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A researcher in my field has written to ask me high resolution files for 5 figures from 3 different papers of mine. He states:

Currently I am revising one review article where I have used several figures from some of your excellent papers. Due to the editor and the reviewer ask me to provide them with high qualities.

I see no problem in sending him the figures in high resolution. One thing is worrying me slightly: if you write a review with 5 figures from someone else, it's either a very long review, or you may simply not be the right person to write it, it seems to me. Should I be worried about plagiarism?

So, when I write him back, and presumably send him the request files, what should I be mindful of? I see the following (nonexclusive) options:

  • Ask to know a little more about this review.
  • Give him links to my few very recent articles related to this topic, trying to make sure he's not forgetting anything relevant (some papers are only a few weeks old, so it is understandable that they may not have appeared on his radar yet).
  • insert here others options I haven't thought of

What I will definitely do anyway:

  • Ask him to send me the review once it's published.
  • Remind him that he needs copyright permission from my papers' publishers, in addition to my files.
  • 4
    if he's an established researcher (i.e. you can look up for his name and find where he is working..etc) then I believe that would give me more confident to supply him the figures. – seteropere Apr 3 '13 at 22:25
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if you write a review with 5 figures from someone else, it's either a very long review, or you may simply not be the right person to write it, it seems to me.

Or you just think that person has amazing figures. :-)

If the author's university and the journal publishing the review are both reputable, then I doubt you have much to worry about. If they aren't, then it is more worrisome. If the author hasn't already specified where the review article has been submitted, then that's strange in itself, although it could be awkwardness rather than dishonesty.

There seem to be two issues here:

  1. Will it be a mediocre review article? There's not much you can do about this: you presumably can't stop the article from being published, so the only question is whether the world would be better off if it didn't include your figures. (That outcome would be worse for you, and I can't see why it would be better for the rest of the world, so I'd be inclined to give them the figures.)

  2. Is there no actual review article, and this is just a setup to get copies of your files for use in plagiarism? It would seem crazy to draw your attention if there's plagiarism involved, but sometimes people are crazy (or it could be someone using a fake address or hacked account). I wouldn't worry about this too much: the chances of plagiarism are not so high, and the chances the plagiarizer will actually get away with it are even lower. Besides, you might end up with an amusing story about the time a plagiarizer asked you for copies of your figures.

Remind him that he needs copyright permission from my papers' publishers, in addition to my files.

Definitely, and you could even cc the permissions e-mail addresses for your publishers, to help speed the process along and make sure the author doesn't forget or lie about it.

4

I agree that five figures sounds excessive (no offense!). In addition, I ask myself if you alone have the copyright or if the journal (or whatever publications) in which the figures are published holds a copyright (usually the publisher). It is of course possible that the author has asked about copyright directly with a publisher. It does, however, seem odd that the person has already used the figures for a reviewed version of the manuscript. I think it would be pertinent to ask where the paper is to be published and depending on the situation regarding the copyright, ask why you have not been approached before. I would also contact the editor of the journal where the paper is to be published if there are remaining uncertainties after contacting the author.

3

This sounds very fishy to me. If an editor has asked them to provide them with high quality figures then presumably there is a copy of this paper that you can read to make sure you're not being copied.

I'd ask whoever this is for a copy of the paper before sending them anything.

  • 1
    +1 for "ask for a copy". That seems like a good idea anyway; assuming it's legit, you can offer to read it and provide feedback. – Ilmari Karonen Apr 4 '13 at 14:45

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