From: Arthur Sale <>
Date: Sun, 18 Dec 2005 17:58:50 +1100

Since the Open Access debate in the UK and the USA is hotting up again,
perhaps it is a good idea to examine an area of research dissemination
that is unsavory, but which open access can help to minimize, but toll
publishers cannot or do not. BTW, I use open access in the well-defined
technical sense of access which is free, unconstrained in time, and
available to all with Internet access.


My topic is plagiarism: the copying of someone else&#8217;s work without
acknowledgment. Very dishonest, but we all know that it occurs. One of
the researchers at the University of Tasmania decided to use one of his
own papers to test a commercial software tool intended for detecting
plagiarism in student assignments. He was interested to see that it
turned up a substantial direct quotation from his paper by an author in
another country, but less pleased to find that the quotation was
unattributed. He took legal advice, and the offending author was
contacted for redress.


This detection worked because the offending document was open to access
on the Internet. Clearly it would be possible for any author to do the
same with their own papers were a free plagiarism detector available, or
for a more central resource to scan OA repositories at random. The key
difficulty is determining if the quotation is acknowledged or not
(currently an eyeball check or cross-checking with citation services).
Simple tools could be developed to test that against reference lists.
Bodies like the NIH and the RCUK (and their Australian equivalents)
should be very interested in the development and dissemination of such
tools, as it would directly address the question of research quality and
improve it. An effective scheme by itself would act as a deterrent, as
the chance of detection would increase dramatically.


Of course, such detection is not possible at present with restricted
access as provided by traditional toll-access publishers. Their content
is not accessible for searching and indexing, and they rely entirely on
referees to recognize plagiarism.


This is then another clear technical advantage to providing open access
to all research publications. Modern technology can help detect and stamp
out scholarly fraud.



Received on Sun Dec 18 2005 - 12:55:20 GMT

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