I attended Online information at Kensington Olympia this week, and amongst the selection of free talks on offer was a discussion on identifying plagiarism in academic publishing.  The talk was given by Ian Bannerman, managing director of journals for Taylor & Francis.

I’m used to thinking of plagiarism as primarily a problem with students in HE, but apparently it can also be prevalent amongst some academics too, according to research [sorry, no citation available I’m afraid!].  This poses problems for publishers, particularly when an offending article slips through the net and the plagiarism comes to light later on.  Bannerman explained that there is a fine balancing act between writing apologies to those who are the victims of plagiarism, and avoiding language that may attract libel accusations.

Now, 8 publishers [including T&F] are working with the company CrossRef to develop a cross-publisher plagiarism detection (PD) service to help detect plagiarism earlier in the publication process.  As I understand it, they are encouraging publishers to submit their published archives to a database.  The PD software, known as CrossCheck, can then apparently be used to check new manuscripts against the vast array of material in the database [not available to other, more traditional PD software due to lack of access to other publishers’ archives] to try to flag up potential instances of text duplications.  It all sounds very promising!

It was stressed that this software isn’t perfect, and it is still in testing.  However, should it realise the potential it shows it could well help negate instances of plagiarism in academic publishing – an issue that seems to be more of a problem than I would ever have imagined.