Research manuscripts typically build upon or revise previous findings. However, improperly referring to or recycling previous work is a breach of research integrity and, depending on the severity, can amount to research misconduct.
An operational definition of plagiarism is the appropriation (i.e. theft) of others’ ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit, or in a wider context, misrepresentation of someone else’s original thought as your own (Editorial, 2012; Mudrak, 2017; ORI, 1994; Panter, 2017).
It is understood that each published manuscript includes new thinking, knowledge and results that advance our understanding of the world. This understanding is compromised when a manuscript contains uncited/recycled information.
It can be argued that acts of plagiarism are qualitatively different from other, apparently more serious, breaches of RI, because they do not immediately distort scientific knowledge. However, plagiarism has severe consequences for the careers of the people involved especially the most junior, and thus for the whole scientific enterprise. Therefore, plagiarism significantly affects the integrity of the research record, the process of scientific discovery as a whole and contributes to jeopardising the public’s trust in research and science.
Plagiarism takes many forms, a few of which are listed below and all of which amount at the very least to DRP and in many cases to RM.
The OSR RIO offers a manuscript screening service based on professional plagiarism detection software to help avoid unwitting plagiarism and self-plagiarism. All OSR investigators are encouraged to take advantage of this service for both original research and review manuscripts, prior to submission. Screening results will be treated confidentially, and counselling will be available from the RIO to address potential issues.
Plagiarism screening is mandatory for doctoral and specialisation theses based on research work carried out on OSR premises.
Copying word-for-word from someone else’s work. Sometimes defined as mosaic or patchwork when content is copied from multiple sources.
Plagiarism of ideas
Uncredited use of others’ unique ideas, whether in the form of a theory, an interpretation, data, a method, an opinion, or new terminology, even if explained in one’s own words (Editorial, 2012; Mudrak, 2017; ORI, 1994; Panter, 2017). Such misappropriation includes information obtained through confidential review of others’ research proposals and manuscripts and through confidential disclosure of information (Biagioli, 2012).
Paraphrasing others’ work with only slight changes, but maintaining the same logic and mentioning most or all of the same ideas. It should be mentioned here that the logical flow of an argument is to be considered original thought.
The limited (e.g. the recycling of a paragraph (s) from the methods section of another manuscript), or extensive (e.g. the publication of the same manuscript in two separate journals a.k.a. duplicate publication), re-use one’s own previously published text.
OSR does not consider the limited re-use of identical or similar expressions describing a standard methodology or previous research, especially from one’s own previous publications, to be RM. In fact, although they remain questionable and possibly in breach of copyright law and thus to be avoided as much as possible, it is acknowledged that such practices do not mislead the reader as to proper attribution.
Conversely, duplicate publication is highly unethical and considered to be RM.