I recently had the pleasure of speaking with iThenticate customer, Brett Holte, who is the Submissions Services Manager at the Alliance of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Science Societies (ACSESS). Brett gave me insight into their editorial process, describing how it has changed since discovering plagiarism in submitted articles and implementing iThenticate. Mr. Holte also offers his advice to other scientific, technical and medical (STM) journals for preventing plagiarism before publication.
Listen to our discussion:
Jessica: Welcome to iThenticate talk. Today I’d like to welcome Brett Holte from the Alliance of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science Societies (ACSESS). Brett, can you briefly describe your organization and your role there?
Brett: We are ACSESS which is the Alliance of Crop, Soil and Environmental Science Societies comprised of three scientific societies; the Crop Science Society of America, American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America. I am a submission services manager so my job here is to handle all the incoming submissions to our eight journals. I manage two tracking systems and then I will manage the manuscript as they go through the review process.
Jessica: How many articles do you publish annually versus how many submissions and do you know what percentage of submissions contain plagiarism or some form of misconduct?
Brett: In 2010 we published right around 1,100 articles. Last year I had about 2,500 submissions but that has been steadily rising every year for the past eight or so years. Right now, I am seeing just shy of 3% that require our attention.
Jessica: We are obviously speaking with you today because you are an iThenticate customer. When and how did you discover that there may be duplicate content in the submissions you were receiving from authors and researchers?
Brett: Last year I had manuscripts going through review at this time, before we were using iThenticate, and a technical editor assigned to that manuscript (kind of by accident) happened to be reading another manuscript and noticed some similarities between the two. He contacted us and then we decided we should begin taking steps to address this issue and that’s when we started looking at different services and decided we would go with iThenticate.
Jessica: What was your editorial process prior to using iThenticate and how has it changed?
Brett: Prior to iThenticate, we did not have a screening process, partially because we weren’t completely familiar with the tools available and it hadn’t been a real major issue and so it was never at the forefront of our attention. Once we ran into an issue it became something that we needed to discuss and we decided that it would, it’s an existing issue we know and wanted to combat it.
So now our process is:
Every time a manuscript is submitted, it comes to me first, I will run it through iThenticate.
If there is no issue, it gets forwarded to the editor and will go out for review.
If there is an issue I will send that report to the editor of the journal and then they will deal with each instance of plagiarism on a case by case basis.
If it’s minor to moderate self-plagiarism and we can work with the author to make the adequate revisions to put it through review if it’s extensive plagiarism of another author’s work. [Often] it’s just released outright, but again it’s a case by case basis.
Jessica: What kind of repercussions is ACSESS most concerned about?
Brett: For us, the number one issue is just being sure that we are protecting the integrity of our science. We are dedicated to publishing novel research. We wouldn’t want to see our research reproduced elsewhere and likewise we don’t want to be reproducing previously published research in our journals where for us to publish, previously published materials would just, it would end up being a disservice to our members.
Jessica: Do you see plagiarism as a growing problem within the scientific, technical and medical (STM) industry as a whole?
Brett: I think it’s a problem that has existed for some time but now we have the tools to combat it. I think there is a problem with researchers are continually under pressure to publish more papers more quickly. And I think a lot of what we are seeing is they are at times finding ways to cut corners. But with products like iThenticate, I think we can begin to…add the problem and reduce plagiarism and I think publishers should be taking those active steps to stop plagiarism. It better protects the integrity of the science and it better serves as our readership.
Jessica: What kind of advice do you have for other scientific technical and medical (STM) journals?
Brett: The best advice I can give is because this is with the web 2.0 and how quickly plagiarism can be identified. I think it is incredibly important to take those steps to identify it, it really doesn’t take time or too much work and in the end, the benefits far outweigh the work.
Jessica: What do you think specifically makes iThenticate most valuable to your organization?
Brett: iThenticate is more simple than I expected it to be and the best thing about it is that it’s so quick. Having a fairly decent amount of manuscripts coming through, I want to get those out to review as quickly as possible. In 30 seconds iThenticate allows me to give the thumbs up or the thumbs down, which is great. I need that efficiency to keep everything moving. iThenticate gives us the peace of mind that we are continuing to publish leading edge research.
Jessica: Brett, thank you so much for your time. Your input is a great help to other STM publishers and other societies who are interested in ensuring content integrity.
Brett: It’s been a pleasure talking with you, Jessica. Thank you very much for your time.