Open-access theses and dissertations (also called ETDs for “electronic theses and dissertations”) are increasingly being used to easily create journal articles by some needing a quick and easy scholarly article publication.
After stealing text and data from a thesis and re-formatting it as an article, one can submit it to a predatory publisher and get an easy publication. Because the theses and dissertations have already passed through a round of quality control (the dissertation committee and the defense), they are often ready for publication.
All the open-access activist work that’s been done to make research more available has also helped make more research available to plagiarists, one of the weaknesses of open-access.
Many ETDs are in institutional repositories, many of which are not crawled by Google, Google scholar, or plagiarism detection services. Moreover, some ETDs are mounted on closed networks not connected to the Internet.
This lack of broad exposure makes submitting chapters from theses as scholarly articles easier and less risky because it’s harder to document the plagiarism.
It appears that this 1999 master’s thesis from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University has been used twice as a source for plagiarists:
The thesis can be found here.
Here are two articles that appear to have lifted text from the thesis without attribution.
The first is an article in the International Journal of Scientific and Research Publications, volume 3, issue 4 (April, 2013) entitled “Doubly Helical Antenna by Spiro Mode Maintaining Radiation” by Pragya Soni and Sumit Sharma.
The article’s first page contains these figures:
These figures are lifted from page 5 of the thesis:
The second is an article in the International Journal of Research in Computer and Communication Technology, volume 1, issue 3 (August, 2012) entitled “Applications of Spiro Helical Antenna in Satellite Communications” by Lakshman Giddi and A. Mallikarjuna Prasad.
In this instance, the copying is blatant and obvious. For example, the phrase “In this thesis …” is copied directly without even changing “thesis” to “article.” Moreover, one can observe the line breaks from the original PDF breaking lines of text in the middle:
The text in the right-hand column originally appeared on page 3 of the thesis:
These are just two examples. Both of these journals are already included on my list of questionable journals. Plagiarism — much of it enabled by open-access publications — is increasingly poisoning scholarly communication.
Hat tip: Gail McMillan