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How to Deal

The Committee on Publication Ethics is holding a virtual forum tomorrow focused on "text recycling," or self-plagiarism. Self-plagiarism, or duplication, is a common reason for retractions, adds Ivan Oransky at Retraction Watch. "Such duplication retractions are so common that we don't get to most of them," he notes.

COPE, a group comprised of academic journal editors, says that "opinions are divided as to how much text overlap with an author's own previous publications is acceptable, and editors often find it hard to judge when action is required." It adds that editors from BioMed Central have drawn up some guidelines on the matter to help spark discussion.

While the BioMed Central guidelines note that "editors should consider each case of text recycling on an individual basis," they add that "duplication of data is likely to always be considered serious."

The response to duplicated text, the guidelines add, should vary depending on the severity of the overlap and whether it was detected before or after publication. For example, the guidelines note that if a minor overlap is detected before publication, the authors may merely be asked to re-write that section and cite the paper they drew upon. However, if most of a discussion section is re-used, and it is detected after publication, editors should, according to the guidelines, retract the article.