Is This Self-Plagiarism?

Getting back to our discussion of the newest paper by Stephan Lewandowsky and John Cook, I'd like to discuss something about the paper I have found troubling since day one. I didn't bring this up before because I wanted to contact the journal about it first. You see, the paper is titled:

The ‘Alice in Wonderland’ mechanics of the rejection of (climate) science: simulating coherence by conspiracism

I immediately recognized this title because it was similar to one I had seen before:

'Alice through the Looking Glass' mechanics: the rejection of (climate) science

This is the title for a media article Lewnandowsky published on October 23rd, 2015. Its text was copied nearly verbatim into the new paper. Today, I'd like to discuss whether or not that qualifies as self-plagiarism.

Before I go on, I feel I should give an example of what I am referring to. The paper's introduction begins:

Over the last 150 years, climate scientists have built an increasingly clear picture of how the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that arise from human economic activity are changing the Earth’s climate e.g., IPCC (2013). Current atmospheric CO2 levels are higher than at any time since at least 2.6 million years ago (Masson-Delmotte et al. 2013, Fig. 5.2), and the consensus position that global warming is happening, is human caused, and presents a global problem is shared by more than 95 % of domain experts and more than 95 % of relevant articles in the peer-reviewed literature (Anderegg et al. 2010; Cook et al. 2013, 2016; Doran and Zimmerman 2009; Oreskes 2004; Shwed and Bearman 2010).

This is taken from:

Over the last 50 years, climate scientists have built an increasingly clear picture of how the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that arise from human economic activity are changing the Earth’s climate. Current atmospheric CO2 levels are higher than at any time since at least a million years ago, and there is no notable scientific dissent from the consensus position that global warming is happening, is human caused, and presents a global problem.

I chose this example because aside from references being added, there are several changes to the text. "50 years" was changed to "150 years." "at least a million years ago" was changed to "at least 2.6 million years ago." Most importantly, while the "consensus position" was kept constant, an extra bit of text was added to say "95 % of domain experts and more than 95% of relevant articles in the peer-reviewed literature" agree with that consensus, a fabrication not backed up by any of the cited sources.

Interestingly, we can know this fabrication did not exist in a previous version of this paper. John Cook's PhD dissertation includes a copy of this paper which strangely is listed as both "published" and submitted." It is largely the same as the paper we have today, but there are a few changes. One can be seen in this text:

Over the last 150 years, climate scientists have built an increasingly clear picture of how the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions that arise from human economic activity are changing the Earth's climate (e.g., IPCC, 2013). Current atmospheric CO2 levels are higher than at any time since at least 2.6 millions ago (Masson-Delmotte et al. 2013, Fig. 5.2), and there is no notable scientific dissent from the consensus position that global warming is happening, is human caused, and presents a global problem (Anderegg et al. 2010; Cook et al. 2013, 2016; Doran and Zimmerman 2009; Oreskes 2004; Shwed and Bearman 2010).

The evolution in this text through these three versions is interesting. The first version states what the consensus position (supposedly) is and leaves it at that. The next version repeats the same text but adds the claim "there is no notable scientific dissent from" it. The final version removes that addition and replaces it with the fabricated claim "more than 95 % of domain experts and more than 95% of relevant articles in the peer-reviewed literature" endorse that position.

I won't cover any other examples of copied text in this post. There are plenty more, with most receiving fewer changes than in the example above. You should have no trouble spotting the copied text yourself if you compare the media article to the paper, but to make things easier, I've uploaded a document I made while taking notes which shows the paper with its the copied text side-by-side. What you'll find is well over 1500 words were copied, often verbatim.

I contacted the journal about this to ask what their guidelines on something like this are. I didn't file any complaint, and initially, I didn't even "name names" as I wasn't trying to start anything. I just wanted information. The response I got was somewhat helpful, with the editor telling me:

Synthese is a member of COPE and follows their guidelines: http://publicationethics.org/

When you go to the COPE website, you can find a document listing the standards for authors. Listed in it:

4.1 Authors should adhere to publication requirements that submitted work is
original and has not been published elsewhere in any language. Work should not be
submitted concurrently to more than one publication unless the editors have agreed to
co-publication. If articles are co-published this fact should be made clear to readers.

