Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fighting Scientific Plagiarism

Southwestern Medical Centre researchers have developed a text-searching tool developed that compares multiple documents in a database for similarities, not only providing an efficient means of performing literature searches, but also offering a tool to combat plagiarism.

The eTBLAST program can identify duplication of key words and also compares word proximity and order, among other variables. It is helps researchers analyze an unpublished abstract or idea in order to find previous publications on the topic or in order to identify possible collaborators working in the same field.

In an article published last month in Bioinformatics, researchers used eTBLAST to analyze over 62,000 Medline abstracts from the past 12 years. They only found that 0.04% of papers representing potential plagiarism, but if extrapolated to the 17 million scientific papers currently cited in the database, the number of potential plagiarism cases would be around 7,000. They also found that 1.35% of papers with shared authors were sufficiently similar to be considered duplicate publications of the same data. In a further phase outlined in Nature an analysis of more than seven million Medline abstracts turned up nearly 70,000 highly similar papers.

The application can only highlight potential plagiarised articles it is still down to human reviewers to determining legitimacy. It is hoped that the knowledge of the existence of tools such as TBLAST will see the numbers of potentially unethical duplications reduce