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Opinions on Inside Higher Ed

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For authors seeking guidance on how to reuse their previously published material appropriately, resources are limited — and problematic, argue Cary Moskovitz and Aaron Colton. ilyast/digitalvision vectors/getty images

Last year, the Office of Scientific Integrity at our institution, Duke University, held a town hall meeting on plagiarism. It began with an overview that included material on self-plagiarism: the reuse of an author’s previously published material. A dean from the graduate school then spoke about the plagiarism-detection platform iThenticate , which compares submitted papers against published papers and identifies passages that are identical or nearly so. Many scientific journals and major granting agencies, we were told, are also using iThenticate. Now that Duke had adopted the software, those in attendance were encouraged to use it to check their manuscripts and grants for plagiarism and self-plagiarism prior to submission.

To humanities scholars, this situation might seem nonsensical; you wouldn’t need a computer to tell you if you’d plagiarized another writer or inappropriately reused your own material. But the situation is different in science, technology, engineering and mathematics fields. One difference is that research progresses in incremental steps through multiple closely related publications. While publishers expect each paper to offer a novel and substantive […]

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