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I spotted a 2019 paper which literally copy-pastes paragraphs from a 2011 paper and doesn't cite them. The author (who is different than the 2011 paper's) claims that as their own research paper. Should I report this to the journal?

The paper has six pages of copied content. Out of 46, 6 pages are complete copy-paste.

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    I'm 99% sure you already know this, but make sure the following two facts are true before you report the paper. 1) This paper was published AFTER the other paper. 2) The two papers do not share a common author.
    – James
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 15:28
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    1) Copied from a paper published in 2011. The paper which plagiarized in 2019. 2) Not the same author
    – Hi hwsjai
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 16:22
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    @James A common author does not make plagiarism okay. Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 20:17
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    @AnonymousPhysicist - a common author makes it not plagiarism.
    – Davor
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 14:21
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    @Davor, that is not true. Self-plagirarism is still a thing, and is still a form of plagiarism. Even a blanket "This was previously published in ..." is pushing the limit when it is 6 pages long
    – Beavis
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 15:53

5 Answers 5

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Yes. Such a grave case of academic misconduct should have publicly visible consequences. Let the editor know; the journal should issue a retraction as the whole article can be deemed to be unreliable.

As retractions can take a long time, it would also be useful if you comment on the suspicion of plagiarism on PubPeer. (The authors could respond with a defense there if needed.)

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    Few questions:- • Is the entire paper unreliable because of the following? •The author has been cited and told his study(review paper) is noteworthy. Should the person who has cited be made aware ? •What exactly should I write to the editor?
    – Hi hwsjai
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 9:04
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    @Hihwsjai I think the theory is that if he would copy 6 pages, he'd likely copy others, we just don't know where from yet. Everything is tainted by this obvious misconduct.
    – Barmar
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 15:30
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    @Barmar Copy or fabricate. Once someone is confirmed to be dishonest in one way, we can't safely trust anything they write.
    – Ray
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 15:40
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Yes, draw it to relevant attention.

Not least because if its a mistake the authors should have a chance to fix it; if (more likely) it isn't then who knows what the implications will be, down the line, of dishonest papers. People could spend years of their life doing work, only to find its invalidated and wasted, because underlying material was unreliable. Or, you don't say what the field is, but real harm could arise in many cases. People getting hurt or at risk, due to faked or inappropriately copied material (do you know what a plagiatlrist - a dishonest academic writer -will do next?!). Businesses and products based on these in part,not knowing the authors are dishonest.

You may want to consider best ways to disclose - who to tell and how to best approach it. This falls under academic whistleblowing.

But that's a different question.

Should you make the publisher, or some other relevant academic/s aware, in some suitable way - absolutely. Even if at worst, its simply an anonymous post showing the 2 papers side by side so it's unmistakable, and a link sent to various places where it'll do good.

(I don't necessarily know if that's the right way, but I use it to show that even if fearful of repercussions, there's a way. You need to ask how to disclose, too, but that as I said is a different question.....)

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  • Calling the plagiarism to the attention of the publisher as well as the editors is particularly appropriate. Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 22:38
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As others suggest, I would report this, but - depending on the circumstances, and if you want to help the author save face somewhat, you might contact them first. You wouldn't ask "Have you plagiarized this section from that paper?" But rather "I've been reading your paper X and believe that sections Y might be a verbatim quote from paper Z. Is this correct?" ... then depending on their answer you'll know how to report this to the publisher.

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    How can we help the author save face when he is stripping himself? 6 pages!! Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 6:19
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    @FailedScientist: 1. I said if. 2. But why would someone flaunt 6 copied pages? Maybe there's some misunderstanding. Or maybe not. I don't know.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 7:51
  • @einpoklum Its probably a mistake but I think not. Because he claims he has cited everyone but the sentencing has itself been changed and the sentence makes a wrong claim. So I'm not sure in the plagiarism was intentional or a mistake.
    – Hi hwsjai
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 11:13
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    @Hihwsjai: If you're not certain, it's probably better to ask first and accuse later rather than the other way around.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 12:14
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    @Hihwsjai: Mind that it’s the journal’s responsibility to hear all sides involved, correctly judge the case, and take appropriate action – not yours. You do not have to present irrefutable proof, just sufficient evidence to justify an investigation (by the journal). This certainly applies if a substantial part of the article is copy pasta. Contacting the author may even be counter-productive since it gives them a head start, which they may e.g. use to retract the paper for a less damning reason. At least, contacting the author is something that any responsible journal should do again anyway.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 18:08
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In cases of academic misconduct where you are not personally involved, it's often better to go do something useful instead of filing complaints.

There's lots of plagiarized papers out there that nobody's going to read. Limit your complaints to academic misconduct that involves you personally or has importance to research or safety.

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    I've never filed a complaint for plagiarism with a journal, but I image it would take the amount of time required to write one email and then possibly follow up replies once or twice. This to me does not seem to be a large investment of time
    – Jojo
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 21:35
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    If you're not personally involved, you suggest not doing anything; but if you are personally involved you're biased and there are risks to you, so the same suggestion might be made. The result is that you should never bring this up.... not buying it. "There's lots of plagiarized papers out there that nobody's going to read. " <- Well, due to OP there may be one less.
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 21:43
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    @AnonymousPhysicist: It doesn't seem more or less invalid than the reason you listed...
    – einpoklum
    Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 22:45
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    @AnonymousPhysicist, "useful" can be malicious, such as spreading false information about where a fact was originated. If the paper in question is cited for a plagiarized section, then it becomes useful, but in the wrong way. Correcting that citing will be much harder than preventing it. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure." Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 23:00
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    @AnonymousPhysicist, if you cited a plagiarized section of a paper, you are making that paper "useful", but you should have instead cited the original paper that was plagiarized. Trying to correct your cite after it's published is much harder than knowing not to cite a paper that's plagiarizing another. As for it being malicious, there's plenty of examples of "news" media that try to cite scientific/medical papers specifically to twist their meaning. If the author of this "news" simply doesn't cite their sources (as many don't), they are maliciously trying to become the source of a fact. Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 23:12
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I would also try to check if the 2 papers are both graduate student papers where the 2 authors were graduate students at the same time for the same advisor. There are some subjects where the first 6 pages is boilerplate as things are getting set up. If the advisor tells the 2nd student to copy the first 6 pages from the 1st student's paper, that is lazy but not exactly dishonest.

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    Scholarly dishonesty (plagiarism) is separate from intentional (personal) dishonesty. This type of "laziness" is still plagiarism and the same consequences apply, including the author gaining a reputation of untrustworthiness. Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 19:19
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    It depends on the subject. In science it is the results which are valued, specifically the new results. It is not the exact configuration of words to convey a basic idea which are important. Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 19:24
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    For example, in several mathematical papers on mean-field spin glasses, the first few pages are the definition of the Sherrington-Kirkpatrick model, and the description of interpolation and Gaussian integration-by-parts. It is not really even lazy to cut-and-paste those sections, it is just smart. Commented Dec 29, 2021 at 19:36
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    Verbatim cutting-and-pasting without attribution is always plagiarism, even in mathematics, and even if it is "standard material". The SK model shouldn't need "a few pages" to describe, and even if it does, why not play safe by saying "the following standard details can be found in e.g. [name of source]"?
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 0:07
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    "In science it is the results which are valued, specifically the new results." There is some truth to this, but in the more pure-leaning areas of mathematics part of the new work is the new explanation. Authors who just recycle other people's insights as their own, without attribution, may rapidly get a bad reputation.
    – Yemon Choi
    Commented Dec 30, 2021 at 0:09

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