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Computer-based tool aids research, helps thwart questionable publication practices
Date:1/23/2008

DALLAS Jan. 23, 2008 A new computer-based text-searching tool developed by UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers automatically and quickly compares multiple documents in a database for similarities, providing a more efficient method to carry out literature searches, as well as offering scientific journal editors a new tool to thwart questionable publication practices.

The eTBLAST computer program is efficient at flagging publications that are highly similar, said Dr. Harold Skip Garner, a professor of biochemistry and internal medicine at UT Southwestern who developed the computer code along with his colleagues. Not only does the code identify duplication of key words, but it also compares word proximity and order, among other variables.

The tool is especially useful for investigators who wish to analyze an unpublished abstract or project idea in order to find previous publications on the topic or identify possible collaborators working in the same field.

Another application of eTBLAST is to aid journal editors in detecting potentially plagiarized or duplicate articles submitted for publication. Dr. Garner and his colleagues explored that application in two recent articles: in a scientific paper in the Jan. 15 issue of Bioinformatics and in a commentary in the Jan. 24 issue of Nature.

In the first phase of the study, published in Bioinformatics, researchers used eTBLAST to analyze more than 62,000 abstracts from the past 12 years, randomly selected from Medline, one of the largest databases of biomedical research articles. They found that 0.04 percent of papers with no shared authors were highly similar and cases representing potential plagiarism. The small percentage found in the sample may appear insignificant, but when extrapolated to the 17 million scientific papers currently cited in the database, the number of potential plagiarism cases grows to nearly 7,000.

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Contact: Amanda Siegfried
amanda.siegfried@utsouthwestern.edu
214-648-3404
UT Southwestern Medical Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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