Wednesday, April 01, 2015

Self-plagiarism is totally acceptable?

In the post Fighting Plagiarism In Scientific Papers , Tommaso Dorigo states:

Self-plagiarism is totally acceptable in scientific papers in my opinion.

Given that self-plagiarism is copying WITHOUT attribution, self-plagiarism
amounts to multiple publication, which to many people is not all right.

In the patent world, double-patenting is not allowed. One cannot claim the same thing
in different patents (type 1 double patenting). Obviousness-type double-patenting
requires a terminal disclaimer to obviate.

Self-plagiarism arose in the Wendler matter at SIU, wherein earlier work by Wendler
was re-purposed at SIU. Wendler got a pass from SIU, but not everyone found that
practice acceptable.

Returning to Dorigo's matter, the submitted manuscript was not "self-plagiarism," but
was copying from someone else's thesis. Relevant text:

So I set out to google parts of the text. And I soon found a perfect match: a sentence most likely copied from a 2005 review on the same topic. However, the draft did cite that review in the references: a case of imitation rather than plagiarism ? I gave them the benefit of doubt, and continued to dig.

It took me quite a while to find a proof of my suspicions, but I did get there as I googled a part of a sentence which looked like it was in poor match with the rest of the text. Google brought up the same sentence from a "chapter 7" document with no title or author. The geographical origin of the document, however, was the same as the prospective authors! Could it be a case of self-plagiarism ? Self-plagiarism is totally acceptable in scientific papers in my opinion. I would have been happy if it had been so, but first I had to determine who was the author of that chapter. Was it a book or something else ?

Finally I got around to the site which contained the full text. It was a repository of Ph.D. theses. Unfortunately there were hundreds of theses on the topic of the review, and the site did not allow text searches. I thus wasted some 20 minutes trying to check a dozen "chapter 7" sections of Ph.D. theses. And finally, I found it. Several pieces of text matched perfectly the manuscript I was evaluating. And crucially, the author of the Ph.D. thesis was not one of the authors of the manuscript! Nor was the thesis cited in the references. Case closed. Those guys shamefully tried to exploit a Ph.D. thesis to bump up their publication rate.


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