Etiquette in scientific publishing

Publishing a scientific article in a journal with a high impact factor and a good reputation is considered prestigious among one’s peer group and an essential achievement for career progression. In the drive to get their work published, researchers can forget, either intentionally or unintentionally, the ethics that should be followed in scientific publishing. In an environment where “publish or perish” rules the day, some authors might be tempted to bend or break rules. This special article is intended to raise awareness among orthodontic journal editors, authors, and readers about the types of scientific misconduct in the current publishing scenario and to provide insight into the ways these misconducts are managed by the Committee of Publishing Ethics. Case studies are presented, and various plagiarism detection software programs used by publishing companies are briefly described.

The publication of research findings or case reports in respected peer-reviewed journals with high impact factors helps advance both scientific progress and careers. The reputation of a researcher might depend on the impact of his or her articles on scientific progress, including citations by fellow researchers. To maintain ethical standards, it is of paramount importance that an intellectual contribution to a particular scientific article be made before one claims authorship; this is the key to “publishing hygiene.” Because the academic world functions in a climate of “publish or perish,” unethical practices can be found in all areas of scientific writing and publishing. To avoid this, most major publishing companies, including Elsevier, Wiley-Blackwell, Springer, and Nature Group, have released publishing ethics kits that include information on how they detect and prevent unethical publishing. Publishing companies and editors should join the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), which has the authority to take up cases related to publication malpractice and plagiarism.

This article briefly describes various ways of unethical publishing and compiles data on various plagiarism detection software used by publishing companies.

Misconduct in publishing

Misconduct in science involves the fabrication, falsification, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted in the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest errors or honest differences in interpretation. Misconduct in publishing occurs mainly as duplication of a manuscript or a redundant publication, plagiarism, data fabrication, and authorship conflicts.

As defined by the International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE), redundant (or duplicate) publication is publication of an article that overlaps substantially with one already published in print or electronic media. I observed an interesting case of this when, working as an associate editor for a research journal, I sent an article for review to a potential reviewer who was a well-known expert in the field. As soon as he received the abstract, he informed me that he was reviewing an article with a similar abstract for another journal. Upon reading the full text, he confirmed that the articles were the same in all aspects. We promptly rejected the article and submitted the case to COPE for evaluation. COPE determined that there was a major overlap or redundancy (based on the same data with identical findings and evidence, which the authors had sought to hide by changing the title and authorship order and by not citing previous work), and decided to inform the research governance committee of the authors’ institution. This led to demotion of the corresponding author from his position.

Enthusiastic and keen readers are often the first to spot redundancy in published articles. In recent years, as journals have started to appear online and made search facilities open, many cases have arisen. It is acceptable for an author to publish an extended version of an article with the same data after providing proper citations and acknowledgments to the previous work. It is mandatory, even in this case, to obtain permission from the journal publisher, even if the new article is published in the same journal. If this procedure is not followed, the lack of transparency and disclosure can result in consequences. A case of this kind recently appeared in a leading international medical journal; neither the editor nor the reviewers realized that the article they were considering had appeared in another journal the previous year. After the second article was published, a keen observer pointed out the redundancy, attaching both articles in a letter to the editor. The letter was forwarded to the corresponding author, who denied any duplication in his own publication. Unsatisfied with the response, the editor forwarded the case to COPE, which found clear redundancy based on the definition of duplicate publication because the data base, methods, and conclusions were the same in both articles. Moreover, the earlier article was not cited in the new one. The editor of the journal that published the second article retracted it with a statement in the journal; the editor of the first journal also retracted the article with a written statement in the journal, and the case was registered for violating copyright issues. The author’s institution was informed, and the trial in the ethical and scientific committee of the author’s institution is still going on.

It is not the case that you cannot duplicate your own data, but proper citation and resolution of copyright values must be made before attempting it. It is a matter of scientific evolution and fair credentials. When necessary we can reuse data to substantiate our own research hypothesis, but it should be done ethically rather than simply hiding the fact that the data have already been published.

A milder form of this sort of scientific misconduct is “salami” publication, or slicing 1 study into several thin parts to increase the number of articles. A journal with a low impact factor or one that just received its indexing service might fall victim to this because of its high demand for articles, which can encourage authors attempting to increase their submissions to break up their research into smaller papers. These types of articles not only take up valuable space in the literature, but also affect the credibility of the investigating team as original researchers. Articles that appear in various parts, investigating the same phenomenon in the same specimens (including some published in the American Journal of Orthodontics and Dentofacial Orthopedics ), are typical examples of this.

Plagiarism

According to Editage (Cactus Communications, Philadelphia, Pa), plagiarism is attempting to use the ideas, words, or work of another person without giving due credit, and it is considered extremely unethical. Because of unprecedented growth in the numbers of both researchers and scientific publishers, there are prolific increases in articles that rely on plagiarism. There are 5 basic types of plagiarism: copy and paste, word switch, style plagiarism, metaphor, and idea plagiarism. Any text or data from other sources should be put in quotation marks with proper references or acknowledgments. Changing a few words and patching the text with some new phrases does not excuse the author from citing the original source. There is no set rule as to how much textual matter can be copied from an article, but less than 20% is often ignored by the editorial board of major international journals. That does not mean that you can copy 20% from 5 articles to create 100% of a “new” article. Editors consider the length of the article, the nature of the source, the distribution of the quoted text, how much is quoted, and whether it is properly referenced before deciding to forward the article for review.

