METM09 presentation     Thread: Promising practices

Microplagiarism in review articles by non-native speakers of English: why gatekeepers need language specialists to mend holes in the net

Dado ÄŒakalo and Nevenka Kopjar — Croatia

Background: Thanks to a number of abstracting and indexing services and specialised portals, the number of abstracts and full-text research articles available online has increased tremendously.

Problem: Review article authors who are not native speakers tend to resort to non-selective copy-pasting to overcome insecurity in producing texts in English as a foreign language. This can lead to a number of lexicological, syntactical, and compositional oddities, and sometimes to disseminating factual errors that are overlooked by peer reviewers and other gatekeepers.

Aim: The aim of this presentation is to illustrate one such article that has received positive referee opinion, show how much of the text has been copy-pasted and sample mistakes made. We will compare reports obtained with a few internet-based, computer-aided tools for detecting plagiarism. The idea is to call attention to the utility of and variability between computer-aided tools in detecting plagiarism and to show how they differ from manual check performed by a language specialist, for reasons that may also underlie differences between machine and human translation. By proposing an algorithm, we will then argue in favour of close collaboration between language specialists and editors in English-language journals from countries in which English is not the first language. Finally, we would like to call for a broader discussion on where to draw a line for either accepting or rejecting this sort of microplagiarism.


Nevenka Kopjar is Editor in Chief of the scientific quarterly Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology; she holds a PhD degree in genetic toxicology, and heads the Mutagenesis Unit at the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health in Zagreb, Croatia.

Dado ÄŒakalo (BA) is secretary and copyeditor of Archives of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology, head of the Science Documentation Section at the Institute for Medical Research and Occupational Health in Zagreb, and a freelance translator/editor.