Academic Journals In Russia Retract Over 800 Papers Because Of Plagiarism, Self-Plagiarism And 'Gift Authorship'

from the what-price-scholarly-integrity? dept

Academic publishing hardly covers itself in glory, as Techdirt has reported over the years. It takes advantage of researchers’ belief that they need to publish in so-called “high impact” titles for the sake of their careers, in order to pay nothing for the material they provide. Since articles are reviewed by other academics — for free — profit margins are extremely good: around 30-40%. In order to retain these unusually high levels, the industry does everything in its power to undermine and subvert cheaper alternatives like open access, and often takes a heavy-handed approach to the enforcement of “its” copyright — even against the original author. Given this dismal industry background, it will come as no surprise to learn from Science magazine that Russian academic publishing has its own problems, fueled by the bad behavior of authors:

Academic journals in Russia are retracting more than 800 papers following a probe into unethical publication practices by a commission appointed by the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAS). The moves come in the wake of several other queries suggesting the vast Russian scientific literature is riddled with plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and so-called gift authorship, in which academics become a co-author without having contributed any work.

The article mentions the findings of Antiplagiat, a plagiarism detection company. Antiplagiat looked at over four million academic articles published in the Russian language, and found that more than 70,000 were published at least twice. Some were reused 17 times. That’s an impressively efficient re-cycling of material once it has been written, and saves people the bother of writing new papers, while racking up citations that look good on a CV.

The practice of what is known as “gift authorship” is arguably even more convenient for lazy academics. It involves selling slots on papers already written by other authors that have been accepted by a journal. No work or connection with the research is required. Instead, a site like 123mi.ru acts as a matchmaker between authors willing to sell slots on their articles, and those willing to pay for them. Prices range from around $500 to $3000 per author slot, depending on the subject matter and the journal — although the latter is only revealed after the slot has been paid for. Some articles allow up to five authors slots to be bought in this way.

Academic publishing in Russia clearly has some serious problems, which undermine its value as a measure of scholarly achievement. Sadly, the same could be said about academic publishing in the West, albeit for different reasons.

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Comments on “Academic Journals In Russia Retract Over 800 Papers Because Of Plagiarism, Self-Plagiarism And 'Gift Authorship'”

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23 Comments
Anon says:

Are you surprised?

Scientific attribution has a fun history going bac decades. Remeber that in the 1920’s Banting and Best proved that insulin could be isolated and used to control diabetes, saving the lives of millions. For this they awarded a Nobel Prize to… Banting and MacLeod. Because of course MacLeod headed the lab that Banting worked in so claimed a share of the glory he did not participate in – other than providing lab space and telling Banting the idea likely would not work. MacLeod also did not feel appropriate that a Nobel Prize should go to a mere graduate student like Best.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Are you surprised?

The "self-plagiarism" thing is surprising. I can understand plagiarism of others, but repeating one’s own work seems too easily detectable. Are the people hiring these authors just going by the raw count without even a cursory inspection of the papers? (Would paywalling maybe stand in the way of that?)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Are you surprised?

Self-plagiarism is an oxymoron.

"pla·gia·rism
noun
the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own."

Adding the prefix "self" to "plagiarism" should negate the "someone else" in "plagiarism"’s definition and therefore render the entire idea pointless as it’s definition would be:

"self-plagiarism
noun
the practice of taking one’s own work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own."

Imagine having to attribute yourself in every conversation. You’d never finish one due to the ever expanding list of references.

I guess in this world of "every idea must be owned", even those who "own" can’t escape the burden of proof. What’s next? Blockchain for every statement uttered ever? Massive penalties for infringing yourself? Who gets paid? You in the past? Or the idiots who made this mess? Lunacy.

bhull242 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Are you surprised?

Honestly, I think the reason people dislike so-called “self-plagiarism” is that it artificially inflates the stats often used to judge a researcher’s prestige, experience, and credibility without the researcher actually contributing anything new.

The term, though, is bad. “Duplicative submissions” would be better in my opinion.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Are you surprised?

I think the reason people dislike so-called “self-plagiarism” is that it artificially inflates the stats often used to judge a researcher’s prestige, experience, and credibility

But that’s ridiculous. If someone chooses who to hire based on which person’s paper-count is larger, who are they to complain about the "self-plagiarizers" being lazy?

DNY (profile) says:

Re: Re:

"Self-plagiarism" is an absolutely absurd notion if one regards what is being stolen by a plagiarist as ideas or wording. What is really being stolen by the plagiarist is credit for originating the idea or wording. (cf. Copying is not theft. My using an idea or turn of phrase does not deprive anyone else of its use.)

Even with a correct understanding of plagiarism "self-plagiarism" is a ridiculous notion except in the context of the academic "publish or perish" environment, where it represents "double-dipping" trying to get credit for the same work twice when coming up for promotion or tenure or (an vanishingly rare event anymore) a merit raise.

urza9814 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

Is it really that different though? Is it really that bad?

It’s not the biggest problem in the world, but there are certainly many cases where what is essentially the same study is done multiple times simply because the first results were published a while back, not heavily cited, and weren’t found by the authors of the new study. By re-publishing these studies, you might prevent that kind of duplicated effort. If it’s still being cited, then it’s still useful to somebody. As long as one study doesn’t cite another multiple times (by citing those duplicate publications), that seems perfectly fine to me. Not the best way of handling the problem, but not the worst either.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Even with a correct understanding of plagiarism "self-plagiarism" is a ridiculous notion except in the context of the academic "publish or perish" environment, where it represents "double-dipping" trying to get credit for the same work twice

But "same work" is so poorly defined. It’s often really easy to split one large paper into ten smaller ones, if a person were so inclined. People shouldn’t be hired or promoted based on raw, easily-manipulated numbers—that’s as dumb as promoting whoever works the most hours or sends the most email. Someone who’s familiar with the domain needs to take an actual look at the work.

bobob says:

That’s certainly worse and more blatant than in the US, but the "publish or perish" paradigm does provide incentive for researchers to take what would be 1 decent paper and stretch it into several. Authors get added who may have only been on the periphery, but didn’t really contribute. If one small subgroup of a larger research group publishes a paper, the entire research group appears in the author list. There are papers in high energy physics with literally over 1000 authors. The Russians just apparently decided to capitalize on the subjectivity of who to include.

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