Modern Publications Face a Much Older Problem

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Aug 29, 2014 11:37:56 AM

Last month, Buzzfeed, an online publication best known for its viral content, fired Benny Johnson, a politics editor, over accusations of plagiarism. Shortly thereafter, thousands of Buzzfeed articles began to disappear from the site. Though Buzzfeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith said that the move was done by the reporters themselves, asking them to save and update the things they cared about while deleting the rest.


Tagged:  Current Events

How the Open Access and Open Source Movements Are Alike

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Aug 20, 2014 11:16:54 AM

Recently, the International Association of Scientific, Technical & Medical Publishers, commonly referred to as STM, released a set of model licenses for open access articles and journals.


Tagged:  Current Events

Literally Paying for Plagiarism

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Aug 7, 2014 7:30:00 AM

When David Fleishman, the superintendent of Newton public schools in Massachusetts, was found to have plagiarized several passages during a June 9th address at the Newton South High School graduation ceremony, the school district took unusual action.

Rather than suspend or terminate Fleishman, the district decided to dock him a week’s salary, worth roughly $5,000.


While it is debatable whether the punishment is fitting for the nature of the plagiarism, the idea of issuing a fine over a plagiarism allegation raised a few eyebrows.

To be clear, Fleishman wasn’t the first person to be fined over plagiarism. However, most cases of a plagiarist being fined have come from the courts and, usually, for legal issues related to the plagiarism and not the plagiarism itself.

For example, in France, Christine Marchal-Sixou was fined 5,000 euro and ordered to pay another 20,000 euros in compensatory damages to a student she was found to have plagiarized her thesis from.

In Connecticut, Christina Duquette, a former grad student at Central Connecticut State University, was ordered to pay a total of $26,100 in damages for plagiarizing the paper of a fellow student. In that case, Duquette was ruled to have lied about her authorship of the work involved, resulting in another student, the original author, being expelled from the school. The original author was later re-admitted.

Still, cases where plagiarists are fined purely for the act of plagiarism are still rare. This includes cases of research fraud which, in the United States, typically only results in suspensions or bans from receiving grants, not fines or other criminal action, and book publishing, which can result in contracts being cancelled, but not usually fines beyond that.

This is because, in most cases, the body that’s prosecuting the plagiarism claims lack the authority to hand down fines. Editors at a journal, instructors at a school, etc. don’t have the ability to force a plagiarist to pay anything. Even if a journal wrote into their agreement that plagiarism would be subject to a fine, which few, if any, do, enforcing that statute would likely cost more than any fine would be worth.

The Newton school district was in something of a rare position. Being Fleishman's employer, they could take punitive action against him that included docking his pay, thus having the same effect as a fine. A publication doesn’t have that kind of relationship with a researcher nor does a school over a student.

Still, the idea is an interesting one in places where such a relationship does exist, such as with publishers that have their own writing staff. But it raises a series of difficult questions including how does one determine when a fine is appropriate? And how much should the fine be? Furthermore, should the fine be based on income, or be a flat fee?

But if these questions can be resolved, fines and levies could be a powerful tool for responding to plagiarism. While severe cases of plagiarism, especially ones that are recurring, should be dealt with using more harsh means, a monetary penalty can be a way to send a strong message over a one-time issue that might not warrant a suspension or termination.

But given the relationship between most plagiarists and their accusers, it’s unlikely that fines will become commonplace as a means for dealing with the problem. Fines are much more easily levied by courts as they already have the authority to do so.

So, until research fraud and other forms of plagiarism are treated as criminal matters for the courts, it’s unlikely we’ll hear about more cases like Fleishman's.

The opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of iThenticate.


Tagged:  Current Events, Academic

Electronic Citations in Print Books

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Aug 6, 2014 2:01:14 PM

Page Six at The New York Post is reporting on a plagiarism dispute between two authors, each of whom have published a biography of President Ronald Reagan.

