Key Takeaways:

  • Duplicate publication is a type of violation where an author republishes the same research in multiple journals without sufficient credit to the original source. This can lead to misleading readers and diluting the scientific contribution.
  • Journal editors play a crucial role in preventing plagiarism in scientific journals by ensuring that each journal article is thoroughly checked for originality and that any potential duplicate publications are flagged and investigated.
  • It is essential to cite the original source when referencing previously published work. This practice helps maintain the integrity of the original publication and provides sufficient credit to the original authors.
  • Junior researchers must be particularly vigilant about avoiding plagiarism, as they might be less familiar with the norms of citing unpublished ideas and ensuring that their work is distinct from their previous research or other existing publications.
  • In basic science, the contribution of original articles is fundamental to advancing knowledge. Ensuring that every article title reflects genuinely new findings and that all sources, including unpublished ideas, are properly cited, is critical to maintaining the quality and trustworthiness of scientific literature.

Plagiarism is a significant ethical issue in the realm of scientific research and publishing. As the backbone of scholarly communication, scientific journals are held to high standards of scientific integrity and originality. However, the growing pressure to publish and the ease of access to information have led to an increase in plagiarism cases.

This article looks into the nature of plagiarism in scientific journals, its spectrum, tolerance levels, notable cases, consequences, detection methods, and strategies to avoid it.

What is Plagiarism in Scientific Journals?

Plagiarism in scientific journals refers to the unauthorised use or close imitation of another author’s work, ideas, or expressions without proper attribution. This can occur in various forms, including copying text verbatim, paraphrasing without adequate credit, or presenting another’s ideas as one’s own.

In the scientific community, where credibility and originality are paramount, such acts can severely undermine the trustworthiness of published research.

Spectrum of Plagiarism in Scientific Journals

Several common types of plagiarism in scientific publications are as follows:

  • Direct Plagiarism: The word-for-word transcription of a section of someone else’s work without attribution and without quotation marks.
  • Self-Plagiarism: When authors reuse their previously published work in a new manuscript without citing the original source.
  • Mosaic Plagiarism: Also known as patchwriting, this involves borrowing phrases from a source without using quotation marks or finding synonyms for the author’s language while keeping to the same general structure and meaning of the original text.
  • Accidental Plagiarism: Occurs when authors unintentionally fail to cite their sources or misquote them due to carelessness or lack of knowledge.
  • Paraphrasing Plagiarism: Rewriting another’s work in one’s own words without proper citation.

How Much Plagiarism is Tolerated in Scientific Journals?

The tolerance for plagiarism in scientific journals is generally very low. Most reputable journals have strict policies against any form of plagiarism and employ plagiarism detection software to ensure the originality of submissions.

Some journals may tolerate a minimal amount of overlap or similarity, often quantified by a percentage (e.g., less than 10-15%), especially if it includes common phrases or standard terminology. However, even this small tolerance requires proper citation and attribution.

Cases of Plagiarism in the Field of Science or Research

Numerous high-profile cases have highlighted the issue of plagiarism in scientific research. For example:

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Plagiarism and Scientific Misconduct by IITs

By the end of 2010, three of the country’s most prominent and elite institutions of higher learning, the Indian Institutes of Technology, had also gained notoriety for allegedly unethical and scientific misconduct.

Professor of physics at IIT Kharagpur R.N.P. Choudhary was removed from his role as head of department after Dr. A.K. Thakur, a junior faculty member, accused him of not giving him credit for his research.

Nuclear Instruments and Methods in Physics Research Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms retracted a notice of IIT Delhi in its January 2010 issue, accusing Dr. Anup K Ghosh, an IIT Delhi faculty member, and others of engaging in plagiarism. This time, almost a year later, the journal Biotechnology Advances accused Prof.

Ashok Kumar of the Bioscience and Bioengineering school of IIT Kanpur of plagiarism, leading him to retract two of his articles.

