Want to report a case of plagiarism? Here’s how
If you’ve come across a case of plagiarism and want to report it to the proper authorities, a new article in the journal Ethics & Behavior would be a good place to start.
Mark Fox, a professor of management and entrepreneurship at Indiana University, and Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, known for Beall’s List of questionable publishers, teamed up for the article. As they write in their abstract:
Scholarly open-access publishing has made it easier for researchers to discover and report academic misconduct such as plagiarism. However, as the website Retraction Watch shows, plagiarism is by no means limited to open-access journals. Moreover, various web-based services provide plagiarism detection software, facilitating one’s ability to detect pirated content. Upon discovering plagiarism, some are compelled to report it, but being a plagiarism whistleblower is inherently stressful and can leave one vulnerable to criticism and retaliation by colleagues and others (Anderson, 1993; Cabral-Cardoso, 2004). Reporting plagiarism can also draw the threat of legal action. This article draws upon our experiences as plagiarism whistleblowers with several goals in mind: to help would-be whistleblowers be better prepared for making well-founded allegations; to give whistleblowers some idea of what they can expect when reporting plagiarism; and to give suggestions for reducing whistleblowers’ vulnerability to threats and stress.
Of course, you could always not report plagiarism:
One unfortunate alternative to reporting plagiarism is to do nothing. In some cases inaction may be partly motivated by colleagues who provide advice such as: “No one will thank you for this”, “Be very careful that this doesn’t hurt your career”, or “Don’t be surprised that this gets covered up if you do complain”. As the authors of a Special Report on plagiarism in the Chronicle of Higher Education observe: “academe often discourages victims from seeking justice, and when they do, tends to ignore their complaints — a kind of scholarly ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy” (Bartlett and Smallwood, 2004, p. A8). However, inaction may lead those who have discovered plagiarism to experience a lingering unrest as to whether they have done the “right thing”. An Office of Research Integrity (1995) study provides some insight into whether whistleblowers regret their actions. For whistleblowers that experienced no negative actions, 86% would definitely blow the whistle again and a further 5% would probably do so. Surprisingly, 60% of those who suffered one or more adverse actions as a result of their whistleblowing would do so again; and 15% probably would do so.
The paper includes sections with useful tips, ranging from “Be Aware of What Constitutes Plagiarism” to “Some Allegations Will Be Taken More Seriously Than Others” to “Be Prepared for the Threat of Legal Action” to “Publicizing Allegations Through Mainstream Media and Online.”
That last section ends with
Also, carefully consider what, if any, use you want to make of Internet: Do you want to create a blog that highlights the plagiarism? Do you want to make a website such as Retraction Watch aware of any articles that have been retracted as a result of your whistleblowing?
The authors conclude:
Do not assume that you will be applauded for raising allegations. In particular, it is unlikely that colleagues and friends of the plagiarist will applaud your actions. Indeed, they may retaliate by examining your own published works, so it is not a good idea to report plagiarism if you yourself have ever committed research misconduct. Others may wish that plagiarism allegations be dealt with quietly, as publicity may adversely affect the reputation of the institution or journals where the misconduct occurred. Having said this, you should keep in mind the benefits of reporting plagiarism, namely that this serves as a deterrent to others and helps maintain the integrity of the academic and scholarly record.