This would seem dispositive as the guideline says the submitted work must be original and not have "been published elsewhere." This guideline does not restrict itself to publications in scientific journals. It just says the work cannot have "been published elsewhere.

Things are not that simple though. The COPE website offers case studies where practical application and examination of rules can be considered. There are a number of relevant case studies, but one which stood out to me was one where:

n October 2014 it came to our attention via one of the reviewers of a manuscript submitted to our journal that an identical article (100% identical) had been previously published on the website of the author. The submitting author had not made us aware in their submission documentation that the article had been publicly available on their website at the point of submission. Two different but related issues arise from this.

Firstly, as it is the journal’s policy to conduct blind peer reviews of each submission received, it is impossible to uphold this policy where submissions already exist, as does the present one, in an identical form in the public domain. Secondly, there is an issue of self-plagiarism. In academic contexts, it is not permissible to re-use identical copy for multiple submissions, and would in all likelihood be regarded as a case of academic misconduct.

We have consulted the COPE website for advice but there does not appear to be a comparable case whereby the original identical article is in the public domain but not previously published in another journal. We are also aware of the various definitions and types of plagiarism and self-plagiarism which render the details of this case a grey area (COPE Discussion Document: How should editors respond to plagiarism http://publicationethics.org/files/Discussion%20document.pdf), and that copyright and rights of author issues may apply.

In this case, text was not reused. An entire paper had been published online, and then the author submitted it to a journal without informing the journal of the previous publication. That is different from what was done with Lewandowsky and Cook's paper, but it is similar. I should point out I don't know if Lewandowsky informed the journal of his previous media article. It seems unlikely.

In any event, the relevant point is in both cases the original text was published online for the public to see. The previous publication was not in a scientific journal though. This journal was uncertain of whether or not to consider the previous publication to be a "prior publication." The advice given to the journal was:

The Forum advised that it is up to the editor and the journal to decide what they regard as prior publication. Journals should provide guidance on their website, detailing what they do and do not consider prior publication. Many journals provide lists of what they consider prior publication, and these lists vary greatly from journal to journal, and between different disciplines.

It is crucial that every journal discusses this at the editorial level and decide what they consider to be prior publication and then puts this information on their website and on the online submission system. There is no general guidance on what is considered prior publication—it has to be an individual journal decision. In some areas prepublication posting is encouraged, and may be required eg for clinical trials. This is a rapidly changing area and journals should be prepared to modify their policies over time, with the increasing number of prior publication options becoming available (eg, blogs, preprint servers). This does raise issues in relation to blind peer review.

Regarding the present case, if the journal has not been explicit about what it considers prior publication, it may be difficult to accuse the author of self-plagiarism or duplicate publication. The author may reasonably state that he was unaware of the journal policy. Some members of the Forum noted that they would normally allow this form of prior publication but there should be a link to the previous version, and the author should have made the journal aware of the previous publication.

Other members of the Forum stated that they would definitely consider this prior publication, and would reject the paper.

So the editors needs to decide for themselves what they consider to be appropriate for their journal and their discipline.

As I read this, whether what Stephan Lewandowsky did would be considered self-plagiarism is entirely up to the journal. My question is, is that correct? Should authors be allowed to write lengthy media articles then copy them near-verbatim into scientific publications without any mention of the earlier publication?

This case study also brings up a second important issue. The peer-review for this paper was supposed to be "double-blind," where the authors and reviewers could not know who each other were. That's clearly not the case here. Any reviewer familiar with the subject could easily have seen Lewandowsky's media article. Any reviewer who hadn't already seen the article but put the paper's title and/or passages from its text into Google would likely have found Lewandowsky's media article. Is that okay?

