Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Text recycling by Dutch researchers

On September 24, 2017 the Dutch newspaper de Volkskrant reported on an investigation into self-plagiarism (zelfplagiaat) that was conducted by a Nijmengen research group. The sociologist of science Willem Halffman and his PhD student Serge Horbach analysed 922 publications by Dutch researchers from recent years. In economics, 14 % of the papers contained text from previous publications of the author(s), in psychology the figure was 5 %.

Without naming the scientists involved, Halffman recounts that they even found a duplicate article republished with just one small change, and two highly similar articles by the same author in the same issue of a journal. They also found that authors who publish more papers are more likely to reuse text.

The use of the term selfplagiaat in Holland appears to have originated in 2013, the report states, in connection with a scandal at the Free University (VU) in Amsterdam. The Royal Netherlands Academy of Sciences (KNAW) now includes the reuse of own text without reference to the source as a questionable research practice, except for minor bits such as definitions.

Lex Bouter, a professor for scientific methodology and research integrity at the VU notes in the report that if you are re-publishing your data, you run the risk of deforming reality in a meta-analysis by having one study counted as two.

The paper is in press at Research Policy, a corrected proof is available at Science Direct. 

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