As the use of plagiarism-detection software by research journals and academic institutions grows, more instances of text recycling are being identified—and yet there is no consensus on what constitutes ethically or legally acceptable practice. Text recycling is thus an increasingly important and problematic matter in research ethics and publishing. Nonetheless, and in spite of the proliferation of journal editorials and guidelines on the topic, little actual research on text recycling has been conducted, and it is rarely addressed in the ethical training of researchers or in scientific writing textbooks or websites. The Text Recycling Research Project is the first large-scale investigation of the subject. Our aim is to better understand text recycling, to help build consensus among stakeholders, and to promote ethical and appropriate practice.
The TRRP has an advisory board with experts from major publishers (both profit and non-profit), editor organizations, scholarly societies, government research agencies, and research integrity officers. Our guidelines and policies are vetted by the board to ensure that they will be useful and appropriate for a broad range of research and publishing constituencies. You can find the list of board members on our People page.
Our research involves three primary areas of investigation:
Beliefs and Attitudes: This involves interviewing and surveying experienced faculty, students, journal editors, and others regarding the ethics of text recycling. We are investigating questions such as these: What do expert researchers, students, and others involved in scientific communication believe to be appropriate practice, and why? Where is there a clear consensus among experts and where is there substantive disagreement?
Text Analysis: We are analyzing a corpus of published scientific papers to investigate how researchers recycle text in practice: How common is text recycling in STEM? What patterns of recycling are common? How does the practice vary across STEM disciplines? Has the practice changed over time?
Legal Analysis: The third arm involves analyzing publisher contracts and copyright law to better understand the rights of publishers and authors regarding text recycling and to assess their legal validity: When is text recycling legal and when does it violate copyright or contract law?
Guidelines and Policies
We are using what we’ve learned from our research to develop model guidelines, policies, and author-publisher contracts in collaboration with collaborators from stakeholder organizations including publishers, scholarly societies, government agencies, and professional organizations.
We are developing materials to inform the research and research ethics communities about text recycling and promote best practices. Materials will include web and print-based instructional materials for editors, researchers and students, explaining the ethical, legal, and practical issues involved with text recycling.
This project is supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation: Cultivating Cultures for Ethical STEM program (SES-1737093)
Funding for this research has also been provided by the Josiah Charles Trent Memorial Foundation Endowment Fund and a Duke University Arts and Sciences Faculty Research Grant.