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I have read this question. My interest is not in the h-index, but in a colleague listing a paper in two different versions and expecting credit (and teaching release) for both. (They got both versions published in peer-reviewed journals, but one is a straight translation of the other --- I checked.) True, it takes time to do a translation, but the intellectual effort that goes into translating one's own paper is rather less than producing the original research. I think the colleague is behaving selfishly and in an intellectually dishonest way. Before I make a big deal out of it, however, I want to make sure I talk to the right person(s). Is this behavior as big a deal as I think it is?

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    Unless your colleague is concealing the fact that one paper was a translation of the other, it seems to me that it is up to your department and its standards to decide how they "count" and how much "credit", teaching release, etc, should be awarded. I don't see any dishonesty if the colleague is just asking for release based on both papers; if the department doesn't think they merit it, the department can just say no. – Nate Eldredge Oct 13 '15 at 15:03
  • @NateEldredge. The colleague is trying to conceal the fact that one is a translation of the other. – user3697176 Oct 13 '15 at 15:05
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    Then clearly that is dishonest. – Nate Eldredge Oct 13 '15 at 15:06
  • How is your colleague trying to conceal this? The normal thing to do is just list both on your CV without further comment. When I see a paper written in an uncommon language in my field (which includes popular languages like Chinese or Spanish), I assume it is not a serious research paper--maybe an exposition or just minor results. – Kimball Oct 13 '15 at 15:24
  • Some journals publish articles in both local language and English. Such bilingual articles can certainly not be considered self-plagiarism. – Alex Oct 13 '15 at 16:11
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Regardless of what one might call this behavior -- self-plagiarism, double-dipping, etc. -- your colleague's behavior is an example of gaming the system. It is a common behavior observed by dishonest and insecure academics in response to various metrics that are introduced to measure their productivity and performance. Some examples related to the one under discussion are:

  1. Listing a paper legitimately published in two versions (one as a conference proceedings and one in a journal) as two separate listings in one's publication list and without pointing out the connection. See this recent question.

  2. Splitting a paper into several smaller papers to artifically inflate one's number of publications while possibly decreasing the work's overall scientific usefulness and impact.

  3. Strategically "saving up" work done in one merit review cycle to write it up in the next cycle due to a feeling that one has done "enough" work for the current cycle and feeling insecure about one's ability to continue to generate meaningful output in the future.

  4. Choosing the journal one is submitting to based on Impact Factor, h-index or other arbitrary and mostly meaningless indices.

Not all of these practices are equally unethical or dishonest, but they share the common feature that the practitioner is letting their actions be influenced by factors that are tangential to, and in some cases opposed to, the academic's main goal of advancing scientific knowledge. They can also have the effect of distorting institutional decisions about who is performing good work, who deserves to be promoted or offered jobs, etc., and to the extent that that is the case, in my opinion they cross a clear boundary between ethical and unethical behavior.

In the case under discussion, based on your description there is no doubt in my mind that your colleague is behaving dishonestly. It is fine for him to publish his paper in two languages if he feels that that adds some value, but he must clearly indicate that the two publications are duplicate versions of the same work and not try to claim credit for both.

  • Would you mind elaborating on "choosing the journal one is submitting to based on..."? I'm curious as to how this violates "the academic's main goal of advancing scientific knowledge". In the lab I'm in, we target certain conferences that are known to be on the more prestigious end of the spectrum - I thought that this was something most academics did (as in, targeted specific conferences/journals)? – tonysdg Oct 14 '15 at 0:03
  • @tonysdg, sorry if I wasn't clear enough. The practice you describe is different from what I was referring to, and doesn't "violate" the goal of advancing knowledge. It is perfectly okay to pursue publication in the journals and conferences that are the most prestigious and have the most relevant audience so as to maximize the impact of your work. However in places where one gets rewarded for maximizing an arbitrary numerical index, that could distort one's incentives to the point of causing some people to select a suboptimal (from a scientific impact point of view) publication venue. ... – Dan Romik Oct 14 '15 at 3:01
  • ... At best, pursuing such numerical indices is "tangential to ... the goal of advancing scientific knowledge", that is, not especially harmful or unethical but in my opinion still a minor form of gaming the system, and a practice that helps perpetuate a counterproductive rewards system. – Dan Romik Oct 14 '15 at 3:02
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Let's split this into two different aspects: honest representation and bean-counting.

Your colleague has control of whether the publication is represented honestly. Any listing of the two works should clearly declare their relationship to one another, e.g.:

"A translation of this work into LANGUAGE is available as TITLE "

"This work is a translation of the original document TITLE"

Not making such a declaration is dishonest, essentially a more difficult to detect form of self-plagiarism, and should be called out as such.

Bean-counting to determine whether a translation counts as a separate publication, on the other hand, is the problem of the various organizations that want to compute metrics. As noted in various other questions on this site, these metrics are highly variable in how different organizations compute them, quite noisy, and should be regarded are a rough estimate at best. Thus, I would not recommend worrying about that aspect of it.

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    This type of conduct is NOT self-plagiarism. You cannot plagiarize yourself. This is duplicate publication, or "double-dipping." I'm getting really tired of this new self-plagiarism mantra, especially since actual plagiarism is more serious than duplicate publication/double dipping. They are not in the same category, yet attempts are being made to conflate the two as one and the same. Otherwise, good answer. – daaxix Oct 13 '15 at 16:06
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    @daaxix Like it or not, our culture appears to have settled on this definition. Your disagreement with the way people use words does not make them wrong. – jakebeal Oct 13 '15 at 16:08
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    I would not expect something like this on a CV, which typically just lists papers with citation info and no further description. – Kimball Oct 13 '15 at 19:08
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I assume that in the later translation paper, the article states something like "this is a translation of X", since that is standard practice enforced by editors. For the purpose of institutional evaluation (tenure, promotion, raises), the question is what rules have been established regarding summary documents like the CV. Standards for what goes on a CV and how it is presented are constantly in flux, generally driven by institutional requirements. 30 years ago (at least in my field), research output was reported in two groups, "publications" and "presentations", but since then, universities are increasingly requiring more nuanced subdivisions into book chapters, working papers, conference proceedings, peer-reviewed journal articles, translations, and so on, at least for promotion-type purposes. While my university required faculty to submit a current CV annually, it only required the minutely-subdivided CV for promotion purposes. Department chairs vary substantially in their documentation requirements for the annual raise-review, sometimes not even asking for the titles of papers published, just the number, or sometimes including a paragraph of general discussion regarding research activities.

I disagree with Jakebeal's assessment that it is dishonest to not label a translation in listings like the CV. Dishonesty means that there is an unquestionable and known rule that something must be done, yet it wasn't done without openly declaring resistance to the rule. There is no such rule. It would not be irrational to create such a rule, as universities have done regarding the division of the CV into more labeled categories, but it would also not be irrational to create a rule that requires each article to contain contextual information such as "This study repeats the procedures of papers A, B, C using a new dataset" or "This study repackages the ideas of paper Z more efficiently". When a scholar keeps saying the same thing over and over, we don't claim that he is dishonest, we claim that he is boring or something along those lines. Accusations of "dishonesty" should be held in check, until it is clear that there is an attempt at deception, rather than a disagreement about what standard one should follow.

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