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Plagiarism Found in Peer-Review Reports Sparks Concerns of Widespread Misconduct

By   Clara Slone May 20, 2024 794 11

Plagiarism, a long-standing issue in academia, has taken a new form with the recent revelation of copied text in peer-review reports. MikołajPiniewski, a hydrologist at the Warsaw University of Life Sciences, stumbled upon this alarming trend while reviewing feedback for his own manuscript. Upon discovering that phrases from his peer-review reports were identical to those found online, Piniewski and his team delved deeper, uncovering what they believed to be just the "tip of the iceberg" in terms of misconduct within the peer-review system.

Piniewski and his colleagues published their findings in Scientometrics, where they detailed numerous instances of apparent plagiarism across various peer-review reports. The team's investigation revealed duplicated text in reports prepared for 19 journals, with exact quotes replicated across 50 publications. The majority of these reports were from reputable publishers such as MDPI, PLOS, and Elsevier, indicating a potentially widespread problem across the scientific community.

While some speculate that reviewers might resort to plagiarism to save time or due to a lack of confidence in their writing abilities, others believe more nefarious motives could be at play. Jennifer Byrne, director of biobanking at New South Wales Health, suggests that the involvement of paper mills, organizations known for producing fake research papers, could be contributing to the issue.

Concerns also arise with the increasing accessibility of generative artificial intelligence (AI), which could potentially be used to manipulate peer-review reports. While some argue that AI-generated text can be distinguished from legitimate commentary, others remain wary of its implications for the integrity of the peer-review process.

Publishers, including PLOS, Elsevier, and MDPI, have acknowledged the concerns raised and are actively investigating the issue. Proposed solutions include implementing plagiarism-detection software to screen all submitted reviews, a measure endorsed by experts like Adam Day, a data scientist at Sage Publications.

As dialogue surrounding plagiarism in peer-review reports evolves, the scientific community must come together and tackle this issue head-on. Members of the Asian Council of Science Editors (ACSE) and associatedpeers are encouraged to share their perspectives and propose solutions to combat plagiarism, safeguarding the integrity of the peer-review process. Your insights are pivotal in shaping the future of academic publishing and ensuring transparency and trust within scholarly discourse.

Keywords

Plagiarism peer-review reports misconduct academic publishing research integrity scientific community plagiarism detection software paper mills artificial intelligence AI-generated text transparency peer-review process academic integrity research misconduct plagiarism investigation publishing ethics

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