How much self-plagiarism, aka duplication, is too much?
Duplication is a frequent reason for the retractions we cover. Such duplication retractions are so common that we don’t get to most of them. While many have argued that duplication pollutes the literature, and can bias meta-analyses when the same study ends up being counted more than once, others say the need to come up with new ways to say the same thing is a waste of time. (That doesn’t explain why some scientists don’t just put their old words in quotes and cite them, but we digress.)
Journal editors should consider publishing a correction article when:
- Sections of the text, generally excluding methods, are identical or near identical to a previous publication by the same author(s);
- The original publication is not referenced in the subsequent publication; but
- There is still sufficient new material in the article to justify its publication.
The correction should amend the literature by adding the missing citation and clarifying what is new in the subsequent publication versus the original publication.
Journal editors should consider publishing a retraction article when:
- There is significant overlap in the text, generally excluding methods, with sections that are identical or near identical to a previous publication by the same author(s);
- The recycled text reports previously published data and there is insufficient new material in the article to justify its publication in light of the previous publication(s).
- The recycled text forms the major part of the discussion or conclusion in the article.
- The overlap breaches copyright.
The guidelines also suggest that editors should only go back to 2004 as long as the duplication doesn’t involve data. COPE is looking for responses to these guidelines, so leave a comment on their site. And ours too, of course.
Separately, COPE has created a discussion document on how members should respond to anonymous whistleblowers, and is soliciting feedback. We’ve taken up this issue as well.