The reviewer of a paper contacted Journal A to point out that a significant proportion of a review paper, on occupational stress measures, was a near verbatim copy of a longer review in a journal of a different, though related, speciality. The editor of journal A confirmed this was the case. Not only were the descriptions of the measures lifted from the previous publication, but also comments about their usefulness, etc. The previous publication was referenced, but only for a small point, and the reference in no way indicated the wholesale reproduction of sections of the paper. The paper comes from a respected institution and the corresponding author is a highly regarded researcher. The first author, who presumably drafted the review, is on a research scholarship to the institution. It seems likely that the co-authors are unaware of the plagiarism by the first author. The editor of Journal A wrote to the corresponding author to point out the apparent plagiarism and to ask for an explanation. The corresponding author replied, apologising profusely for the error and saying that he would withdraw the paper for consideration while further investigations were made. He explained that the whole group was considered at fault for not checking the paper more thoroughly. The author, a graduate student from another country who had written most of the paper, may have found that the language barrier made summarising findings from other papers into his/her own words difficult. There was probably no deliberate intent to copy chunks of the text without acknowledgement as indeed reference was made to the source. If warranted, however, the corresponding author would take action regarding present and future submissions from this author. New procedures would also be put into place to prevent a recurrence of this unfortunate event. Finally, the corresponding author felt that a positive aspect of this incident was that it demonstrated the high calibre of the reviewers, and thanked them for doing such an excellent job. The editor was also thanked for seeking the corresponding author’s views on the matter.
_ Plagiarism can be “accidental. ” _ All authors should be willing to take responsibility for the first author’s writing. _ This case again demonstrates that all authors/contributors should take responsibility for the work.
The editor accepted the author’s reply as a satisfactory response and decided that no further action should be taken.