All scientists working on an experimental research study have to refer to the discoveries and findings of previous studies. In the current methodology of manuscript development, it is imperative to cite and quote the findings of previous studies that are being utilized for developing new hypothesis and experimental study design in a manuscript. The authors have to follow the rules and regulations set forth by the publication ethics of the scientific community.
The scope of plagiarism in a manuscript
According to the journal publisher Elsevier, plagiarism may occur in different forms during the process of manuscript development: i) an author may not cite another’s paper and may claim it to be his or her own work, and ii) an author may completely copy another person’s work either in sentences or paragraph format but may not cite the work of these authors in their own paper. All such kinds of behaviors do not comply with the ethical standards of publication, accounting for academic misconduct.
Detection of plagiarism
There are many sophisticated software developed and used by scientific publishers to detect plagiarism in a manuscript. If the plagiarism is substantive, that is, more than 25% of the paper is highlighted as complete replica of other published papers, the manuscript would be considered as useless and unethical. Such a manuscript would be dismissed immediately by the publisher and punitive action would be taken against the author by informing the academic institution to which the research is affiliated. COPE has given a clear flowchart to tackle such dubious manuscripts.
Ways to tackle plagiarism: Instructions to authors
Authors must comply with the reference citation guidelines of various journals before submitting the manuscript for review. They must also cite the theories and ideas presented in conferences and discussions, besides the standard manuscripts. The bibliographic information of all reference studies must be presented separately below the main part of the manuscript. Every reference study cited in the manuscript must also be enlisted in the bibliographical presentation at the end of the manuscript.
If the author has copied more than six words in a sentence word-by-word from another paper, then such content must be presented within quotation marks. In case the author wishes to reproduce copyrighted graphics and text from another paper, then it is mandatory that the author obtains requisite permission or no-objection certificate from the publishers and authors, respectively. One of the best ways to determine plagiarism issues before submitting to the journal is by uploading the manuscript in plagiarism detection softwares, such as iThenticate or CrossCheck.
Citing and quoting previous works to avoid plagiarism issues
When an author includes the wordings of a previous study word-by-word, then the easiest way to bypass plagiarism issues is to include these words of previous studies in “quotes”. Moreover, the readers of the manuscript must be able to understand what is original content and what exactly is obtained from previous studies. Nevertheless, given the pressure on researchers to “publish or perish,” issues such as quality and plagiarism are often sidelined.
Copyright laws are not complied by the authors when they make minor changes to their own work and republish them in multiple journals; this kind of manipulation is known as self-plagiarism. Moreover, plagiarism is not just restricted to the word-by-word copying of text of previously published manuscripts, it also includes blind copying of important illustrations, such as figures and tables, in the paper. The graphics of the same author should never be copied from the previous paper without citing them correctly.
Standards of good laboratory practice and scientific communications
The research studies are strictly monitored for their innovative study design and quality by the various scientific and academic institutions present all over the world. These institutions of research and higher education comply with the standards laid down by Good Scientific Practice (GSP) and Good Laboratory Practice (GLP).
Academic integrity of budding researchers can be maintained by these academic institutions if they monitor the research grants and experimental study design to ascertain whether the codes of GSP have been complied strictly. Human health has now become a hot topic of contemplation given the results cited from reliable sources of evidence-based medicine.
To tackle the seething problem of academic irregularities, including plagiarism and non-adherence to publication ethics, the federal agency termed the Office of Research Integrity (OR) was first set up in the USA in 1992. Among the various steps taken by the agency to tackle academic misconduct, an investigation to tackle various issues of plagiarism in manuscripts of scientific research has been the top-most priority. The primary objective of this body was to educate the science editors in monitoring and restoring academic integrity amidst various cases of scientific misconduct.
Following the US government’s decision, the UK government also launched another regulatory body termed Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) in 1997. This body clearly defined the principles of fairness in manuscript evaluation and publication. It also suggested ways to tackle academic plagiarism and misconduct through a novel flowchart.