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Good Practices

The Russian roulette of plagiarism

An unusual experience has led Seder Sayan, professor at the TOBB University of Economics and Technology in Turkey to write a paper about plagiarism for the journal Review of Social Science.  Sayan writes that in 2007 he was asked by the Scandinavian Journal of Economics to review a completely plagiarized version of a paper he had written jointly with a student years before that had been published in a bilingual Turkish science journal.

The articles were identical.  The only differences involved inclusion of the name of the plagiarizer (whose identity Sayan preferred not to reveal) and removal of the list of acknowledgments and of the abstract prepared in Turkish.  Publication of the article was aborted and the plagiarizer denounced by his institution, but Sayan continued to ponder the subject.

“I asked myself: why would anyone take such as risk?  Even if the manuscript had been sent to another reviewer, the journal might well find out,” he says.  He thought about the topic and concluded that the logic is similar to that employed in Russian roulette: pressured to increase his output, the plagiarizer bet his entire reputation on the chance that he would not be caught and believed that flaws in the review process and difficulties in accessing original sources would save him.