Craig Shirley, who wrote the book “Reagan’s Revolution”, claims that Rick Perlstein plagiarized his work at least 45 times in his new book “The Invisible Bridge: The Fall of Nixon and the Rise of Reagan”.

President_Reagan_1981According to Shirley, the plagiarism extends to both the prose of Perlstein’s book and to facts contained within it. Shirley’s lawyer in a letter to Perlstein’s publisher, Simon & Schuster (S&S), says “We think it is unlikely that Mr. Perlstein even could have completed his book without Mr. Shirley’s book.”

To be clear, Perlstein’s book does mention Shirley’s work. In his acknowledgements, Perlstein says “Craig Shirley saved me 3.76 months in research.” Perlstein’s book also cites Shirley’s book more than 100 times in its footnotes, which are posted on the Web.

According to S&S, “We have examined Mr. Shirley’s claims, found them to be entirely without merit and responded to him accordingly.”

S&S went on to say that “Any superficial similarities are de minimis.” De minimus is a copyright term meaning that the infringer’s alleged use is so insignificant as to not qualify as an infringement.

But while many of the elements of the dispute are familiar, including questions about how to correctly cite a source and how much one must change a passage to make it a true paraphrase, what has gotten the most attention is Perlstein’s footnotes, or rather, lack thereof in physical form.

Perlstein’s book is completely devoid of footnotes of any type. Perlstein and S&S made the decision to not print the footnotes and, instead, host them on a website. According to Perlstein, this decision was made to keep the already-lengthy book (over 800 pages) a reasonable length and not add pages that, he felt, few used.

This method certainly has his benefits. Since many of the sources cited in the book are web sites, posting the footnotes online makes the links clickable and more easily searchable. However, as Matt Lewis questioned Perlstein over Twitter, it also means that citations can be changed over time and limits the audience for the citations as even fewer are likely to follow a link for additional information.

While this means Perlstein, or another author, could correct legitimate errors, he or she could also cover up poor citation or even plagiarism.

But the bigger problem is that books are, more or less, permanent. Web sites, however, are not. Though it’s trivial to maintain a web site for a lengthy period of time, sites crash, servers fail and web pages go dark. It’s very likely, in fact almost certain, that copies of this book will long outlive Perlstein’s electronic footnotes.

Still, as publishers look to cut printing costs, the moving of footnotes online may make sense in some cases, even if it is a controversial move. As Perlstein noted, few people use the footnotes to a book and they are generally seen as pages that can’t be read. However, those who do use the footnotes are, often researchers who are trying to get additional information and have a strong need for those notes.

However, this is one debate that might be headed off by the shift to digital publication. The benefits of doing so with a printed work, saved pages, lower printing costs, clickable links, etc. don’t apply to digital publishing. A Kindle book with 900 pages costs the same as one with 800 to reproduce and the footnotes can be made clickable and searchable in digital versions.

Though it’s unclear if Perlstein’s footnotes are added to the digital versions of his book, they should be, as they should for all electronic books.

While Perlstein’s approach might be an interesting thought experiment for print publication, it is almost irrelevant in the age of digital publishing. When every book functions similarly to a web page, having the footnotes on a separate one simply doesn’t make sense.


The opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of iThenticate.



Tagged:  Current Events

Tennis and Plagiarism

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Jul 30, 2014 11:00:00 AM

Neil Harman is known as one of the greatest writers and journalists in the tennis world. Not only has he served as The Times of London chief tennis correspondent since 2002, he’s been awarded the Sports Journalist Association “Sports News Reporter of the Year” and is a former president of the International Tennis Writers Association.

iStock_000004210396SmallUntil recently, he was also responsible for writing the yearly book “Wimbledon: The Official Story of The Championships”, a coffee table book that recaps the previous year’s tournament and is sold both at the Wimbledon gift shop and online.


