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Avoiding plagiarism, self-plagiarism, and other questionable writing practices: A guide to ethical writing

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Forms of acceptable text recycling


As with redundant publication, certain types of text recycling appear to be acceptable within the biomedical and social sciences even though they seemingly violate the spirit of the writer’s implicit contract. Here are specific examples.

Recycling text from an Institutional Review Board (IRB) application, Animal Care and Use Committee, Grant application, or other form of unpublished ‘internal’ proposal.
Academics and researchers who write research proposals, either for the purpose of seeking funding or for internal or ethical review will often use the same material, though likely in expanded form, in a paper that is later published. This is an accepted practice because these proposals are typically never published and are only reviewed by a small number of individuals. On the other hand, in some instances there may be proprietary copyright issues with respect to an unpublished proposal or report that was originally written for a private enterprise when the author was employed by that institution. Therefore, in these cases permission to subsequently publish portions of material originally written for use by, say, a corporate entity should be sought. On the other hand, the recycling of text from IRB, grants, and other types of proposals reviewed within academic institutions is generally considered an accepted practice.

Recycling papers given at a conference.
Often, scientists who make presentations at conferences distribute preliminary copies of their papers to the audience. Sometimes after the presentation, and perhaps based on the audience’s feedback of the scientist’s presentation, some modifications are made to the paper and it is subsequently submitted for publication to a journal. This practice is also generally acceptable. However, there are instances where some caution should be observed. For example, in cases where the conference abstracts or even the preliminary papers themselves are subsequently published as proceedings by the sponsoring organization, the author should inquire as to whether that organization permits republication of their materials. Authors should also keep in mind that some editors may consider the above scenario as a case of redundant publication. Therefore, they should always inform an editor if an abstract or a brief version of a paper being submitted for publication has already appear in the proceedings of a conference. Lastly, in cases where a paper is based on a conference presentation, the standard practice is to also inform the reader. This is usually done in the form of a footnote or endnote.




 
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