The following is from the Jan. 24, 2008, edition of The Dallas Morning News. SMU Professor Tom Mayo, a lawyer and medical ethicist, provided expert commentary for this story.

UT Southwestern finds possible
plagiarism in scientific database

The Dallas Morning News

The nation's premier database of biomedical research contains as many as 200,000 questionable publications, ranging from possible outright plagiarism to researchers recycling their own work, Dallas scientists have found.

A team at UT Southwestern Medical Center came up with that number after using a computer program to scan summaries of nearly half of 17 million scientific and medical publications in the database. Originally developed as a way to search for information in the massive biomedical literature, the computer program has now resulted in investigations of possible scientific misconduct. The researchers say that between 1 percent and 2 percent of all publications in the database include duplicated text. . .

Duplication of another's work is an obvious no-no in the academic world. But duplicating one's own work is more of a gray area, said Raymond de Vries, a sociologist with the bioethics program at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. In recent years, tight funding has put scientists under extra pressure to publish, he said, and that often means publishing new articles that are only slightly different from each other. . .

Still, merely recycling one's own work to stretch a résumé hurts the scientific enterprise, said Thomas Mayo, a lawyer and medical ethicist at Southern Methodist University.

"You have an unethical gaming of the system by an individual who gets two or more credits from one article," he said. "That's the measure for promotion, salary, grant awards. If you have rigged those numbers, the rewards that come your way are a form of ill-gotten gain."

Dr. Mayo said he thought universities might want to use the UT Southwestern computer program when hiring new faculty or considering faculty for promotion.

Read the full story.

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