Academic journal article ASBBS E - Journal

Applying Computer Software in Research Misconduct Analytics

Academic journal article ASBBS E - Journal

Applying Computer Software in Research Misconduct Analytics

Article excerpt

(ProQuest: ... denotes formula omitted.)


Research misconduct is a messy and complex situation. There are many different stakeholders that include, but are not limited to, the author, the publisher, the publication editor, the reviewers, professional academic organizations, other faculty members, university administrations, organized labor representation, consultants, government organizations, federal laws, and software program providers. Each stakeholder has its particular view of research misconduct.

There are more than 300,000 active serial publications (Ulrich's, 2014) with their various publication and review guidelines. A guideline is just that. It is general guidance and is not a law of publication. Guidelines vary by publication and are open to diverse interpretations by stakeholders. This wide diversity affords some stakeholders to bring charges and conduct investigations of research misconduct with extreme powers in the interpretation and application of policies and guidelines. Whereas misuse of funds and plagiarism are more straightforward research misconduct allegations, the fabrication of data and self-plagiarism are more difficult to assess. Self-plagiarism seems to be the most difficult of these to determine. Of course, self-plagiarism is self-contradictory and an oxymoron. It is impossible for one to steal one's own work. Various publication and style manuals have mixed views of self-plagiarism. This assists university administration stakeholders in reaching a finding of self-plagiarism which appears to be their perfect storm for taking disciplinary action against faculty. An investigating committee can play on this lack of definition and use broad unproven powers of determining the occurrence of selfplagiarism.

There are several different style guides (APA, 2001: APA, 2010; MLA, 2008) containing that publication's view of actions that might be questionable including self-plagiarism. Some are specific to professional organizations while others are more general with various levels of acceptances and application of these style guides. "Guide" is the key operative word as they are only a recommendation of style and it is not an absolute law or requirement for publication. Identifying self-plagiarism is often difficult because limited re-use of material is accepted both legally (as fair use) and ethically (Samuelson, 1994). Kelly McBride is a faculty member of The Poynter Institute and one of the country's leading voices when it comes to media ethics. She reinforces the interpretation of Samuelson, describing how, "It is okay to use the same data and its analysis in more than one publication." For these reasons, self-plagiarism appears as the most esoteric kind of research misconduct that sets it apart from other generally accepted practice that encompass research misconduct.

Similarity checking and duplicate content detection software has evolved to provide a measurement of content duplication or plagiarism in research papers. Examples of this software include Grammerly, iThenticate, Turinitin, PlagiarismA, and SafeAssign (a component of the Blackboard course management software). Interestingly, duplicate content is usually acceptable if it is appropriately referenced, but is unacceptable if it is not "appropriately referenced" and is confounded when content is from the same author. Detection software programs do not distinguish between an author's duplicate content and that of other authors. Duplicate content detection software work in different ways. This research effort considers and evaluates two very different ways of checking duplicate content with software programs. It provides one answer to the question of which type of duplicate content checker appears to provide a stronger comparison between two subject papers.

Research stakeholders may argue that an author's paper should be a complete reference to all of an author's prior work on a topic so the reader could easily follow the research-stream of that work. …

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