What to do if you suspect plagiarism?
Case text (Anonymised)
This is regarding a case of suspected plagiarism in our journal. I as editor have received a manuscript which was published by me in our January 2006 issue and on subsequent follow up after availability of plagiarism detection software the manuscript - a review article - seems to have a lot of similarities to another article written in a website and though the language is not the same -the flow of the article and the subheadings and the text is too similar.It was pointed out to me by my associate editor.There have been no complains yet but does that mean one should not investigate?Is the editor entitled to conduct investigations without complaints.Can plagiarism detection software be applied retrospectively?What action can be taken if only ideas are copied in the same sequence though the article is not copied verbatim.The photographs seem to be same but captions different.Should this be investigated further?How?
The committee agreed that plagiarism detection software can be applied retrospectively. Even if the editor has not received a complaint, plagiarism is serious misconduct and should be investigated. The fact that the illustrations were the same could raise issues of copyright. The advice was to contact the author in the first instance, requesting an explanation. The letter should set out the case but not make any allegations. The author should be given a time limit in which to respond. If no reply or an unsatisfactory reply is received, the editor should inform the author that he will contact the author’s registration body. If the editor decides to contact the author’s registration body, he should include the two papers, express his concerns and request an investigation. If plagiarism is proved, the editor can then decide to retract the paper. Other advice was to inform the website of the situation to determine if there has been a breach of copyright.