Indian Journal of Pathology and Microbiology

: 2011  |  Volume : 54  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 1--2

Unethical practices in scientific publications

S Satyanarayana 
 Department of Pathology, GSL Medical College, Rajahmundry - 533 296, Andhra Pradesh, India

Correspondence Address:
S Satyanarayana
Department of Pathology, GSL Medical College, Rajahmundry - 533 296, Andhra Pradesh

How to cite this article:
Satyanarayana S. Unethical practices in scientific publications.Indian J Pathol Microbiol 2011;54:1-2

How to cite this URL:
Satyanarayana S. Unethical practices in scientific publications. Indian J Pathol Microbiol [serial online] 2011 [cited 2022 May 25 ];54:1-2
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Full Text

Recent discussions by learned editors across the globe in World Association of Medical Editors (WAME) [1] and articles of two duplicate publications in this journal have prompted me to write this brief editorial on some of the unethical practices in scientific publications.

Plagiarism amounts to stealing of someone else's ideas or work. The quantum of the theft, be it a few sentences or phrases or parts of data or even the "entire paper" or publishing the same data with some cosmetic changes, has no bearing on the meaning of plagiarism. All are considered as plagiarism only. [2]

Instances of unethical practices are being detected and reported more now-a-days with the availability of software programs [3] (,,,,,, eTBlast, CrossCheck) and databases (Deja Vu) reporting duplicate or similar publications. It is not that such practice was not there earlier; there is absolute increase of scientific misconduct, in the present day of "publish or perish" sentiment. I know of a senior professor with over 100 publications to his credit, who says "For publishing a paper, you only need a comfortable chair, a table and writing material". But those were the days when computers and internet were not available. The life of such people has been made easy with the availability of data on the net and the cult of "cut-paste".

Most of the junior faculty and residents lack proper guidance and are not specially trained in writing of scientific papers. They try to fit their data into similar articles published by reputed journals and fail to understand that they are committing an offence. There is a need for proper guidance by senior faculty and a need to attend workshops on medical writing. Seniors should set examples themselves and educate the juniors on self-discipline to avoid such unethical practices.

With the pressures from the peer, chairs/heads of departments/institutions, some authors resort to "somehow" publish a research paper for the favor of a promotion or a successful completion of fellowship. Authors are at times impatient to wait for the review process of the journals and resort to multiple submissions, though aware of the copyright implications. Such duplicate publications alter the scientific data due to the falsified figures in the literature. This has a serious detrimental effect on the available scientific information. If duplicate publication is reported, the authors usually plead ignorance and request for the withdrawal/retreat the article (usually from a non-indexed journal or a journal with low impact factor). Editors are not supported by any legal backup as most of the journals are published by the associations and the publishers do not render any such support. Editors can inform the head/chair of the department and head of the institution and hope some action will be taken on such defaulters.

International Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) and The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) view such practices seriously. Most of the members of WAME feel that the unscrupulous practice of plagiarism is curbed. Though editors have softwares (some free to download while some are paid) in their armamentarium to check the menace of plagiarism, the policing job to achieve 100% plagiarism-free journal is next to impossible. Such offences go unnoticed until detected at a later date, tarnishing the image of the journal. Unless the offenders are punished by the institution and all the journals blacklist such authors and a database of such offenders comes into force, such unethical practices will continue to be committed.


Supten Sarbadhikari, Liz Wager, Martin B anDer Weyden, Mary Ellen Keram, Udo Schuklenk, Steven L Shafer, Miguel Roig, Liz Hoffman, Matt Hodgkinson and all those who contributed in the recent list serve discussions on the post of the topics in WAME.


1Plagiarism. WAME listserve discussion. [Last updated on May 15-July 2, 2008]. Available from: [Last accessed on 2011 Jan 24].
2Defining who is a Plagiarist. WAME listserve discussion. [Last updated on November 15-December 1, 2008]. Available from: defining who is a Plagiarist. [Last accessed on 2011 Jan 24].
3Plagiarism detection software. WAME listserve discussion [Last updated on August 22-August 23, 2008]. Available from: plagiarism detection software. [Last accessed on 2011 Jan 24].