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Plagiarism sleuths tackle full-text biomedical articles
Date:10/25/2010

In scientific publishing, how much reuse of text is too much? Researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute at Virginia Tech and collaborators have shown that a computer-based text-searching tool is capable of unearthing questionable publication practices from thousands of full-text papers in the biomedical literature.

The first step in the process is to find out what is restated before zeroing in on who may have crossed an ethically unacceptable threshold. The findings, published in PLoS ONE, offer hope for curbing unethical scientific publication practice, a growing problem throughout the world.

"Building upon our earlier work reported in Science and Nature, which uncovered ethically questionable journal articles by comparing their abstracts, we have now re-tuned our computer program, eTBLAST, to scan thousands of full-text articles in PubMed Central, a freely available repository of full-text biomedical literature," said Harold "Skip" Garner, author on the paper and executive director of the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute. "Our goal was to measure how much and where in papers for example, the introduction, methods or results sections text is duplicated to establish the 'norm' in publishing. This will allow ethicists, which we are not, to begin to develop guidelines as to what is and what is not acceptable publication practice."

Although abstract search is an effective approach to detect potential plagiarism, full text analysis is needed to uncover all potential duplicate citations in the scientific literature. The researchers examined 72 011 full-text articles using the eTBLAST computer program, which is only the tip of the iceberg for the number of published biomedical articles in the archives.

"We found that most papers are novel, as expected in scientific reporting, but even in papers reporting novel results, certain sections, such as the introduction or methods section, frequent
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Contact: Barry Whyte
whyte@vbi.vt.edu
540-231-1767
Virginia Tech
Source:Eurekalert

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