Unfortunately, the advice given for this case study does not address that issue. I would like to think everyone could agree the answer to it is, "No." If it is impossible for peer-review to be double blinded, then it should not be accepted through a process which requires it be double-blinded.

I'm obviously a critic of this paper, but I believe these are ethical concerns which should transcend one's view of the paper. As such, I'd like to limit today's discussion to the ethical concerns raised in this post. Given that limitation, do you think this paper should have been published? If you say no, do you think the paper should now be retracted?

17 comments

  1. At the very least it appears to be a form of intellectual laziness, particularly on the part of the author/s, but also on the part of the reviewers.

    There is another facet of this which I would be interested in your take on - that of 'self quoting'. This has become common where authors refer to other works by themselves by reference to a published work, rather than in the form 'as I said earlier (quote reference doc)'. I doubt there is anything technically wrong with this per se, but to my mind it is a form of puffery. Maybe I'm just being picky, but I do see a lot of it and it seems to get through with no particular comment from anyone.

    My personal view is that I shouldn't use something I have said as evidence to support something I am saying, without it being made clear that it was in fact something I said myself.

    I did this myself once in a presentation (as an experiment) where I made up a quote (which I believed to be true incidentally), then added the phrase as a quote, referencing myself. The viewers of that presentation all nodded sagely as is that was a particularly wise quote, which I found quite astounding.

    Maybe it's just me.

  2. Hi Brandon

    Pretty much all of the contradictions, especially the headlined Plimer ones - in the paper (by Cook and Lew) were previously published in some form on John Cooks website.. also the quotes are all old, prior to 2011 - have skeptics not said anything contradictory since?

    see previously published article Plimer vs Plimer - Plimer one man contradiction, etc.

    http://www.skepticalscience.com/Plimer-vs-Plimer-one-man-contradiction.html
    https://www.skepticalscience.com/plimervsplimer.php
    https://www.skepticalscience.com/skeptic_Ian_Plimer.htm
    http://www.skepticalscience.com/search.php?Search=ian+plimer

    When the OpenDemocracy article was written last year, I spent some time, looking to see if any were contradictions (going to sources) they are not contradiction, many utter misrepresentations

    Cook(and Lewandowsky/Lloyd) has simply smuggled a 5 year old SKS hatchet job into a journal, and added a Diana contradictory sceptics/conspiracy smear. In 2009-201, Plimer was in the Aussie media and being quoted favorably by politicians and media. Cook wanted to discredit Plimer (see leaked forum) and his books (all in the forum leak) The authors of this paper had to go journal shopping to a philosophy journal, as it would now seem very unlikely Lew could now get away with naming people, and linking them to insane children's characters in a psychological journal.

    Cook at the time had a little project listing skeptical arguments - but these are just paraphrases, simplifications or utter misrepresentations of what skeptics thing..

    The Table 1 contradictions, are taken from Skeptical Science website..

    113 were written by SKS super Admin James Wight.making use of pairs of these arguments to claim/assert contradictions - at the time of writing, James was a home schooled teenager (17, maybe 18 in that period) in a gap year before university, he had previously been writing his own blog Precarious Climate (previously known as Planet James) he had been concerned about climate for several years, before finding SKS, he mentions intergenerational war, and being in a battle with fossil fueled opponents.

    James it appears from the leaked forum, also contributed a significant number of arguments to the Skeptical Arguments for SKS,
    https://www.skepticalscience.com/argument.php

    He also wrote the SKS versions of climate-gate, and Hide the Decline and any number of rebuttals in that period (which we later know Michael Mann asked John Cook to beef up with Mann's input, when the Muller video came out))

    ALL the evidence in this paper for skeptic contradictions come form one original published source, co-authors John Cook's website Skeptical Science.

