Plagiarism in academia is defined as passing of someone else's work as your own. Depending on the case, plagiarism can also violate laws (e.g. copyright laws when failing to identify citations as such) . The sciences endorse a strict code of conduct which means that systematic use of plagiarism can result in loss of recognition for a work and all claims related to it.
How to avoid committing plagiarism
Every academic discipline has its own rules regarding the citation of scientific works. These rules can usually be found in the associated literature . Students can also seek help with their academic supervisors. Keeping to these discipline-specific rules can help avoid any suspicion of plagiarism and similar issues (see related article Citing Data). Self-plagiarism should also be avoided. To claim a discovery that was already published elsewhere can already be seen as (self-) plagiarism.
What to do if you discover plagiarism
If you suspect you have discovered a case of plagiarism, the further course of action depend son whether it has already been published and if so, in what medium. If there is suspicion of plagiarism, the author should be contacted. If a publication cannot be prevented, there is the possibility of involving the Ombusdsman for the Sciences at DFG (Deutsche Forschungsgesellschaft). In difficult cases they can serve as neutral arbitrators and advisors.
If the data are already published in a journal, the associated publisher should be contacted. A journal has the option of printing a statement and/or officially retracting the publication.
Many universities ahave established a commission on responsible research which can be contacted in case of a suspicion of plagiarism and take further steps, if necessary.
To ensure the best possible outcome, it is recommended to engage all involved parties from the start. If despite of all efforts a resolution of the situation is not possible, legal steps can be taken.
Protecting your data from plagiarism
• Preventative contractual agreements: by recording in writing how research data have to be handled misunderstandings and conflic situations can be avoided
• Access to data: it is recommended to limit the access to research data to relevant personnel as long as they are not yet published
• Persistente identificationn: identification systems such as DOI (Digital Object Identifiers) and URN (Uniform Resource Names) reference research data online and have to be cited in case of third-party re-use. They facilitate proper attribution and citation and can serve as proof for the date of creation of a data set.
• Citation suggestions: providing suggestions for proper attribution and citation can help avoid cases of "lazy plagiarism"
• Electronic fingerprint: using tools like OriginStamp reserach data can be connected with a digital fingerprint which can serve as a proof of authorship.
• Documentation: using a data curation profile can remove doubt as to when, how and by whom a data set was created
• Data security: only store your most important data in a protected/encrypted form
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- ↑ See UrhG § 51.
- ↑ Roig, M. (2010): Plagiarism and self-plagiarism: What every author should know. Biochemia Medica, 20 (3), 295-300.
- ↑ Ombudsmann für die Wissenschaft (webpage of the DFG).