the context. - See more at:

But this student was working within the accepted standards of neuroscience under the guidance of an expert in the discipline, and the source text was a research report published in a scientific journal. As I discuss in my viewpoint essay, certain types of text recycling are not only common in the sciences, they have been formally recognized as acceptable (and perhaps sometimes desirable) practice by the Committee on Publication Ethics. - See more at:

IPBiz noted: If one is following an established procedure, there is no reason not to cite an earlier paper as the reference for the later procedure. If nothing else, this establishes that the procedure WAS followed. There have been some interesting cases wherein there was text about a standard procedure, which was not exactly followed, giving rise to different results, and then an argument about the standard procedure. Explicit citation cuts down on latitude for later weaseling.

Recall in the RIKEN scandal:

Normile pointed to the role of bloggers in uncovering the problems

Almost immediately after publication, bloggers in Japan and contributors to PubPeer, a website where scientists discuss published papers, started pointing out possibly manipulated images and apparently plagiarized text.

As to the Wendler matter, recall other IPBiz posts including

UPDATE 26 Jan 2016:

The opinion piece seems to be limited to arguing "for" the ethical propriety of self-plagiarism in undergraduate work. There is no doubt that self-plagiarism in other contexts, academic and otherwise, is problematic.

See for example:

An argument against self-plagiarism in undergrad work is that it is not to the benefit of the copying student. To get some benefit, the student should undertake each assignment with the specific course and specific professor in mind. Word-for-word copying of earlier work likely does not manifest any nuances. Time is saved, but no thought is expended. Recall: Channel 6 tv in Orlando, FL videotaped a sign "Plagiarism Saves Time" at a Hooter's restaurant on Lake Underhill Road located across the street from Legacy Middle School, leading to its removal. A local teacher thought the sign sent the wrong message to students.

The expectations of a professor are likely that submitted work is an original submission as to the assignment, independent of whether or not there is a "contract."

One notes that copyright and plagiarism are two different concepts. One can plagiarize Shakespeare without infringing copyright. And, under the work-for-hire doctrine in copyright, the "author" need not be the person who wrote the words. The person who wrote the earlier words may, in those situations, be an infringer in later copying the earlier words (even with attribution).


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