    (I've spent some time researching Wight, all links/proof to the above are available if you want it, just email me)

    ----------------------
    just some of Wights 'contradictons' - John Cooks hundred of examples reference, for this paper - his own blog written by a highly partisan teenage blogger on Cook's own website

    We didn't have global warming during the Industrial Revolution Thomas Jefferson wrote about warming winters James Wight
    Ice core CO2 measurements are uncertain Deglaciations ended while CO2 was rising James Wight
    CO2 was higher in the 1800s We didn't have global warming during the Industrial Revolution James Wight
    CO2 was higher in the 1800s It warmed before 1940 when CO2 was low James Wight
    It's cosmic rays Clouds provide too much uncertainty James Wight
    Comment: The argument goes that clouds may counteract global warming, which contradicts the notion that cosmic rays are causing global warming via their effect on cloud formation.
    Models are unreliable CO2 limits will harm the economy James Wight
    Comment: The prediction that CO2 limits will harm the economy relies on economic modelling!
    It's not bad Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted James Wight
    Comment: If we can't predict it, how do we know it's not bad?
    It's God Solar panels contribute to global warming James Wight
    It's God It's aerosols James Wight
    Temperature proxies are unreliable Sea level rise preceded temperature rise in the past James Wight
    Temperature proxies are unreliable We're coming out of an ice age James Wight
    Temperature proxies are unreliable We didn't have global warming during the Industrial Revolution James Wight
    Temperature proxies are unreliable Deglaciations ended while CO2 was rising James Wight
    Temperature proxies are unreliable CO2 lags temperature James Wight
    Temp record is unreliable There's no correlation between CO2 and temperature James Wight
    Temperature proxies are unreliable We're coming out of the Little Ice Age James Wight
    Temperature proxies are unreliable Medieval Warm Period was warmer James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate Solar panels contribute to global warming James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate It's latent heat flux from increased plant water use efficiency James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate It's heat from combustion James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate It's CFCs James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate It's overpopulation James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate It's satellite microwave transmissions James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate It's land use James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate It's methane James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate It's ozone James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate It's aerosols James Wight
    It's God It's soot James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate It's soot James Wight
    Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted Amazon is not vulnerable to drought James Wight
    Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted Gulf stream is stable James Wight
    Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted Negative feedbacks will stabilise climate James Wight
    Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted Infrared Iris will reduce global warming James Wight
    Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted Better to geoengineer James Wight
    Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted It's unstoppable James Wight
    Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted Greenland ice sheet won't collapse James Wight
    It's unstoppable Better to geoengineer James Wight
    It's unstoppable Infrared Iris will reduce global warming James Wight
    It's unstoppable Negative feedbacks will stabilise climate James Wight
    Ocean acidification isn't serious Ocean acidification is caused by underwater volcanoes James Wight
    It's the gulf stream Gulf stream is stable James Wight
    It's not bad There's no such thing as an ideal climate James Wight
    Negative feedbacks will stabilise climate We're coming out of the Little Ice Age James Wight
    Comment: If there are stabilising negative feedbacks, why are we still recovering from the Little Ice Age when the Dalton Minimum was over 150 years ago?
    The 2003 heat wave was not caused by global warming 2009-2010 winter saw record cold spells James Wight
    Comment: If a heat wave can't be caused by global warming, a cold spell can't be caused by global cooling.
    Extreme weather isn't caused by global warming It snowed somewhere James Wight
    Extreme weather isn't caused by global warming 2009-2010 winter saw record cold spells James Wight
    Extreme weather isn't caused by global warming It's freaking cold! James Wight
    Comment: If extreme weather can't be caused by global warming, it can't be caused by global cooling either.
    Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted Solar cycle 24 will stop global warming James Wight
    Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted We're heading into an ice age James Wight
    Human CO2 is a tiny % of CO2 emissions Breathing contributes to CO2 buildup James Wight
    It's God It's latent heat flux from increased plant water use efficiency James Wight
    It's God It's CFCs James Wight
    It's God It's heat from combustion James Wight
    It's God It's overpopulation James Wight
    It's God It's waste heat James Wight
    It's God It's satellite microwave transmissions James Wight
    It's God It's land use James Wight
    It's God It's methane James Wight
    It's God It's ozone James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Iapetus is warming James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Encaladus is warming James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Pluto is warming James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Saturn is warming James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Triton is warming James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Jupiter is warming James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Mars is warming James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Neptune is warming James Wight
    Humans are too insignificant to affect global climate Technological breakthroughs will fix global warming James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Solar cycles cause global warming James Wight
    Glacier melt is natural Glaciers are growing James Wight
    Climate is chaotic and cannot be predicted It's the sun F. Murdoch
    Comment: The first argument suggests the system is too complex for us to understand, while the second suggests a simple system. Can also be applied to just about any argument made, such as snow disproving global warming.
    Greenland was green Greenland ice sheet won't collapse James Wight
    CO2 was higher in the 1800s CO2 has a short residence time James Wight
    Comment: If the sun drives the climate, then how can it be cooling?
    Extreme weather isn't caused by global warming Record snowfall disproves global warming James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree Earth hasn't warmed as much as expected James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree Hansen's 1988 prediction was wrong James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree It warmed before 1940 when CO2 was low James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree Antarctica is cooling James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree Global warming stopped in 1998, 1995, 2002, 2007, 2010, ???? James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree The southern hemisphere hasn't warmed as much James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree It's microsite influences James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree 1934 - hottest year on record James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree It's Urban Heat Island effect James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree It cooled mid-century James Wight
    Mercury thermometers can't measure within tenths of a degree It's cooling James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Sea level rise preceded temperature rise in the past James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist There's no correlation between CO2 and temperature James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Hansen's 1988 prediction was wrong James Wight
    Hockey stick is broken Climate sensitivity is low James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist It warmed before 1940 when CO2 was low James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Temperature has fallen while CO2 was rising James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist It cooled mid-century James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Global temperatures have risen as fast in the past James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist Global warming stopped in 1998, 1995, 2002, 2007, 2010, ???? James Wight
    Global temperature does not exist It's cooling James Wight
    Temperature proxies are unreliable Boreholes show strong Medieval Warm Period James Wight
    Temperature proxies are unreliable Holocene Optimum was warmer James Wight
    Temperature proxies are unreliable It's a natural cycle James Wight

