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01/14/2020

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Michel

While I recall seeing dissertation disclaimers in some *books*, I don't think I've ever seen it for an *article* (unless, maybe, it was for an article published a very long time ago).

For my part, my dissertation-related publications have not noted that fact, although they've acknowledged all the relevant people. And I think that's OK, especially since they had to be revised a fair bit to make them read like standalone articles rather than dissertation chapters.

As for the recycling and self-plagiarism issues... I think they're non-issues, for the reasons Marcus outlined (but also, self-servingly, because I've done a lot of it). Besides, in order for a journal to object that an article was too similar to someone's dissertation, referees/editors would have had to read that dissertation. And that's vanishingly unlikely. Almost nobody reads your dissertation! (Not least because dissertation aren't treated like proper publications, so they don't really inform our research habits.)

a philosopher

I agree with everything Marcus said. A large chunk of people in the discipline now write "paper" dissertations consisting of 3-5 independent papers, instead of a fully unified monograph. A large part of the justification for this approach, on my understanding, is that it allows you to quickly turn around and submit those "chapters" themselves to journals, without revision. This, anyway, is what I did and no one in my circle blinked an eye at it. One of my dissertation papers/chapters was published after a few rounds of R&R, making it into the journal in substantively the same form as it was in the dissertation. I had the normal "This paper was originally chapter X of my dissertation" note in the acknowledgements. The other chapters haven't been published yet, but that's because after a few journal rejections I decided they needed more work and I've substantially revised them in the normal process of developing the ideas.

I also haven't run into anyone who disagreed with Marcus' point that dissertations are publications in name only. Everyone I know effectively treats dissertations as nonpublished work, given the big differences between them and other varieties of professional publications in philosophy. I mean, just as a practical point: pretty much nobody reads, looks for, or cites dissertations, so it's somewhat silly for someone to complain that a journal article was "already out there" for reading in some university's thesis repository. Just think of the crawlers on PhilPapers, which aren't even set to check university thesis repositories for new "publications".

from Europe

I think there is a cultural misunderstanding. In Germany, and perhaps some other countries, people have to publish their thesis. They essentially pay some press to print 100 or so copies, some of which are distributed to other university libraries. But this is a publication in a stronger sense than a North American PhD thesis that might be made available on-line. In fact, I believe this is a requirement at German universities (correct me if I am wrong).

history of philosophy grad

The real question is what is the best way to recycle the dissertation work into articles. Unless you are writing the article-style dissertation that slaps an introduction onto the beginning of three somewhat related papers, then the style of writing makes it hard to execute a smooth recycle job. Or maybe this is just a problem for those of us who work in the history of philosophy? But history monographs, and even essays in edited volumes, often read much differently than do the pieces that get published as articles in history journals. And often when you are writing history, you're expected to go the monograph route, which makes publishing all the more work. Or am I whining? Probably

Marcus Arvan

history: It's not just an issue in the history of philosophy.

I finished a traditional book-length dissertation in social-political philosophy in 2008 (https://philpapers.org/rec/ARVANT ). It took countless drafts over nearly 6 years to publish my first article adapted from it (https://philpapers.org/rec/ARVFST ) and countless more drafts over 5 more years to publish my second article adapted from it (https://philpapers.org/rec/ARVNJA-2 ).

My experience, in other words, is that it can take a great deal of time and revision to publish articles from a traditional dissertation (as opposed to the newer "series of papers" alternative now apparently common in PhD programs). But I think it was worth it in the end!

contra spinners

If self-plagiarism is an offense, then it surely isn't a punishable one. I see so many big shots spinning the same basic idea into five articles, then those five articles into a six-chapter book.

Amanda

haha contra spinners I know exactly what you mean. Many, many, of the big names republish almost the same article again and again in all sorts of places, from journals to edited volumes to new books, etc. The ethics of this is one issue that I don't have the time to respond to. But pragmatically, I don't think it counts as plagiarism unless it is literally the same paper and then that is a copyright issue.

The dissertation does not count as published work by most people and places in the US. How awful would it be if you wrote a dissertation then couldn't publish any of it? Almost everyone today writes a dissertation expecting to publish it, maybe in journals, maybe as a book, but it would be a horrible job strategy to write a dissertation and have no plans to publish it anywhere but the university library.

a philosopher

Amanda and contra spinners: I've now noted a few big names not only republish almost the same article again and again, but literally copy-and-paste whole paragraphs between these articles. I've caught whole 2-3 paragraph stretches of one paper being reproduced verbatim in another, with no acknowledgement.

I think it's a grey area to reproduce a published paper in new venues with only a change in emphasis or with a few ideas expanded, but my opinion is that once you're reproduced chunks of one paper in a new published article without any attribution you've crossed a clear line.

... what's worse is that, I assume, publishers now are using plagiarism checking software, so editors should know that this is happening, but still let people get away with it.

Amanda

a philosopher: that is kind of what I meant. I've seen a lot of that too. I guess what someone might argue is that even though chunks of the exact paper are cute and pasted, it is not the same entire paper. Plagiarizing from oneself is a tricky issue.At least, it is not clear to me that norms are established. In this case, wouldn't the wrong be to the first publisher who is getting copyright infringed upon? Or is it to the editor of journal or book that gets the copied paper, because they thought they were getting a new paper? I think sometimes the editor, as you say, is well aware, but just wants the famous name. In regular plagiarism, clearly the person whose work was stolen is wronged. And the audience also gets a dishonest perception of the author's abilities. I think the ethical issues are much more murky with plagiarism because these things do not apply. Actually, I think really the bigger ethical problem is that this is something we allow the stars to do because they are stars. It is an issue of equity and prestige bias in the sense that the prestige of the name, and not the quality of the article, allows work to be published that couldn't be published otherwise, and in a way that is not open to the not prestigious

a philosopher

I agree with all that, Amanda. Exactly who is harmed is a murky issue, but I also don't think that harm is the only bar for judging what we ought to do. Repackaging and republishing the same idea in multiple venues is a pretty lame thing to do --- the kind of thing which should make reasonable people roll their eyes and think (a little) less of the person doing it. Why, exactly, are they doing it? To pad their already prestigious CV? To avoid a bruised ego from having to down a submission invitation just because they don't really have anything new to say? To make life easier, as writing up a genuinely new paper would take more time and it's easier to just toy with old ideas? To draw from Aristotle, I think it's fair to say that this sort of behavior is less than "fine", even if it doesn't/didn't harm. (In that case, it's a sort of self-harm, since it makes you less fine than you could have been.)

But to throw out another suggestion of who's harmed: the young researchers who would love to contribute to a new OUP volume (or whatever), but don't get the shot because the slot was filled with a repackaged paper from a big name.

Anyway, I think we've had this conversation before, so I guess this has turned more into a rant than anything.

Another Philosopher

I disagree that there is anything wrong with republishing the same idea, as long as it's not verbatim. You can present the idea for a general audience and for a specialty audience, for example. Another possibility is to use an old argument but in a new area. When doing things like this you may reuse some paragraphs or even pages of text. Why rewrite something that you've already written, especially if you feel you've already written it in the best way? The only real concern is in cases where you've signed over your copyright for a published article. The legal dynamics of this are not something I know about, but it seems that the kinds of things that famous people do are allowed. If you've published open access and retain the copyright, then there wouldn't be a legal issue. I think people get too uppity about 'self plagiarism,' which seems more of a concept made up to benefit publishers than to capture a real moral concern.

a philosopher

"You can present the idea for a general audience and for a specialty audience, for example. Another possibility is to use an old argument but in a new area."

These aren't the kind of cases which I have in mind. I'm talking about someone writing up the same argument for the same thesis twice, for two different venues, each of which (at least implicitly) present that work as original scholarly research. Example: first for a journal, then for an OUP special collection.

I think the only real concern is copyright if you're thinking about this in an overly narrow legalistic sense. Other concerns include one's motivations: e.g., are you reproducing the work only out of vanity?

Amanda

Yeah, I can agree there is something distasteful about the whole thing. I get the impression most of them do it because they were asked to write an article for a certain venue, they don't have time to write a new one, and there is social pressure (the person asking is a friend, for instance) to say yes.

Does it take away from other scholars publishing? Maybe. I'm not sure on this. Often the special journal issue or anthology's publication is contingent on having enough big names. That this is true, of course, is it's own problem. But I think there are cases where this happens in the first issue of a new journal. A journal that might even pretend to be blind review. I think that is one of the worst cases. And that rarely does the publication of the journal depend on big names in the first issue. The editors are just trying to get a reputation. And I'm not sure if it helps.I've seen big names publish in no name journals somewhat frequently.

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