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Text Recycling Research Project: update March 2021

Aims of the Text Recycling Research Project

The Text Recycling Research Project (TRRP) is the first large-scale investigation of text recycling (often called “self-plagiarism”), a common practice in research writing. The TRRP has three major aims: to better understand the ethical, practical, and legal aspects of text recycling in STEM fields; to help build consensus among stakeholders; and to promote ethical and appropriate practice. Now in its fourth year, the multi-institution project is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and led by Cary Moskovitz of Duke University in Durham, NC, USA.

Text Recycling Research Project advisory board

The TRRP formed an Advisory Board in 2021 with representation from a broad range of relevant stakeholders. Board members are affiliated with Taylor & Francis, the British Medical Journal, Council of Scientific Editors, American Society of Civil Engineers, MIT Press, U.S. National Institutes of Health, COPE, ASAPbio, U.S. National Institutes of Environmental Health Sciences, American Chemical Society, Association of Research Integrity Officers, and Springer Nature.  Board members have participated in a number of focus group meetings in the past year, providing valuable feedback on drafts of educational materials and policies.

Recent publications

TRRP has published a number of research articles in the past year (all accessible via the TRRP website):

Self-Plagiarism, Fraud and iThenticate: A Complicated RelationshipInside Higher Ed,

Standardizing terminology for text recycling in research writing, Learned Publishing.

Text recycling in STEM: A text-analytic study of recent NSF-sponsored research reports, Accountability in Research.

Reuse in STEM Research Writing: Rhetorical and Practical Considerations and Challenges, AILA Review.

Text recycling in STEM research: An exploratory investigation of expert and novice beliefs and attitudes, Journal of Technical Writing and Communication.

Guidelines, policies and educational materials

The TRRP is currently developing a number of new documents, drawing on what we have learned from our research to date:

  • Author guidelines: This short document lays out fundamental principles and best practices for text recycling, with links to a more extensive document for those wanting a deeper understanding.
  • Educational documents: These will present relevant definitions, discuss why text recycling can be valuable in some situations but problematic or illegal in others, and explain why some commonly suggested alternatives to text recycling may not be appropriate in some contexts.
  • Model policies: Based on our extensive analysis of existing policies, this document will provide specific language (including some options) that publishers can adopt to create clear, useful text recycling policies. We hope that these models will (1) lead publishers to include some important issues that are often omitted, and (2) make text recycling policies more consistent (both among publishers and within a publisher’s own documents). 

Other work in progress

We are currently working on a pair of white papers on the legal aspects of text recycling: one on copyright law and one on contracts. We plan to draw on the research we are doing for these white papers to produce model language for addressing text recycling in author-publisher contracts.

Our recent paper in Accountability in Research investigated how STEM researchers actually recycle text. For that paper we analyzed a corpus of recent research articles produced under NSF grants ending in 2015. We have now extended that corpus to include grants ending in 2000, 2005, and 2005. This larger data set will allow us to investigate a number of interesting questions, including whether text recycling practices have changed over the past 20 years, as the use of plagiarism-detection software has become increasingly common.

Cary Moskovitz (Lead PI, TRRP), Duke University. Associate Professor of the Practice and Director of Writing in the Disciplines, Thompson Writing Program. 

Related resources

COPE's Text recycling guidelines for editors

Understanding text recycling, COPE webinar 2020 with speakers from the Text Recycling Research Project

Text Recycling Research Project, COPE European Seminar 2019, presentation with members of the Text Recycling Research Project