  3. An honest person is diligent to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. A naive person may stumble and do something inappropriate because of ignorance, but with experience and integrity rectify and not repeat the offense. If you see a pattern in these authors' behavior, draw the obvious conclusions.

  4. People, in the future, please refrain from massive copy-pasting like that above. I don't mind long comments, but the length of your comment should be tied to the amount of input you contribute. If all you're doing is copy and pasting, you should be able to trim it down. There is no reason for 3+ page screens of unbroken copy-paste.

  5. Gary:

    An honest person is diligent to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. A naive person may stumble and do something inappropriate because of ignorance, but with experience and integrity rectify and not repeat the offense. If you see a pattern in these authors' behavior, draw the obvious conclusions.

    It could be interesting to investigate if this is a one-off sort of thing or part of a larger pattern. I don't recall having seen anything like this from Stephan Lewandowsky before, but I never thought to look. It's definitely something I've seen from John Cook though. I even wrote a post or two about it, back when I was reading through a couple books he helped write. I was surprised and dismayed when I found the books had non-incidental amounts of text that was identical.

    There were even large sections copied straight from Skeptical Science posts. I don't find that as bad though because the form of media is so different. I don't really mind people lifting text from their online writings for a book. I did so for my own. The thing is, I think you should put some effort into updating and/or improving the text so it's not a pure re-hash. Cook didn't bother to. I think that speaks poorly of the amount of effort he put into his writing. Other people might think differently.

    Anyway, that's another thing to put on the list of things that might be worth investigating. There are so many though. Who knows if I'll ever get around to it.

  6. MikeN, I would consider that no different than if they did the same with media articles. For the plagiarism issue, if they only copy ideas from the previous work, that's fine as discussing the subject of your work before submitting it for publication is (generally) not an issue. It's commonly done, with people giving presentations and talking to colleagues in order to get feedback before submitting a paper.