Sanjeeb Kumar, MD Sahoo Dispute

plagiarism cases in science

At the Institute of Life Sciences, an independent institute under the Department of Biotechnology, Government of India, in Bhubaneswar, India, Dr. S.K. Sahoo works as a scientist studying nanotechnology and its application to cancer medication delivery.

Serious doubts have been raised regarding the veracity of the information provided in numerous articles that he has written.

Acta Biomaterialia, a journal, published in June 2013 that Dr. S.K. Sahoo had five research articles retracted for highly unethical reasons, including data manipulation, results falsification, and serial self-plagiarism.

Dr. Paul McCrory’s Publication Case

In 2022, Dr. Paul McCrory, a neurologist at Melbourne, Australia’s Florey Institute of Neuroscience & Mental Health, faced accusations of plagiarism in over twenty of his writings for scientific journals.

A well-known figure in international teams creating protocols and treatments for chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), a brain injury linked to professional sports like boxing and football, was Dr. McCrory. (Dr. McCrory generally downplayed the risk that CTE poses to the majority of athletes.)

This website, which can be accessed by clicking the link below, identified ten instances of plagiarism in Dr. McCrory’s work.

In six of the ten instances of self-plagiarism in that paper, Dr. McCrory merely repeated content that he had already published somewhere else. Despite this, it was still regarded as professional misconduct. Dr. McCrory was the head of the Concussions in Sports Group (CISG) until his disgraceful resignation in 2022.

In the same year, McCrory’s nine articles as editor-in-chief of the British Journal of Sports Medicine (BJSM), where he had served as editor-in-chief until 2008, were retracted due to instances of plagiarism, including self-plagiarism.

In addition, the BJSM included “expressions of concern” to 38 other articles that McCrory had published there, expressing misgivings about the articles’ calibre of writing. Neither professional sports organisations nor journalists regard Dr. McCrory as a CTE expert anymore.

Consequences of Plagiarism in Journals of Science

The consequences of plagiarism in online journals of science can be severe and multifaceted, including:

  • Retraction of Published Papers: Plagiarised papers are often retracted, leading to a loss of credibility for the authors involved.
  • Damage to Reputation: Researchers found guilty of scientific plagiarism can suffer significant damage to their professional reputations, making it difficult to secure funding, collaborate with other scientists, or find future employment.
  • Legal Repercussions: In some cases, it can lead to legal action, especially if it involves intellectual property theft.
  • Academic Sanctions: Institutions may impose penalties on scientific researchers found guilty of any forms of plagiarism, including suspension, dismissal, or revocation of degrees.
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How is Plagiarised Writing Detected in Science?

Detection of plagiarism in scientific writing has become increasingly sophisticated with the advent of digital tools. Journals often use plagiarism detection software such as Bytescare, Turnitin, and Grammarly to scan manuscripts for relevant similarities with existing scientific literature.

These tools compare submitted texts against vast databases of published works and online content, highlighting potential matches and providing similarity reports. Additionally, peer reviewers play a crucial role in identifying the occurrence of plagiarism during the manuscript review process.

How to Avoid Plagiarism in Science?

avoid plagiarism in science

To avoid plagiarism, researchers should:

Give Due Credit to All Sources

Academic integrity is based on proper citation. You must properly cite other researchers’ work whenever you use their work as a source. The preferred reference styles for many disciplines and journals are APA, MLA, Chicago, and Vancouver. Following these formats guarantees standardised and understandable references.

For instance, If you are referencing a study on the effects of climate change, you should include in-text citations like (Smith, 2020) and a full reference in your bibliography.

J. Smith (2020). the effect of changing climate on world temperatures. 567–589 in Journal of Environmental Studies, 35(4).

When quoting directly, use quotation marks.

Always put the words you use directly from another source inside quotation marks and include a citation. This sets your words apart from those of the original author.

For instance, If quoting a passage from a book, you might write:

According to Brown (2019), “climate change has a profound impact on biodiversity, leading to the extinction of numerous species” (p. 45).