Tagged:  Current Events

Should Research Plagiarism Cause an Automatic Retraction

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Jul 24, 2014 9:30:00 AM

In a recent article for Nature, Praveen Chaddah argues that, while text plagiarism is a form of misconduct, that scientists are not authors and that the offense of lifting words is not nearly as severe as the lifting of ideas.


Tagged:  Best Practices

Chris Spence Case Mired in Legal Issues, Delays

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Jul 22, 2014 9:55:00 AM

Last month, former head of the Toronto District School Board (TDSB), Chris Spence, asked the University of Toronto, his alma mater, to drop its ongoing investigation into his potential plagiarism in his dissertation. According to Spence’s lawyers, the case has taken too long and he noted that his dissertation had been run through a plagiarism checker without his permission.

Both, according to him, are violations of school policy.


Tagged:  Current Events

Ethical Issues in Health Research - July Newsletter

Posted by Jessica Gopalakrishnan on Jul 11, 2014 6:00:00 AM

Edition 23 (July 2014):  WHAT'S NEW?  |  DID YOU KNOW?  |  CUSTOMER INSIGHTS  |  COMMUNITY


Although billions are spent each year on health research much of it is not reported adequately in the literature. This seriously undermines the usability of reported findings and misleads clinicians, researchers, policy makers and, ultimately, patients. Dr. Iveta Simera, Head of Programme Development for the EQUATOR Network (Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research), recently connected with iThenticate to delve into key ethical issues in health research. During this 20-minute interview, Simera highlights ethical issues in medical research today, explores the adeptness of current extrajudicial process for addressing ethical issues, and suggests steps that journals, authors and or/editors could take to help improve the quality of reporting of medical research.



Did You Know?


Which publications are in the iThenticate database? Search 100,000+ publications that have archived 38+ million scholarly articles, books and conference proceedings into the iThenticate database through the CrossCheck powered by iThenticate service.




Customer Insights


To ensure academic integrity and avoid plagiarism, the University of Manitoba has integrated leading plagiarism detection technology iThenticate into their Research Integrity framework, and made the service available to graduate students, researchers and faculty.







Having recently participated in the annual conference at ISMPP, Bob Creutz from iThenticate raises five reasons that pharma, agencies and independent medical writers might consider incorporating iThenticate into their standard practices.





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Tagged:  Newsletter

Marc Driscoll Loses Publishing Deal

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Jul 10, 2014 8:30:00 AM

Controversial Seattle pastor Mark Driscoll, who was embroiled in a plagiarism scandal late last year, has now lost his prominent publishing contract.


EQUATOR Network on the Pulse of Ethics in Health Research

Posted by Jessica Gopalakrishnan on Jul 9, 2014 10:53:00 AM

Providing a complete, accurate and clear account of conducted research studies in scientific publications is an integral part of responsible research. Yet the literature is full of examples documenting inadequacy of health research reporting: non-publishing whole studies or selecting only some outcomes for publication with ‘attractive’ results; inadequately described methods and interventions preventing their assessment and replication; confusing or misleading presentation of results, data, graphs, images; or inadequate reporting of harms, which in particular can have serious consequences for patients’ safety. These and other reporting problems undermine reliability of published research and seriously limit usability of presented findings in clinical practice and further research; this decreases returns from huge financial investments into the health research and wastes involvement of human participants in such studies.

equator-networkDr. Iveta Simera, Head of Programme Development for the EQUATOR Network, recently connected with iThenticate to delve into key ethical issues in health research. The EQUATOR Network, which stands for Enhancing the QUAlity and Transparency Of health Research, and is hosted by the Centre for Statistics in Medicine at Oxford University, focuses on providing guides for editors and researchers to help improve the quality and accuracy of medical research reporting.

During this 20-minute interview, hosted by Jonathan Bailey from Plagiarism Today, Simera highlights ethical issues in medical research today, explores the adeptness of current extrajudicial process for addressing ethical issues, and suggests steps that journals, authors and or/editors could take to help improve the quality of reporting of medical research.


Tagged:  Interviews