    If they start copying figures and text from blog posts into a paper, then it'd be more of a problem. It's the typical "grey area" thing where there's no clear guidelines as to how much material would have to be copied (or how similar material could be) before it becomes a problem, but it would certainly be fine to do things like ask, "Hey guys, can I get feedback on how to make this figure look better/clearer?"

    The issue about blinded peer-review is a trickier one. Posting things online prior to submitting a paper increase the chances a reviewer will break (accidentally or intentionally) their blindness. This has always been a problem with peer-review though. It is often easy for reviewers to figure out who wrote a paper if they are familiar with the field. Sometimes they'll recognize the writing style. Other times they'll know only one person or group advances a certain set of arguments. Other times they'll hear chatter about a paper being written only to find themselves as reviewers. I'm sure we could come up with many more examples too.

    Because of things like that, I don't think it is inherently "wrong" to post material that may lead to double-blinded peer review not working. I do, however, think you should be up front with the journal you submit your paper to about where you've discussed your work before. If nothing else, the journal might decide to forgo the idea of a double-blinded review and just use single-blinded review (where the reviewers' identity are kept secret). Or you could submit the paper to a journal that doesn't use double-blinded review and avoid that issue all together.

  7. Re: peer review - "I'm sure we could come up with many more examples [of ways to guess the author(s)] too."
    Find the most-repeated name in the citations. 😉 Doesn't always pan out, but it's an excellent heuristic.

  8. I'd say it's definitely self-plagiarism. The question is whether it's unethical or not, though. Depending on the

    I can think of a couple of reasons for why it may be inappropriate to self-plagiarize:

    • Duplicating a publication could pad one's resume. (Not an issue, unless a duplication ends up appearing in two or more publications appropriate for inclusion in one's resume.) Padding a resume is an ethical breach that can get you fired.
    • Prior publication ends up transferring the copyright to another agent. This is an issue only if you didn't get permission or pay appropriate fees to reuse the material, or your use doesn't fall under the "far use" rubric.
    • You just have higher professional standards than that. 😉

  9. Interesting find. I admire your perseverance. The irony for me is that for a long time after Moon landing brought Lewandowsky to my attention I tended to always therefater try and make time to plough through Lewandowskys work - just to confirm my prejudice that he really has nothing to say. So I kick myself for never having spotted this. 🙂

    I wonder now if there's much more out there of his as egregious?

    As others have noted the same tropes are churned out by him with boring regularity - Brulle, Tobacco, Oreskes, 97% etc - so I've given up doing this as I really think he's a just an academic dullard who has found an easy path to minor fame.

    But these two pieces are sufficiently similar to my layman eyes to make me doubt what is so clever and useful about the reiteration of the conclusion. I understand the idea of academicians specialising in a favored narrow region and making gradual refinements; but to make bold noises while doing this, as if every move was startling, and then draft in 'names' to stand along side you just seems a specialty that only social science deals in.

    I guess your question boils down to value systems. Who cares? I wonder if some of the prestigious associations who have taken to Lewandowsky, such as the Royal Society, would be happy if this practice was familiar in hard sciences?

    I think once you strip away the exaggerations, errors, calculated taunts and click bait titles from Lewandowsky's body of work I think the remaining actual weight of information in what he deals in is amazingly small.
    I know it's my subjective opinion but I can't say I have become any more adept as an amateur social scientist* by reading Lewandowsky, as say, I think I have by reading Daniel Kahneman.

    I really don't think this is because Lewandowsky is doing anything too subtle and clever for me to see.

    *Maybe amateur psychologist though 😉

  10. Carrick, the phrase "self-plagiarism" conveys an ethical connotation, which is why a number of people push to use "text recycling instead." I think that indicates if you label something self-plagiarism, you are making an ethical judgment (an opinion shared by many discussing the subject).

