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September 10, 2010
Cut-and-Paste Your Way to Publication
The topic of plagiarism in scientific journals has come up here several times. In recent years, automated systems for checking similar blocks of text have become available, and a number of journals now run their submissions past such software.
The first journal in China to sign up for the most well-known of these (CrossCheck) is the Journal of Zhejiang University–Science. I'll freely admit that I'd never heard of it, not that I've heard of a lot of the Chinese-language journals. But I also have to take my hat off to them, both for using the plagiarism-detection service and especially for writing in to Nature with the results.
Since October 2008, they've found "unoriginal material" in 31% of all their submissions, a number they themselves call "staggering". (Here's an earlier report on their progress). The letter mentions some possible cultural problems, such as Chinese students traditionally being asked to copy things word-for-word from authorities, but I'd guess that there's plenty of the good old publish-or-perish at work here, too. At any rate, congratulations to them for publicizing such problems; that's the only way they'll ever get any better.
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