Nature Photonics on combating plagiarism

In its May Editorial, Nature Photonics (3, 237; 2009) describes some of the ways in which the Nature journals combat scientific misconduct and practices such as ‘guest’ authorship. Part of the Editorial concerns plagiarism:

“Many forms of plagiarism exist, but the goal is generally the same — to garner false or undue credit. Plagiarism sometimes involves reuse of another author’s published work, but it is commonly thought that the most typical tool of the plagiarist is self-plagiarism: the reuse of substantial parts of an author’s own published work, particularly without appropriate referencing, and less commonly, duplicate publication, in which the results are recycled in their entirety.

The peer-review process provides a net for catching offenders, but it cannot provide a fail-safe barrier. As a result, Nature Photonics is now starting to use the plagiarism-detection software ”">CrossCheck, which makes comparative checks between provided manuscripts and those previously published and in an existing database. Any manuscript that seems to show an abnormally high match will be immediately investigated. Unfortunately, plagiarism can also occur without verbatim duplication of words or data. And it is here that the lines between normal and acceptable activity and plagiarism become smeared, and the likelihood of detection and punitive repercussions is diminished.

Using another researcher’s arguments and logic, even if the text is not identical, without due reference is intellectual plagiarism. This type of plagiarism can be subtle and as simple as not including a reference to a highly relevant previous paper. Citation-related plagiarism, whether it is intentional, or due to gross negligence, can give an untruthful impression of precedence, reassigning credit from the original discoverer to another person.

When reporting scientific messages, it is an author’s responsibility to find and acknowledge the critically relevant literature, or at least to have endeavoured to do so with rigour. Failing this can result in falsely apportioned claims, albeit caused by negligence.

If plagiarism is suspected in research results published by us, it is our policy to conduct an immediate investigation and if deemed appropriate to contact the author’s institute and funding agencies and consider a formal retraction of the paper. Although it is often the first authors who have historically borne the brunt of confirmed misconduct allegations, our editorial policies highlight the serious responsibilities of all coauthors: “submission to a Nature journal is taken by the journal to mean that all the listed authors have agreed to the content”. It is unreasonable to expect each author to be responsible for every aspect of the paper, but it is the responsibility of the corresponding author to manage the understanding that all authors are expected to have made reasonable attempts to check the findings submitted to a journal for publication."

The full text of this Nature Photonics Editorial.

Nature Photonics guide to authors.

About the Nature Photonics editors.

Nature journals policy on plagiarism.

Nature journals policy on authorship.


  1. Report this comment

    Norman Price said:

    “Many form of plagiarism exist” but they are all hurtful to the person plagiarized. A colleague once gave an interview to a professional journal in which she omitted to mention the twelve years she had worked in my practice, and then proceeded to relate my professional experiences as her own.

Comments are closed.