SETAC Globe - Environmental Quality Through Science
 
  12 May 2011
Volume 12 Issue 5
 

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New Tools for Detecting Plagiarism in SETAC Journals

C. Herb Ward (Editor-in-Chief, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry), G. Allen Burton (Co-Editor-in-Chief,Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry), Richard J. Wenning (Editor-in-Chief, Integrated Environmental Assessment and Management)

In scientific publication papers submitted to journals are assumed to be the work of the authors. The peer review process has, by necessity, placed great trust in the integrity of the authors. Editors expect that papers submitted for publication are the original work of the authors and that all listed as authors have contributed to the manuscript.

Modern electronic tracking systems now have mechanisms to check the originality of manuscripts submitted. Wiley-Blackwell, our publishing partner, implemented iThenticate on ScholarOne in the summer of 2010. This program is quite sophisticated, giving the exact articles from which phrases and sentences have been copied. This has offered the opportunity and the responsibility to evaluate the originality of manuscripts submitted to peer-reviewed journals. Fortunately, the evaluations have shown overwhelmingly that authors submit original research. However, iThenticate has identified a small minority of authors who have copied from their own or others’ published works. Neither is acceptable. The editors of SETAC journals will contact corresponding authors when iThenticate identifies a plagiarism alert.

One of the most frequent examples of “borrowing” is the tendency to submit “cookie-cutter” papers. These papers use the same methods, but focus on different contaminants or chemicals tested. In these cases, methods are frequently copied verbatim from previous papers—their own or those of others. iThenticate identifies both as plagiarism. Copying descriptions of previously used methods is easy but must be avoided. Each paper should be written as an original composition without “borrowing” from other published papers. If referencing a paper is not sufficient, use different words and sentence structure to summarize the content found in another paper.

Finally, collaborative authorship in science has increased worldwide because of the complexity of the problems addressed. Contributions to the content of some papers from multiple authors are often needed to deal with the wide-ranging underpinning science of the topics being covered. The basic rules for authorship still should be followed to avoid gratuitous authorship. Authorship credit should be based only on substantial contributions to (1) conception and design, or analysis and interpretation of data; and to (2) drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and on (3) final approval of the version to be published.

Authors' contact information: wardch@rice.edu, burtonal@umich.edu, rwenning@environcorp.com

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