Effective Paraphrasing

Rewriting another author’s thoughts in your own terms is known as paraphrasing. But it goes beyond simply altering a few words here and there. To effectively paraphrase, you must comprehend the source material in its entirety, rephrase the ideas, and properly credit your sources.

For instance:

Original text: “The rapid increase in atmospheric CO2 levels is the primary driver of recent climate changes.”

To paraphrase, the dramatic increase in CO2 levels in the atmosphere is primarily responsible for the recent changes in climate (author, year).

Take Careful Notes

Make sure you take thorough notes on every source you consult when conducting your research. Include a bibliography and a summary of the main ideas. Maintaining a record of the sources of each piece of information you come across will help you attribute ideas more precisely.

For instance:

While researching, you might note: “Jones (2017) discusses the impact of deforestation on carbon levels – Journal of Environmental Science, Vol 23, pp. 123-130.”

Employ Software to Identify Plagiarism

Bytescare, and Grammarly are just a few examples of plagiarism detection software that can assist you in identifying inadvertent plagiarism by comparing your work to a large literature database.

With the help of these tools, you can edit or properly cite passages that are too similar to previously published works before submitting them.

Example: Use a plagiarism detector on your manuscript before submitting it. If the programme indicates that a sentence might be plagiarised, edit it or include the appropriate citation.

Recognise and Adhere to Journal Guidelines

Regarding plagiarism, each magazine has its own set of requirements for authors. Learn about these guidelines, which may involve the usage of supplemental information, proper citation techniques, and acceptable degrees of similarity.

For instance, a journal may stipulate that quotes should not take up more than 10% of the text. Before submitting, check that your manuscript complies with this by examining and making the necessary revisions.

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Create Original Concepts

Make an effort to add fresh viewpoints or ideas to your field of study. Plagiarism is less likely when there is original research, critical analysis, and original interpretations. You can reduce your dependency on pre-existing books by concentrating on your own concepts and discoveries.

Example: To give original conclusions on climate change, carry out your own research or meta-analysis rather than just summarising previous studies. For example, use a new theoretical framework to examine data that already exists or analyse new data sets to draw new findings.

What’s Next?

In the digital age, maintaining the integrity of scientific research is more important than ever.

Journals, institutions, and researchers must work together to uphold ethical standards and combat plagiarism. For those looking to safeguard their work and ensure originality, consider using Bytescare’s advanced plagiarism detection tools.

Book a demo today to see how Bytescare plagiarism checker can help you maintain the highest standards of academic integrity.


How can unauthorised copying be identified in scientific research?

Unauthorised copying can be identified through plagiarism detection software, thorough peer reviews, and cross-referencing sources. These methods help to ensure that all borrowed material is properly cited and that the work is original.

What constitutes the misappropriation of intellectual property in academic writing?

Misappropriation of intellectual property includes copying text, ideas, data, or images from another author without proper attribution. It also involves presenting someone else’s research findings as your own without acknowledgment.

How can researchers avoid uncredited borrowing in their papers?

Researchers can avoid uncredited borrowing by meticulously citing all sources, using quotation marks for direct quotes, paraphrasing correctly, and keeping detailed records of all references and research materials used during their study.

What are the consequences of submitting a paper with unattributed use of another’s work?

The consequences can include retraction of the published paper, damage to the researcher’s reputation, loss of credibility, and potential legal action. It can also lead to the denial of future publication opportunities and academic penalties.

How does duplication of another’s research findings affect scientific integrity?

Duplication undermines scientific integrity by misleading readers about the originality and validity of the research. It distorts the academic record and can hinder scientific progress by perpetuating false or unverified information.

How important is it to maintain transparency in citing sources in scientific papers?

Maintaining transparency in citing sources is crucial for the credibility and integrity of scientific articles. It allows readers to verify the information, acknowledges the original authors, and supports the academic principle of building upon previous knowledge responsibly.

Can self-plagiarism be an issue in scientific publications?

Yes, self-plagiarism, or recycling one’s own previous work without citation, can be an issue. It misleads readers by presenting old material as new and original research. Proper citation of one’s own earlier works is essential to avoid this problem.