A common issue encountered by editors is overlap of text with an author’s own previously published work, particularly with the increasing use of plagiarism detection software. This practice is known as ‘text recycling’ (also sometimes referred to as ‘self-plagiarism’). Opinions on the acceptability of text recycling vary greatly and it can be a challenge for editors to know how to deal with it once it has been identified.
In response to this uncertainty, the Biology and Medical Editors at BioMed Central, in collaboration with COPE, have developed a set of guidelines to help editors handle cases of text recycling. During the development of these guidelines, a wide range of viewpoints were sought from Editors from a variety of fields, including discussion at a COPE forum (http://publicationethics.org/text-recycling-guidelines).
The guidelines cover how to deal with text recycling both in a submitted manuscript and a published article and include situations where text recycling may be acceptable as well as those where it is unlikely to be. For example, it may be entirely appropriate to have overlap in a methods section of a research article (referring to a previously used method) with citation of the original article. However, undisclosed overlap, or overlap in the results, discussion, or conclusions is unlikely to be acceptable.
While individuals will naturally have different views on the acceptability of text recycling, the aim of these guidelines is to provide a summary of the key points for editors to consider when handling particular cases of text recycling.
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12 December 2019