Australasian Science: Australia's authority on science since 1938

Appropriate Behaviour?

By Stephen Moston

Plagiarism by academic reviewers is hard to prove, and even harder to punish.

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Most academics will be familiar with the processes for dealing with a case of suspected plagiarism by a student. The plagiarism is typically flagged by software such as Turnitin or SafeAssign. The lecturer can then view the submission, with passages containing suspected plagiarism highlighted with links to original sources. Often the plagiarism is an innocent mistake. Blatant cheating is rare.

Given this limited exposure, it comes as quite a shock when you suspect that your own work has been plagiarised by another academic. My own experience here might be informative.

About 2 years ago I first submitted a paper (written with two colleagues) to a journal (Journal A), where it was rejected. The same story repeated at Journals B and C. That process took a year. As I prepared to submit to journal D, I spotted a new paper at that journal in an “early view” version that bore a striking resemblance to my own paper. The logic, style and facts all matched. It looked very much like our own work had been plagiarised, or to use the term preferred by journals: “appropriated”.

The most likely source of the plagiarism: one (or more) of the authors of the new paper had reviewed an earlier version of our manuscript, and incorporated the ideas directly into their own work.

I first contacted the editor of Journal D, who promised to give the matter their full...

The full text of this article can be purchased from Informit.