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Plagiarism and Proper English Writing

The Dilemma

Mazoit, Jean Xavier, MD, PhD

doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e3182231a7f
Letters to the Editor: Letters & Announcements

Department d'Anesthesie Hôpital Bicêtre Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France (Mazoit)

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To the Editor

I was somewhat disturbed by the title “You Will Be Caught” of the recent editorial by Steven Shafer describing the ability of programs such as CrossCheck to detect even minimal amounts of plagiarism.1 Use of such software makes it increasingly difficult for non–English-speaking scientists to prepare manuscripts reflecting both accurate scientific writing as well as interesting prose for English-language journals.

For example, I (a native French speaker) have used the same Langendorff preparation all with the same buffer composition, the same conditions of flow and temperature, and the same measurement devices for numerous studies submitted to different journals published in different languages. Do editors using plagiarism-detection software consider that my description of the preparation, which is nearly identical from one paper to another, represents plagiarism? Alternatively, suppose that a Chinese scientist publishes results of their studies in both a Chinese- and an English-language journal. Does this represent duplicate publication despite the fact that most English, American, or Australian, etc., readers do not understand Chinese? Two years ago, we published recommendations for treating status epilepticus in both the French Neurological Society journal and in the French Intensive Care Society journal. Is this duplicate publication even if the intent was to teach a greater number of doctors?

In my opinion, the examples listed above do not violate the true definition of plagiarism, and using plagiarism-detecting software may discourage publication of high-quality science from non–English-speaking scientists in English-language journals. If so, this might both deprive readers of these journals access to important clinical advances as well as deprive these scientists of important scientific interchange with the English-speaking world of science. Both of these outcomes diminish or delay application of clinical practice changes throughout the world.

Jean Xavier Mazoit, MD, PhD

Department d'Anesthesie

Hôpital Bicêtre

Le Kremlin-Bicêtre, France

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1. Shafer S You will be caught. Anesth Analg 2011; 112: 491–3
© 2011 International Anesthesia Research Society