[visionlist] Plagiarism checks in Empirical Manuscripts

Tom Wallis tsawallis at gmail.com
Tue Jul 11 05:53:12 -04 2017


Hi all,

I'm sympathetic to Peter's desire to avoid "busywork" in re-writing parts
of introductions, and of course it's pointless to re-write standard methods
(as in Malte's original comment). However, I don't think the guidelines
against self-plagarism are so easily dismissed ("I can't steal from
myself").

In my mind they exist to reduce the risk of CV-padding by re-use or
"salami-slicing" research work into multiple outputs. Further to Jim's
comment, this CV-padding via (self-)plagiarism is by no means limited to
students at unknown universities trying to get ahead – see for example the
recent highly-publicised implosion of Brian Wansink's Cornell Food and
Brand Lab (detailed here:
http://www.timvanderzee.com/the-wansink-dossier-an-overview/). Wansink's
work includes numerous cases of blatant self-plagiarism, both in text (some
articles containing up to 50% of the same text) and in data duplication.
Not only does this practice disadvantage those scientists who don't engage
in this practice ("candidate A has many more papers than candidate B!"), it
also could create a false impression of the empirical support for some
theory or guideline ("over 50 studies show that X does Y!"). Without
guidelines against self-plagarism, there would be no way to explicitly
police these practices.

While I think it's important that these guidelines exist, I agree with
others that they (and automated plagiarism detection software) should be
applied with sufficient editorial common sense. Materials and Methods, and
a paragraph in the introduction (with appropriate citation) seem fine, when
the bulk of the paper presents new results and ideas.

Best

Tom

--
Thomas Wallis, PhD
Project Leader, SFB 1233 Robust Vision
AG Bethge
Center for Integrative Neuroscience
Eberhard Karls Universität Tübingen
Otfried-Müller-Str 25
72076 Tübingen
Germany
www.tomwallis.info


On Tue, Jul 11, 2017 at 3:31 AM, Jim Ferwerda <jaf at cis.rit.edu> wrote:

