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Consider a case of plagiarism like this one. The allegation in this case led to formal investigations, articles being retracted, and researchers being sanctioned.

Who is the responsible body for launching and conducting these sorts of investigations? Are there global laws that determine norms of ethical conduct and describe the procedure for dealing with breaches?

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  • The question is about how plagiarism is treated nowadays by research institutions. Are there books, seminal scientific articles, or expert institutions on the subject? In the last 2-3 years I have studied the subject and my perception is that there is little specialized literature on the subject. What emerges in debates on this topic are recommendations from Professors or researchers, while publishers refrain from a serious discussion on the topic. A historical point of view is given by Wikipedia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism), but it is not enough for a research about the theme.
    – Student
    Jul 16 at 22:34
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    I took a stab at editing this. Note that we do not recommend books (these are "shopping questions"), and that the question text should not contain meta-discussion about the question being closed. After removing those elements, I believe your question reduces to the above. Feel free to make further edits if needed (though this may affect your odds of getting reopened).
    – cag51
    Jul 21 at 20:04
  • @cag51, my question is similiar with this: math.stackexchange.com/questions/1009371/… But the content is not Mathematics, but plagiarism. I not consider any question about book a "shopping question". I consider your comment ("Note that we do not recommend books (these are "shopping questions"), offensive and intimidating. Stack Academia doesn't seem to be in line with Stack Overflow, or others.
    – Student
    Jul 22 at 10:37
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    Book recommendations are certainly borderline for the SE format, as there in many cases there can be a lot of possible answers and there is no clearly correct answer (and it’s not possible to know before the answers come in). Stack Exchange sites can decide individually whether such questions are suitable for them. That being said, what you are looking for is probably not covered in a book and instead you want any reference which addresses a narrow topic – which I would consider a reference-request and fine.
    – Wrzlprmft
    Jul 22 at 11:13
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    @Student: cag51 was referring to a policy of this site (see here for details). Clearly, you are free to agree or disagree with this policy, and of course you are also free to agree or disagree as to whether your question falls into the category "shopping question". But I seriously don't understand what about cag51's comment would be "intimidating" or even "offensive". Jul 22 at 15:23

2 Answers 2

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No, these issues are typically not handled by international standards/laws/governing bodies. Few of these even exist: academia is not organized hierarchically at the international level; for many countries it's not even organized at the national level.

In the example you cite:

Five years ago, OSU, in Columbus, opened inquiries into papers

In this case, you can see that it's the university (Ohio State University, located in Columbus, Ohio, US) doing the investigation, because the person accused is their employee. There are other Q&A on this site asking "what's the use of a university to a researcher" or some variation on that theme; well, here's one of the uses. By working at an institution that values its own reputation, researchers open themselves to investigation by the institution that they work for. This gives everyone else that works at the institution some additional credibility, in that their job is at risk if they break the rules.

Concerns about work from Croce’s laboratory first came to widespread attention in 2017, when The New York Times reported on allegations of research misconduct

The media also has a role; by reporting on these allegations, the newspaper induces others to investigate. In this case, it seems some OSU investigations occurred before the newspaper report, but the report also induced the university to investigate further. Media attention also may attract other people who were wronged by someone and perhaps have a stronger case than they realized once their accusations are pooled with similar accusations by other people.

Nature is also acting in more of a media role (rather than as an academic journal) by posting this article.

The primary bodies that deal with accusations of plagiarism in academia are:

  • Universities and other academic institutions, who have the power to fire researchers, deny students credit or graduation, etc.

  • Journals and publishers, who have the power to retract articles in their publications.

  • Media at large, including newspapers, who can induce others to act through public attention and embarrassment

  • Granting agencies, who can require academic institutions to uphold ethical standards and withhold funds from individuals or entire institutions that fail to do so. The Office of Research Integrity mentioned in the article would be an example.

  • Professional societies, who have influence through journals they control and any standards they set for membership. While these can be international, they are unlikely to have any legal authority. They can kick people out/prevent them from being members, prevent them from participating in their conferences/journals, and bring attention by other entities with more direct control.

  • Occasionally, some forms of plagiarism are also violations of legal constructs like copyright. There may be international norms, but these violations are ultimately dependent on whatever legal system has jurisdiction, typically a national or local court system. However, even these legal violations are far more likely to be resolved at another level first, such as a journal retracting a plagiarized article. Legal action is expensive and complicated and typically reserved for when other mechanisms (including threat of legal action) somehow fail.

The only international bodies I can think of are those that have a role only in setting guidelines/suggested standards; it's up to those who wish to uphold these guidelines to actually do so. An example would be COPE.

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    I'm tempted to edit in "The Ohio State University" Jul 22 at 16:05
  • @AzorAhai-him- They can have it as long as they're okay with changing their acronym to TOS-U, affectionately, "the tos'ers".
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 22 at 16:07
  • @BryanKrause, OSU has always been the tossers (graduate of a sports rival).
    – Buffy
    Jul 22 at 19:20
  • @Buffy As a graduate of two of them, I must doubly agree ;)
    – Bryan Krause
    Jul 22 at 19:23
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    The bullet point about professional societies ends very abruptly.
    – Anyon
    Jul 22 at 21:11
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edit because of comments

No, but there are national rules that are internationally harmonized and two general remarks why:

Nation States and to a lesser degree supranational bodies like the European Union are entities that make "laws", that is enforceable rules because of the existence of the rule of law. Not all states are fully committed to the rule of law. However, international treaties between states may establish rules, guidelines and regulatory bodies. The implementation and proper functioning are less likely.

Some incidents of Plagiarism - that is: taking ideas and words of other people and claiming them to be yours - is forbidden for example under copyright law, so only countries with legislation about copyright (may) have bodies to turn to. There are international treaties that try to establish minimum standards internationally: Have a look at the World Intellectual Property Organization (of the UN) that administers those treaties, you'll find information on member countries and there rules there.

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    Plagiarism and copyright violations are two separate concepts. Not everything we would classify as plagiarism is a copyright violation and vice versa. Examples of people who got into trouble because of plagiarism were not punished under copyright laws, but their employer (the university) imposing some sanction or firing them or a journal retracting the paper. If a court was involved, then it was because purpotrator objected against his/her punishment... Jul 26 at 11:30
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    ... So laws are not directly relevant for cases of plagiarism. Where the law does become relevant, then it is labor laws that limit the ability of universities to punish people who committed plagiarism, rather than laws that directly deal with plagiarism. Jul 26 at 11:33
  • That is only partly correct. Many types of plagiarism are forbidden under international copyright treaties. There are of course some parts that are not, for which other laws may apply - which is, why my first remark is correct.
    – slinel
    Jul 26 at 12:49
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    Conflating plagiarism and copyright is just a mistake. They are very separate issues. It makes little sense to discuss them as if they are the same, or even similar. Copyright violation can occur even with citation, and plagiarism can occur with no copyright violation. Mixing them will just confuse people. Jul 26 at 13:48
  • I disagree because of the overlap. Remember the question: It was asked for "global laws" and governing bodies. In my country, you are forbidden by copyright law to plagiarize (in the sense of copying without citation) and you can be prosecuted by it. I should know because copyright was my phd topic. Some universities make you sign copyright contracts next to normal work contracts (as did mine).
    – slinel
    Jul 27 at 14:06

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