The publisher’s dilemma – author plagiarism.

I wrote last about the problem of getting false positive plagiarism results when submitting articles – where students have articles rejected because they match their theses.  That all worked out OK after conversations with editors who agreed that it was an over reaction after seeing automatic plagiarism software make similarity matches.

This weekend I was presented with exactly the opposite.  I co-edit the NZ Journal of Library and Information Studies.  It’s a low key library research journal intended to provide a place for new Zealand specific research, and for postgrads to publish results in.  Recently we have begun to raise the profile of the journal, and over the weekend I got an submitted article out of the blue, from overseas.   We tend to know who is going to submit to the journal, or at least know of the people who do – it’s a pretty small and close-knit community.

The article was already typeset.  Something, I think the mismatch of the language in the article and the cover letter, made me suspicious.  A quick google found that the article, which has the rather dodgy first sentence, “Reading occupies a pivotal role in the life of a man.” has been published, or at least put online all over the web.

What do you do?  Just ignore it as spam?  This is obviously an attempt to dupe journal editors, or appeal to the less ethically centered just to accept content.

I’m not sure I did the right thing, but I replied to the author, and CC’d in the dean of their school saying that I thought it was an egregious breach of ethical behaviour.  I got an email back (also cc’ing the dean) with a fulsome apology.

There are a few things that occur to me out of that experience.  ORCID numbers are becoming even more important as a way of identifying authors, and tying them to their research behaviour, good or bad.   Looking at a researcher’s verified output and institutional relationships for an editor is a quick and reliable way to make a judgement call.

The other thing that occurs to me is why we got in the pickle with publishers previously.  No wonder they run everything through the plagiarism detector, and automatically bin things, if there is a lot of this going on.  Unfortunately we got caught out in a special case where an author can have the same thing twice on the web.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *