Plagiarism: Noun. The practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own.
A scientific publication is the final culmination of honest, responsible and ethical research. Unpublished research amounts to nothing, and this is what is the essence behind “publish or perish;” a motto, which the Indian Journal of Ophthalmology stands by. There is nothing wrong with this dictum as long as it emphasizes on quality and not quantity.
Research results in the form of manuscripts can make it into print, only after withstanding the scrutiny of peer-review. The quest for knowledge and new research often builds on the results of previously published and validated research. Therefore, while quoting results of previous studies, it is essential to provide the correct reference and give credit to previous researchers. Even while paraphrasing, it is imperative to acknowledge properly the original source. However, at times; it has been observed that authors, without the mentioning the original author(s) use substantial portions of previously published articles. This is blatant plagiarism, and such infringement of copyright is not just frowned upon, but it considered a form of thievery.
In recent years, the same mantra “publish or perish” has shown its darker side too. It has driven many an academic to mindlessly churn out manuscripts without giving a thought to whether it really is advancing science. More the number of publications and subsequent citations, the more embellished one's résumé is considered. Authors often submit identical or near-identical data sets to different journals at the same time; which often the editor or reviewer may not pick until one paper has already made it out into print. Such duplicate publications are a form of “self-plagiarism” – or “stealing from one's own self.” This subset, so to speak of plagiarism has many forms. Authors may at times add more numbers to previously published data sets and publish new papers with slightly modified results and appropriately tweaked aims. This subtle form of plagiarism too is unethical. As is “salami slicing” where many similar papers are “sliced off” from the same data set, primarily as an attempt to increase the number of publications.
Moving away from plagiarism and toward originality, this issue of IJO has an abundance of original ideas and concepts. Ajay et al. in a unique original study have written about the choices and interests of the budding ophthalmologists “Ophthalmic Surgical Training in Karnataka and Southern India - present status and future interests from a survey of final year residents.” Nair and Javed in their comprehensive review on mitomycin-C (MMC) in dacryocystorhinostomy (DCR) have presented the evidence in a balanced way, suggesting that the use of adjunctive MMC may actually improve the success rate of DCR surgery.
To summarize, editors and reviewers now have at their disposal, plagiarism detection software that can pick up plagiarism. However, the ultimate plagiarism detector is the researcher's conscience. Originality, honesty and sound ethics are the three pillars on which research and scientific publishing can move forward.
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