Weekend reads: Self-plagiarism and moral panic; sexism in science; peer review under scrutiny

booksAnother busy week at Retraction Watch, which kicked off with our announcement that we’re hiring a paid intern. Here’s what was happening elsewhere around the web:

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8 thoughts on “Weekend reads: Self-plagiarism and moral panic; sexism in science; peer review under scrutiny”

  1. ” that it is a moral panic created by those who stand to gain is fairly likely”

    I absolutely agree with this analysis. By the way, the same considerations need to be carefully examined for the hyping of the issue of fraud in science and its statistics. Someone stands to gain from this hype. One obvious faction are right wing organizations who have been tried to discredit science for a long time. There should be more discussion of these factors.

    1. I think the litmus test should be whether it serves the reader. I understand the need for brevity and to not spam readers and publishers with rehashed work with little new content. Editors are best equipped to make these decisions, as long as there is not undue pressure by publishers who want to drive more paid downloads.

      As a reader, I want to quickly understand the major points made by the author and have sufficient information to be able to judge what it would take to repeat the work on my materials. If an author writes this well once, it is ludicrous to expect them to not re-use some or all, where appropriate. I also don’t want to have to track down 20 additional papers that are behind paywalls to discover the details required to repeat the work.

    2. I guess there should be a clear distinction between self-plagiarism and salami publication. And it is always a demonstration of respect to readers that all re-used material be clearly indicated as such. To what concerns publishers indeed I think copyrights are their business to police.

        1. It is actually my opinion that we should do away with publishers, as they are all essentially parasites, some more aggressive than others. Their focus is on popularity and brand status and focus of scientific research must be in seeking the truth.
          Self-publishing refereed by PPPR seems the answer for most current issues.

  2. Perhaps the concept of self-plagiarism (if, indeed, it could be disentangled from actual plagiarism) could be applied to politicians?

    I can’t help but think of Cato the Elder and his “Ceterum censeo Carthaginem esse delendam” (aka ‘Carthago delenda est’) as being one of the more effective, if excessive, self-plagiarists.

    Callahan makes a couple of good points and although the one about effective transmission of ideas is perhaps the most important, the one about who owns the utterances of scientists is probably the one with the greatest explanatory power.

  3. The self-plagiarism article is misguided. The term itself is meaningless because plagiarism is *by definition* theft of another person’s ideas. The fact that the term generates google hits is beside the point – it should not be used. The correct terms are duplication and redundancy. It seems to me that the “moral panic” is a straw-man created by this author in order to take it down. He doesn’t cite any evidence in favor of the “moral panic” thesis. None whatsoever. No evidence showing that duplication is in fact aggressively prosecuted. Are there really cases of an author getting into trouble for “some sentences or sections of his or her own work in, for example, a background statement, literature review, or a method description for a subsequent work that offers new insights”? None are cited and I am not aware of any. The few cases covered here on retractionwatch mostly concerned wholesale republication of whole articles. In very few cases, articles were retracted for substantial overlap but never just for a few sentences.

    In my own experience, journals are extremely reluctant to address duplication, not least because they stand to lose revenue. In one case, three different Taylor and Francis journals published the same article. TANF refused to retract but published a meaningless “corrigendum” (see https://pubpeer.com/publications/E860D3F778D4E3E38DFB7F2C0014B7).

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