> I too had a “funny” experience relative to journal plagiarism.
>
> A few years back I wanted to look at a paper I had presented/published
> several years before at Human Vision and Electronic Imaging. Rather than
> dig through my computer, I googled the paper title: “Three Varieties of
> Realism in Computer Graphics”. The paper came up as the first hit, but
> several hits down was a paper titled “Hi-Fidelity Computer Graphics"
> published in the “International Journal of Innovative Research in
> Technology”. Since I was intrigued, I downloaded the paper and started
> reading. After a page of introduction, the text became strangely familiar.
> The “authors” of the paper had cut-and-pasted four pages of the eight page
> document directly from my paper!
>
> After doing some further investigation I found that the three authors
> (M.S. students at an obscure Indian university) had done this several
> times, “borrowing” from different published papers and switching up the
> author order, with the goal of padding their CV’s. Some further reading
> revealed that sadly, this is a widespread practice in some
> countries/fields, and that there are many “pay-to-play” journals that will
> publish whatever they are given as long as the publishing fee is received.
>
> So who knows, you, like me, might have more co-authors than you think!
>
> Cheers
>
> -Jim
>
> p.s. In case you're interested in padding /your/ CV the website for the
> journal is
>
> http://ijirt.org/
>
> Submission is easy. Make sure to have your credit card ready!
>
>
> On Jul 10, 2017, at 3:46 PM, Robert Sekuler <sekuler at brandeis.edu> wrote:
>
> I had a funny experience being flagged for possible plagiarism.
>
> The journal's very thorough plagiarism detector reported that a high
> proportion of my submission was duplicated from a document that it found on
> the web.
>
> No surprise, though. Turns out the duplicated article was an early draft
> of the submitted article that I had posted on my website. And the editor
> immediately understood what had happened. No harm done.
>
> Bob sekuler
>
> ----------------------------
> Professor of Neuroscience
> F & L Salvage Professor of Psychology
> Brandeis University
>
>
> On Jul 10, 2017, at 14:46, Horowitz, Todd (NIH/NCI) [E] <
> todd.horowitz at nih.gov> wrote:
>
> To be blunt, I would like to know the name of the journal. Any journal
> with such shoddy editorial practices should be avoided.
>
> Thanks
> Todd Horowitz
>
>
> *From: *"Persike, Malte" <persike at uni-mainz.de>
> *Date: *Monday, July 10, 2017 at 10:59 AM
> *To: *"visionlist at visionscience.com" <visionlist at visionscience.com>
> *Subject: *[visionlist] Plagiarism checks in Empirical Manuscripts
>
> Dear Vision Community,
>
> during publishing of a recent manuscript, I received a request from the
> editorial office to alter a number of sections in said manuscript. The
> request was triggered by an automated plagiarism check using CrossCheck.
> The whole process left me so puzzled that I thought I‘d share my experience
> here, combined with a humble request for a broader debate about the issue
> of plagiarism in empirical research.
>
> First, what happened? The report contained a whopping 24 different items,
> each asserting plagiarism of the works of others. The email from the
> editorial office was phrased accordingly. It asked to “amend the affected
> sections by either identifying the fact that it has been reproduced or by
> using original words”, thus presuming all 24 instances of supposed
> plagiarism to be veridical. Most of them were not.
>
> After a very thorough debate about all 24 items with my co-authors and an
> expert for good scientific conduct at our university’s library, 22 out of
> all 24 items were discarded. The remaining 2 items were far from verbatim
> copies of whole sections. They were small parts of larger sentences
> together with explicit citations of the sources from which those parts were
> derived. The other 22 items were discarded not due to subjective reasoning
> but due to obvious glitches in the plagiarism checking algorithms. This
> amounts to a rate of 91.6% false positives. I’ll describe some of the more
> silly instances at the end of this text, but that is not the reason for my
> posting here.
>
> Instead, the point I very much like to discuss with you is the handling of
> possible plagiarism in empirical studies. Do we have an agreed code of
> conduct for authoring pieces of empirical science? Let me highlight only a
> few points.
>
> 1) How do we treat Materials and Methods? The Stimuli section will
> necessarily contain similar phrasings when reporting about research that
> uses identical paradigms. The Apparatus section will also be quite similar
> between related studies, as will the Participants section. The same holds
> for the Ethics Statement and the Measures and Analysis. Is it really
> desirable that we need to come up with ever so slightly different
> formulations for identical things, only to avoid verbatim copies? Are there
> not limitations as to how a temporal 2-AFC task can be described with
> appropriate brevity? And would it – particularly for Methods and Results
> –perhaps even be prudent to stick to a rather formulaic language protocol
> in order to make reception easier? I for one would certainly not wish to
> read a Methods section which goes like “Stimuli were created according to
> XY (2004). Handling of Participants was similar to XY (2010). Apparatus was
> as described in XY (1998). Task was taken from XY (2001). Analysis and
> measures are according to XY (1992).” This does not help me to efficiently
> understand what’s being done.
>
> 2) How do we handle self-citations? Many of us work on the same topics
> over long stretches of time, sometimes decades. Good scientific research
> usually means to advance present knowledge step by step, pulling only very
> few levers at once for each new experiment. Is it not to be expected that
> at some point we have arrived at concise, well-formulated, and most
> comprehensible ways to verbally introduce specific concepts. Is it really
> necessary that we find ever new ways to phrase the exact same ideas?
>
> 3) Is it the prime virtue of empirical research to be phrased originally?
> Is it not first and foremost the results and their implications that define
> original and interesting work? Even if we set high standards of originality
> for the prose in empirical articles, how should brief verbatim copies be
> handled? Let me give one example. Suppose, the abstract of a paper reads
> like “We used faces, non-face objects, Gabors, and colored Gaussian blobs
> to investigate the role of stimulus complexity on visual processing.” I
> find it highly questionable to then have a sentence like “XY (2001) used
> faces, non-face objects, Gabors, and colored Gaussian blobs to investigate
> the role of stimulus complexity.”, written by another author, qualify as
> plagiarism or needing quotes. Why should the latter author attempt to
> rephrase something that had already been so concisely summarized by the
> original authors?
>
> 4) Is it common consensus that automated plagiarism checking without
> editorial oversight is the yardstick against which to evaluate the
> originality of scientific manuscripts?
>
> I’d very much love to have an informed discussion with you. In part
> because I imagine that the plagiarism report I received may turn out to be
> the rule rather than the exception, hence we might all face hours of
> checking and re-checking during future publishing attempts.
>
> Kind regards to all of you
>   Malte Persike
>
> --
>
> And here come some of the highlights from the plagiarism report issued to
> me.
>
> (i) My institutional address “Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz,
> Wallstr. 3, D-55122 Mainz, Germany” and the immediately following heading
> “Abstract” were flagged as plagiarism.
>
> (ii) The E-Mail addresses of the authors were flagged as a plagiarism.
>
> (iii) Citations and year numbers, e.g. “(Persike et al., 2015)” were
> included in the word count for multiple items. This had ridiculous
> consequences. To name only two of the most blatant ones: one plagiarism
> item was defined by the words “Author et al., 1993 […] et al. […] the […]
> et al., 1997” (with a few unflagged words inbetween), another item was
> defined by the words “Author1 and Author2, 1994; Author3 and Author4, 2001)
> and”.
>
> (iv) Mathematical symbols, brand names and notational terms had been
> included in the report. One item therefore consisted almost entirely of
> parts of a mathematical formula, the product names “ViSaGe” and “ColorCal
> colorimeter”, the brand name “Cambridge Research Systems LLC”, the term
> “Michelson contrast”, and the phrase “were run in Matlab”.
>
> (v) Many of the report items contained common phrases used in neuroscience
> research, some of which were even multiply counted. For example, one item
> was defined by the mere phrase “to the ability of the visual system”,
> counted two times, plus a reference. A quick Google search turned up more
> than 150,000 hits for this exact phrase and Google Scholar yields more than
> a hundred authors who have also used this phrase in their works.
>
> (vi) The CrossCheck system invented false positives. One item contained
> the phrase “V2 neurons are highly selective”, another item referred to the
> phrase “to a particular combination of line components”. These phrases were
> not copied from anywhere but are original. In fact, they are so original
> that Google Scholar yields precisely zero search results for each of them.
> The sources from where these phrases were claimed to be derived do not
> include such sequences of words anywhere in the entire texts.
>
>
> --
> Dr. Malte Persike
>
> Department for Statistical Methods
> Psychological Institute
> Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz
> Wallstr. 3
> D-55122 Mainz
>
> fon:    +49 (6131) 39 39260 <06131%203939260>
> fax:    +49 (6131) 39 39186 <06131%203939186>
> mobile: +49 (1525) 4223363 <01525%204223363>
>
>
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