Biometrics Policy on Handling Suspected Cases of Plagiarism
When an author submits a paper to Biometrics, it is understood that s/he warrants that the submitted manuscript is not identical or similar to a paper that has appeared in or is being handled by another journal, and that the submitted manuscript constitutes an original work and does not violate or infringe upon the copyright(s) of any other author. S/he also warrants that the submitted manuscript contains no passage of text or other material that is virtually identical to that in a publicly-available or published work by another author(s) in print or electronic form unless proper citation to the source is made. Examples of publicly-available or published works include unpublished working papers or technical reports posted on a web site, papers that are published or in press at Biometrics or another journal, books, and research grant applications; this is not an exhaustive list.
As per the copyright agreement signed by Biometrics authors, if IBS is subject to a third party claim of copyright infringement and such claim arises out of IBS's unintentional/unknowing publication of a manuscript which is later determined to include materials copyrighted to a third party and that were improperly incorporated in the submitted manuscript, the author warrants that he or she shall indemnify and hold IBS harmless from any such infringement claim.
Biometrics Editors view the submission of manuscripts that do not meet these criteria as plagiarism and, accordingly, as serious professional misconduct. A submitted manuscript will be rejected by Biometrics if it is determined by the process below that any of these requirements are violated.
Here, we outline what cases of suspected plagiarism may be identified, how steps that individuals suspecting plagiarism in a Biometrics submission or published article should take, the steps that will be undertaken by the journal Editors in such cases, and the possible sanctions that will result if an author(s) is deemed to have committed an act of plagiarism.
Identification of Suspected Cases of Plagiarism in Submitted Papers
Suspected cases of plagiarism may arise because Co-Editors, Associate Editors, referees, or others may recognize text in a submitted paper as arising from another source. They may also arise if one of these individuals becomes suspicious and attempts to confirm the suspicion through subjecting the manuscript to screening mechanisms that compare the current manuscript to content available on the internet. An individual who is not part of the review process may alert journal Editors to possible misconduct.
- If a referee suspects plagiarism in a manuscript sent to him/her for review by Biometrics, s/he should notify the Associate Editor handling the manuscript. S/he should state clearly the reasons for the suspicion, identifying the suspected passage(s), and include a citation to the source from which text or other material are thought to be drawn. An Associate Editor suspecting plagiarism should prepare a similar statement.
- If an Associate Editor either suspects plagiarism him/herself or is contacted by a referee who suspects plagiarism, s/he should contact the Co-Editor handling the manuscript and forward to him/her the statement describing the reasons and identifying the suspect passage(s) and source.
- In some cases, an individual not connected with the review of the manuscript may alert Editors that a paper submitted to the journal may involve plagiarism. In this case, Editors should ask that the individual to summarize the reasons for the suspicion and provide reference to the source from which text or other material are thought to be drawn.
Steps to be Taken by Editors
If a suspected case of plagiarism is brought to the attention of the editors or is suspected by a Co-Editor him/herself, the following steps will be taken:
- The Co-Editor handling the paper will share the documentation of the suspected misconduct with the other Co-Editors and the Executive Editor. The Editors will review the documentation and come to consensus on whether the evidence is sufficiently compelling to suggest that misconduct may have occurred.
- The Co-Editor handling the paper, in consultation with his/her fellow Editors, will write a letter to the corresponding author for the manuscript in question. In the letter, s/he will explain the reasons for the suspicion of plagiarism, cite the reference from which the material is thought to be drawn, and ask the author to provide a written explanation within one week or, in the event of travel or other extenuating circumstances, a suitable time period. The explanation should also warrant that all authors of the paper have reviewed the explanation and are in agreement with it. If an author(s) is agreed by all authors to have had no knowledge of or role in the alleged misconduct, the written explanation should so state.
- If no explanation is provided by the corresponding author within the time limit, the Co-Editor handling the paper will send a second letter to the corresponding author, with copies to all authors listed on the paper, along with a copy of the original letter to the corresponding author. This second letter will inform the authors that the paper is being rejected on the grounds that plagiarism is suspected, citing the evidence, and noting that this suspicion has not been challenged in a response to the first letter by the authors. The letter will also inform the authors that, should they not offer a response to the second letter, a minimum sanction of refusal on the part of the journal to accept future submissions from any of the authors of the paper for up to 2 years will be imposed, where the exact time period will be determined at the Editors' discretion. At the Editors' discretion, additional sanctions may be imposed (see the Sanctions section below).
- If an explanation is provided, the Editors will review it and decide on sanctions, if any. In consultation with all Editors, the Co-Editor will write a letter to the corresponding author that sets forth the sanctions to be imposed.
Editors may impose sanctions at their discretion according to their judgment regarding the severity of and intention underlying the misconduct. Authors should be aware that possible sanctions include the following, in order of increasing severity.
- Rejection of the paper
- In the event it is determined that the incident is the result of a genuine misunderstanding of principles of scientific integrity, a letter of explanation and education will be sent to all authors of the paper. The journal will maintain on record for up to two years the names of all authors who are not identified by the authors themselves as having had no part in the misconduct. Furthermore, as a matter of course, they will subject their future submissions from the authors to scrutiny for evidence of possible misconduct.
- A letter of reprimand, including a warning regarding more serious sanctions that could result from future misconduct, will be sent to all authors of the paper. The journal will maintain on record the names of all authors who are not identified by the authors themselves as having no part in the misconduct for up to 5 years and as a matter of course subject their future submissions to scrutiny for evidence of possible misconduct.
- A letter of reprimand will be sent to all authors of the paper, indicating that the journal will refuse to accept submissions from all authors who are not identified by the authors themselves as having no part in the misconduct for up to N years, where N is to be determined by the Editors.
- A formal letter will be sent to the relevant individual(s) (e.g., department or unit head, academic administrator, official in an office of scientific integrity) at the institution(s) of the author(s) allegedly involved in the misconduct, alerting this individual(s) to the allegation of misconduct and the reasons underlying it. The Editors will cooperate with the process for investigating misconduct at the institution, if such an investigation is pursued, by providing copies of the submitted paper and all correspondence and documentation connected with the incident.
Plagiarism in Papers Accepted or Published in Biometrics
Cases may arise in which an allegation of plagiarism is made in regard to a paper that has already been accepted for publication or has already appeared online and/or in print. Such allegations may be brought by readers or by editorial board members themselves, including Editors.
A reader or other individual who suspects plagiarism in an accepted or published Biometrics article should send a letter to the Executive Editor of Biometrics, citing the reasons for the suspicion of plagiarism and naming the work from which the material is thought to be drawn. All Editors will review the allegations and make a determination as to whether possible misconduct is evident and the severity of the misconduct.
In the event that the determination is that the evidence is sufficient to suggest that misconduct is likely, the Editors will send a letter to the corresponding author of the paper explaining the reasons for the suspicion of plagiarism, citing the reference from which the material is thought to be drawn, and ask the author to provide a written explanation within one week or, in the event of travel or other extenuating circumstances, a suitable time period. The explanation should also warrant that all authors of the paper have reviewed it and are in agreement with it. If an author(s) is agreed by all authors to have had no knowledge of or role in the alleged misconduct, the written explanation should so state.
If no explanation is provided within the time limit, the Executive Editor, in consultation with all other Editors, will send a letter to the corresponding author, with copies to all authors listed on the paper, informing them of the following:
- For a paper that is accepted but not yet published, the paper will be removed from the publication queue, and the letter will retract the previous acceptance of the paper and reject it on the grounds that plagiarism is suspected, citing the evidence and the fact that it has not been challenged by the authors. At a minimum, failure to respond to a request for an explanation will result in a sanction of refusal on the part of the journal to accept future submissions from any of the authors of the paper for up to 2 years. At the Editors' discretion, additional sanctions may be imposed (see the Sanctions section above).
- For an already-published paper, the Editors may publish at their discretion a statement in the journal, on the first numbered page of an issue, immediately following the front matter, stating that the Editors have reason to believe that there are irregularities with the article, listing its full title, author list, and citation. The exact wording of the statement will be at the Editors' discretion. The statement will be sent to all authors before it is published, and the authors will be given one month to respond before it is forwarded for publication. The statement and the original published article will be clearly linked in the electronic database so that the retraction will always be apparent to any reader of the original article.
- If an explanation is provided, the Editors will review it and decide on sanctions, if any. In consultation with all Editors, the Executive Editor will write a letter to the corresponding author that sets forth the sanctions to be imposed on the author(s). Sanctions may include any of those listed in the section on Sanctions above.
- In addition to the sanctions imposed, if the evidence of plagiarism is irrefutable in the judgment of the Editors and/or if the author(s) admit to misconduct, a retraction statement will also be published in Biometrics on the first numbered page of an issue, immediately following the front matter, and will be listed in the Table of Contents of that issue of the journal. The retraction statement will be signed by one of: the author(s) responsible for the misconduct; the author(s)' legal counsel; a representative of the author(s)' institution; or the Editors. The retraction statement and the original published article will be clearly linked in the electronic database so that the retraction will always be apparent to any reader of the original article.