Down with cut & paste culture

Marilia Sá Carvalho Claudia Travassos Cláudia Medina Coeli

The information technology revolution and especially the advent of the Internet have significantly influenced behaviors and processes in society. Lawrence Lessig coined the terms “read only” (RO) and “read/write” (RW) culture in Remix: Making Art and Commerce Thrive in the Hybrid Economy (Penguin Books; 2009) to describe the profound changes that have occurred in the production and consumption of cultural products. The habit of passively reproducing music and videos created by others (RO culture) has been replaced by a more active stance by consumers, who employ home editing software to produce derivative works (“mashups”). These consumers now edit, splice, and transform contents stored on the Internet to create new products (RW culture). One of the marks of this new form of producing and consuming culture is its collaborative nature.

Collaboration is also an important characteristic of scientific work. The famous quote by Isaac Newton, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants”, expresses the importance of collective knowledge production to the advancement of science. Science is consumed and produced in the RW format. New information technologies have facilitated content storage and connectivity between researchers, creating a favorable environment for the development of RW culture. However, this progress has also facilitated plagiarism and redundant or duplicate publication (“self-plagiarism”), fueling an undesirable culture of “cut e paste” in the academic world.

A recent study showed an increase in the retraction of articles due to plagiarism in biomedical and life sciences journals (Fang FC et al. Misconduct accounts for the majority of retracted scientific publications. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2012; 109:17028-33). Although the number of complaints of plagiarism or redundant publication in CSP is still small in absolute terms, we have observed a growing trend, which has led us to review our editorial policy. In addition to pursuing greater compliance with the guidelines published by the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE), including the process (now under way) of joining this organization, we are currently implementing automatic verification of plagiarism in all articles submitted to CSP. Sometimes software alone does not suffice for detection (and we use the latter word intentionally; we have in mind detective work). For example, changes in a few words or the combination of excerpts copied from more than one source require the human eye to identify more vague similarities, which are then brought to the editors’ attention.

Having identified a copy, we follow the COPE flowcharts that give general orientations for suspecting redundant publications ( dant%20publication%20A.pdf) and suspecting plagiarism (

These changes seek to reinforce our commitment to guarantee the integrity of contents published in CSP. The journal will thus continue to fulfill its mission as a vehicle for the dissemination of relevant, original, and creative ideas.

Marilia Sá Carvalho
Claudia Travassos
Cláudia Medina Coeli

Publication Dates

  • Publication in this collection
    May 2014
Escola Nacional de Saúde Pública Sergio Arouca, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz Rio de Janeiro - RJ - Brazil