    The key is plagiarism involves appropriating credit. If there is no expectation of originality, then there cannot be plagiarism as no credit could have been appropriated. With self-plagiarism (as opposed to text recycling), the primary question is: Are you passing work off as novel when it is not. If so, you are behaving unethically by engaging in deception.

    That matters even if it doesn't impact your resume or anything else. If a scientific journal expects novel work and you pass off rehashed work as novel to get a publication, you've misled the journal. In doing so, you've behaved unethically.

    Of course, we don't know what these authors told the journal (even if we can guess), and the journal may allow for this sort of text recycling if they are informed of it. Given that, there may have been nothing unethical about this.

    That seems a shaky idea though. Even if the journal does allow this, why wouldn't it at least have included a note informing people significant amounts of text have been recycled?

  11. Brandon, I agree pretty much 100% with what you're saying here: 1) We should use a less loaded term than "self-plagiarism" if in fact there is nothing unethical or illegal about the behavior. 2) Even if you "reuse" from a blog post, I agree with informing the editor.

    In restrospect, I am thinking one should reference the original blog (or talk etc) in your new paper, regardless of (2).

  12. Whether or not to cite earlier work if this gets labeled "text recycling" as opposed to "self-plagiarism" is an interesting question. It comes down to expectations. Would readers reading the later document be surprised to find out it had text copied from an earlier one? If so, they should be warned of the copying and perhaps directed to the original source(s). If not though, then there's no point.

    As case study for this, we can look at Mark Steyn's terrible book on things with Michael Mann. He lifts text verbatim from posts he's put on his website without warning anyone. Is that "wrong"? Personally, I think so not because copying the text was inherently wrong but because so much of the book is quotations there is less original material in it* than in other books of comparable length. When it comes to a book, I think people will forgive copying text more or less depending on the proportion of text that was copied.

    Of course, no "skeptic" will complain about Steyn doing it. They won't complain at all about that book no matter how terrible it is. Blatantly misrepresenting quotations, misquotations, misattributing quotations, false information about various controversies and the promotion of conspiratorial crackpots as "experts" will all be ignored or excused by "skeptics."

    That makes it a great case study because it shows how "skeptics" don't even try to live up to the standards they apply to the people they criticize. As much as they like to complain about the other side doing it, the sad reality is both sides will, at least tacitly, support any sort of nonsense from their own "side."

    *The amount of originality in Steyn's book is increased by the originality he shows with his use of quotations. Namely, he he modified over 100 quotations to be different than they were originally. Even better, he did this without making any indication of the changes and while posturing about how people would unfairly claim he'd fabricate quotes.

  13. By the way, that last comment might have gone a bit more off-topic than it should have, but this whole Trump-sexism thing has put me in a foul mood. Donald Trump has constantly said sexist and bigoted things while posturing about how he can do whatever he wants. Most famously, he said he could shoot a person in full public view and not lose any voters. In what world could it possibly be surprising he has sexually assaulted women?

    And yes, I said Trump "sexually assaulted" women. Trump's remarks people have been discussing recently aren't just vulgar. They're admissions Trump has committed crimes and sexually harassed women. And that isn't surprising at all. It's perfectly in line with everything we've seen from him thus far, yet people are acting like this is shocking news they never could have anticipated.

    Uh... no. This is exactly what I expected of Trump. Trump has spent his entire campaign basically going around saying, "I'm a vulgar, disgusting man with no morals who can get away with anything." And people supported him for it. What's changed? Oh, now we have recordings of this vile, disgusting man talking about how vile and disgusting he is? How is that any different than the hundreds of other things he's said in speeches broadcast on national television?

    This is like how people praise and support stereotypical frat boys who sexually harass women for years without making any effort to hide it then act shocked when, "Oh my god, they raped somebody? How could we ever have anticipated that?" And just like with stereotypical frat boys, many of the same people will keep supporting Trump.

    Because hey, he just sexually harassed and assaulted women. It's not like he actually raped them. We've got to give him credit for that...?

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