From The Embassy of Good Science


What is this about?

Self-plagiarism is the practice of reusing significant parts of one’s own publication in another publication. Self-plagiarism is also known as duplicate (or multiple) publishing. Keep in mind that self-plagiarism is different from duplicate submission. [1]

  1. Thurman RH, Chervenak FA, McCullough LB, Halwani S, Farine D. Self-plagiarism: a misnomer. Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2016;214(1):91-3.

Why is this important?

Self-plagiarism is an issue because it means already published data is presented as new, which can distort meta-analyses and impact review articles. Not only that, duplicate publishing can have serious effects on algorithms and guidelines in healthcare. Self-plagiarism gives false results in citation index tools. It’s unfair and at its core, it’s basically double dipping - for one piece of work you get multiple publications. Another problem is the copyright issue. When you publish your work, you usually sign a contract with the journal, by which you transfer copyright rights to the publisher. That way, when you copy your own work, you are stealing not only from yourself, but from the publisher as well, and actually breaking the law.

For whom is this important?

What are the best practices?

Different fields take different stances in regard to self-plagiarism. For example, legal research has a lot more tolerance for reuse of one's work than biomedical science. In 1969, the scientific journal the “New England Journal of Medicine” announced they would no longer publish already published work. This is called Ingelfinger rule and became a norm for high quality scientific journals. [1]Because of the rise of preprint servers (such as arXiv), journals now tend to loosen that policy. Secondary publications are a different issue, as they clearly state that work has been previously published. They are produced with a goal of reaching a bigger (and sometimes different) audience, often through translations to different languages.

Keep in mind that a lot of scientific journals use computer software to check if your text is similar to anything already published. The majority of software works through screening available online databases for similarities. [2]

  1. Altman LK. The Ingelfinger rule, embargoes, and journal peer review--Part 1. Lancet. 1996;347(9012):1382-6.
  2. Errami M, Sun Z, Long TC, George AC, Garner HR. Deja vu: a database of highly similar citations in the scientific literature. Nucleic Acids Res. 2009;37(Database issue

Other information

Virtues & Values
Good Practices & Misconduct