English has long been the dominant language of scientific publication, and it is rapidly approaching near-complete hegemony. The majority of the scientists publishing in English-language journals are not native English speakers, however. This imbalance has important implications for training concerning ethics and enforcement of publication standards, particularly with respect to plagiarism. The authors suggest that lack of understanding of what constitutes plagiarism and the use of a linguistic support strategy known as “patchwriting” can lead to inadvertent misuse of source material by nonnative speakers writing in English as well as to unfounded accusations of intentional scientific misconduct on the part of these authors. They propose that a rational and well-informed dialogue about this issue is needed among editors, educators, administrators, and both native-English-speaking and nonnative-English-speaking writers. They offer recommendations for creating environments in which such dialogue and training can occur.
Dr. Cameron is associate director, Cancer Prevention Research Training Program, Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, and instructor, Department of Epidemiology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
Dr. Zhao is assistant professor of biostatistics, The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, School of Public Health, Houston, Texas.
Dr. McHugh is a postdoctoral fellow, Department of Epidemiology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas.
Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. Cameron, Department of Epidemiology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, PO Box 301402, Mail Code 1365, Houston, TX 77230-3721; telephone: (713) 794-1476; fax: (713) 563-9203; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.