A typical example of plagiarism in a dental journal can be observed in the case of a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who resigned after being accused of this act. A large portion of an article in the Journal of the California Dental Association had already been published in the Journal of Periodontology . After the allegation was proved, the journal editor retracted the article immediately from its online archive and began work on formal retraction with a statement printed in the next issue giving due credit to the original source.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Dental Association on infection control protocols was retracted because of a flawed disclosure. The study followed the protocol used in a previous study without giving proper reference to the original source. Because critical information about the article was not disclosed to the journal before publication, the editorial board retracted the article with a written note in the journal, and the article was removed from its online archive.

In 1993, Rogers defined recommendations to avoid plagiarism: (1) use quotation marks around words taken verbatim from a source, (2) change no part of a quotation in the context of a sentence, (3) use single quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation, (4) use ellipsis (3 periods with a space before, between, and after them) for a part of a quotation omitted, (5) use brackets around words added to the quotation, (6) limit the use of direct quotes, and (7) attempt to paraphrase or summarize the information derived from a variety of sources in one’s own words.

In scientific literature, the written matter must be authentic. We always rely on previous literature to generate ideas and to obtain a current research focus. But we must ensure that we improve on the earlier work, giving due credit to the original research ideas in the citations. We must make sure that the manuscript we produce contains novel ideas as well as new material, and we must strive to follow Modern Language Association or American Psychological Association formats, which are considered the standards for writing about scientific research.

Findings reported in United States journal proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that of 2047 retracted articles, three fourths of the retractions for fraud or suspected fraud were by researchers in the United States, Germany, and Japan, but India and China accounted for most of the retractions for plagiarism or duplication. In the United States, the Office of Research Integrity in Rockville, Md, which monitors the scientific literature for plagiarism, has cleaned up the research arena to a large extent.

It is a matter of shame if one is caught copying from other sources, and it is considered similar to stealing. All scientific writers should make sure that they and their coauthors follow the code of conduct and maintain their credibility while writing their research findings according to ethical standards. This will help to make a properly hygienic scientific data base.

Plagiarism

According to Editage (Cactus Communications, Philadelphia, Pa), plagiarism is attempting to use the ideas, words, or work of another person without giving due credit, and it is considered extremely unethical. Because of unprecedented growth in the numbers of both researchers and scientific publishers, there are prolific increases in articles that rely on plagiarism. There are 5 basic types of plagiarism: copy and paste, word switch, style plagiarism, metaphor, and idea plagiarism. Any text or data from other sources should be put in quotation marks with proper references or acknowledgments. Changing a few words and patching the text with some new phrases does not excuse the author from citing the original source. There is no set rule as to how much textual matter can be copied from an article, but less than 20% is often ignored by the editorial board of major international journals. That does not mean that you can copy 20% from 5 articles to create 100% of a “new” article. Editors consider the length of the article, the nature of the source, the distribution of the quoted text, how much is quoted, and whether it is properly referenced before deciding to forward the article for review.

A typical example of plagiarism in a dental journal can be observed in the case of a professor at the University of California at Los Angeles who resigned after being accused of this act. A large portion of an article in the Journal of the California Dental Association had already been published in the Journal of Periodontology . After the allegation was proved, the journal editor retracted the article immediately from its online archive and began work on formal retraction with a statement printed in the next issue giving due credit to the original source.

A recent article in the Journal of the American Dental Association on infection control protocols was retracted because of a flawed disclosure. The study followed the protocol used in a previous study without giving proper reference to the original source. Because critical information about the article was not disclosed to the journal before publication, the editorial board retracted the article with a written note in the journal, and the article was removed from its online archive.

In 1993, Rogers defined recommendations to avoid plagiarism: (1) use quotation marks around words taken verbatim from a source, (2) change no part of a quotation in the context of a sentence, (3) use single quotation marks for a quotation within a quotation, (4) use ellipsis (3 periods with a space before, between, and after them) for a part of a quotation omitted, (5) use brackets around words added to the quotation, (6) limit the use of direct quotes, and (7) attempt to paraphrase or summarize the information derived from a variety of sources in one’s own words.

In scientific literature, the written matter must be authentic. We always rely on previous literature to generate ideas and to obtain a current research focus. But we must ensure that we improve on the earlier work, giving due credit to the original research ideas in the citations. We must make sure that the manuscript we produce contains novel ideas as well as new material, and we must strive to follow Modern Language Association or American Psychological Association formats, which are considered the standards for writing about scientific research.

Findings reported in United States journal proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed that of 2047 retracted articles, three fourths of the retractions for fraud or suspected fraud were by researchers in the United States, Germany, and Japan, but India and China accounted for most of the retractions for plagiarism or duplication. In the United States, the Office of Research Integrity in Rockville, Md, which monitors the scientific literature for plagiarism, has cleaned up the research arena to a large extent.

It is a matter of shame if one is caught copying from other sources, and it is considered similar to stealing. All scientific writers should make sure that they and their coauthors follow the code of conduct and maintain their credibility while writing their research findings according to ethical standards. This will help to make a properly hygienic scientific data base.

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Apr 7, 2017 | Posted by in Orthodontics | Comments Off on Etiquette in scientific publishing
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