Finding kicks up plagiarism v. paraphrasing debate

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Retraction Watch—a blog run by MedPage Today Global Editorial Director Ivan Orasnky—identified a plagiarism story that has kicked up a plagiarism vs. poor paraphrasing conversation among commenters.

At issue is a correction RW found in a recent Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences issue which says a “description of some of the specific biochemical functions of HAT1 was not appropriately noted in our article and should be cited and quoted in the following sections.” Or, as noted by RW: the fix was to add quotes. PNAS tells RW that it has reached out to the author's institution.

Ohio State University's Mark Pathun caught the plagiarism and told RW that PNAS has not done enough, telling RW “they are simply passing the buck.”

Commenters, however, are not so sure.

Dan Zabetakis wrote that he considers this instance a “borderline case” because the writers “used lightly reworked sentences and phrases,” a situation he considers “a case of insufficient paraphrasing rather than plagiarism.”

Commenter Peer007 called the situation “pure craziness” and wrote, “the logical extension of this rather bizarre move from PNAS is that authors no longer need to generate new content.”

Tom DeCoursey also sees the potential for additional fallout, writing “If you are willing to steal ideas, then are you also willing to fabricate statistics to make a non-result significant? Where do you draw the line?”

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