Reusing one’s previously published work without alerting the reader of its prior publication constitutes self-plagiarism and it is a practice that is strictly forbidden by most scientific and scholarly journals. There are circumstances that may justify the publication of an entire article or of portions of an article that had been previously published in another journal. Guidance on these matters is readily available and specifies the conditions under which secondary publication can take place. However, the mission of most scholarly journals is to publish original research. With some exceptions (e.g., translation into another language), few journals seem willing to grant the right to publish their material elsewhere or exercise the option to publish an article that had been previously published in another periodical. One area of contention for which little guidance is available is the practice of reusing verbatim portions of text from authors’ previously published articles. I argue that such a practice should be avoided because it is not consistent with the high standards expected of scholars and scientists.
SCIENTISTS AS SCHRODINGER’S CAT: REPLAY TO ROIG’S “THE DEBATE ON SELF-PLAGIARISM: INQUISITIONAL SCIENCE OR HIGH STANDARDS OF SCHOLARSHIP?”
In which self-plagiarism is concerned, considering the current state in the field, there are only two ways to go. The first way to go is to agree upon three minimal criteria for ethical writing (1. a new publication based on an old one is intended to target a new audience; 2. copyright laws are respected; and 3. it is made clear to the reader and in the author’s CVs that the new paper reproduces old ones or parts of them) and to follow them in order to allow for the full expression of the humanistic spirit of science (i.e., disseminating knowledge produced to solve various problems). The second way to go is to elaborate clear rules and guidelines to avoid self-plagiarism, endorsed by all the major actors in the field; from that point on self-plagiarism can be considered misconduct. However, these rules cannot be applied retrospectively, to a time when they did not exist and/or were not lawful. All things considered, the current state of the field is unfair for scientists! As there are no clear lawful regulations regarding self-plagiarism, most scientists are like Schrodinger’s cats, neither guilty nor not-guilty! It depends on who, on how, and on if someone is looking…!
The rules regarding the various forms of self-plagiarism, as well as those that apply to other areas of responsible research conduct could always benefit from further clarification. However, it may not be possible to formulate guidance that covers every possible scenario. An ethically mindful attitude toward full disclosure and transparency in scientific research and publication may be more useful than the formulation of additional guidance.