Theory of Computing’s Policy and Procedures on Plagiarism

(a variant of ACM’s policy, June 2010 revision, available at:

http://www.acm.org/publications/policies/plagiarism_policy)

1. Definition and Context

Respecting intellectual property rights is a foundational principle of Theory of Computing (henceforth, ToC). Plagiarism, in which one misrepresents ideas, words, or other creative expression as one's own, is a clear violation of such ethical principles. Plagiarism can also represent a violation of copyright law, punishable by statute. Plagiarism manifests itself in a variety of forms, including

  1. Verbatim copying, near-verbatim copying, or purposely paraphrasing portions of another author's paper;
  2. Copying elements of another author's paper, such as equations or illustrations that are not common knowledge, or copying or purposely paraphrasing sentences without citing the source; and
  3. Verbatim copying of portions of another author's paper with citing but not clearly differentiating what text has been copied (e.g., not applying quotation marks correctly) and/or not citing the source correctly.

Self-plagiarism is a related issue. In this document we define self-plagiarism as the verbatim or near-verbatim reuse of significant portions of one's own copyrighted work without citing the original source. Note that self-plagiarism does not apply to publications based on the author's own previously copyrighted work (e.g., appearing in a conference proceedings) where an explicit reference is made to the prior publication[1]. Such reuse does not require quotation marks to delineate the reused text but does require that the source be cited.

All authors are deemed to be individually and collectively responsible for the content of papers published by ToC. Hence, it is the responsibility of each author to ensure that papers submitted to ToC attain the highest ethical standards with respect to plagiarism.

ToC and ToC’s Board of Editors place the investigation of each claim of plagiarism at the highest priority for resolution and action.

2. Notifying ToC of Alleged Plagiarism

To inform ToC of alleged plagiarism, send email to the ToC Editor-in-Chief. The following is the minimum information required for ToC to initiate a plagiarism investigation:

  1. The names and contacts of the person(s) making the claim and their relationship to the allegation (e.g., author of plagiarized work, reviewer or editor of plagiarizing work).
  2. A citation to the original paper(s) (paper title, author, publication title, date of publication).
  3. A citation to the alleged plagiarizing paper.
  4. Indication of specific pages, sections, paragraphs in each work alleged as evidence of the plagiarism.

In addition, ToC encourages the submission of the following additional information to aid in its investigation:

  1. Copies of all papers involved in the alleged plagiarism.
  2. Additional information regarding how to obtain involved papers that are unpublished (e.g., a technical report, an online posting).
  3. Any other information that would help ToC efficiently resolve the claim.

ToC can only process plagiarism claims involving material published by it.

3. Investigation

Upon receipt of an allegation of plagiarism, the Editor-in-Chief will inform the Associate Editors-in-Chief as well as the Managing Editors. The Editor-in-Chief will then coordinate the investigation. Depending on the details of the claim, the investigation may include, but not be limited to, any or all of the following steps:

  1. Manual and/or automated tests of content similarity;
  2. Soliciting comments to the claim from the referees of either or both papers;
  3. Forming an ad hoc committee of experts in the field to review the claim;
  4. Consulting with legal counsel; and/or
  5. Communicating with the individuals involved on both sides.
  6. Contacting the author/copyright owner of the plagiarized work.

Once the investigation has been completed, the ToC Board of Editors, will determine the penalties to be imposed depending on the type of plagiarism.

4. Confidentiality

All aspects of an investigation will be treated with the utmost regard for confidentiality. The names and contacts of the person(s) making the claim and their relationship to the allegation (e.g., author of plagiarized work, reviewer or editor of plagiarizing work) will be kept confidential and used only for the purpose and duration of the investigation. However, in order to ensure timely and effective resolution, details of a claim will be circulated to individuals on a need-to-know basis (e.g., see Section 3 above). As part of the investigation, it may be necessary for ToC to contact current and/or past employers of the authors. Additionally, some institutions have specific requirements for their employees to disclose any pending legal/ethical matters.

ToC, at its discretion, may decide to inform the general public of the plagiarism investigation. However, during the investigation, under no circumstances will ToC disclose any individual author's name, paper titles, referees, ad hoc investigation committee members, or any other personal or specific information regarding a plagiarism claim to the public.

5. Results of an Investigation

Once a decision has been reached, it will be communicated to all parties immediately by the ToC Editor-in-Chief. If plagiarism has been found, all parties will be informed of the penalties and the actions that will be taken. Upon notification, the investigative phase will be deemed to have ended, and there will be no further communication with any party by ToC unless there is an appeal to the ToC Editor-in-Chief. All appeals must be made in writing to the ToC Editor-in-Chief no more than 30 days from the date of notification. Once a determination of plagiarism has been made, there is no guarantee that the author names and paper titles will continue to be kept confidential.

6. Penalties for Plagiarism

When plagiarism has been found to have occurred, ToC will take the actions listed below as determined by the type of plagiarism. Unless determined otherwise during the investigation, all authors are deemed to be individually and collectively responsible for the content of a plagiarizing paper.

a. Verbatim copying, near-verbatim copying, or purposely paraphrasing a significant portion of another author's paper without citing the source and without clearly delineating (e.g., in quotation marks) the source material.

  1. ToC will inform the Department Chair, Dean, or supervisor of the authors of the finding of plagiarism.
  2. The authors will be asked to write a formal letter of apology to the authors of the plagiarized paper, including an admission of plagiarism.
  3. If the paper has appeared in press, ToC will post a Notice of Plagiarism on the paper’s main page.
  4. If the paper is under submission, the paper can be automatically rejected by the Editor-in-Chief without further revisions and without any further plagiarism investigation coordinated by the ToC Editor-in-Chief. In addition, a letter of warning will be sent by the Editor-in-Chief to the authors with a copy of the ToC Policy and Procedures on Plagiarism.

b. Verbatim copying, near-verbatim copying, or purposely paraphrasing sentences of another author's paper and/or, copying elements of another author's paper (such as non-common knowledge illustrations and equations) without citing the source and without clearly delineating (e.g., in quotation marks) the source material.

  1. The authors will be asked to write a formal letter of apology to the authors of the plagiarized paper, including an admission of the plagiarism.
  2. If the paper has appeared in press, ToC will post a Notice of Plagiarism on the paper’s main page.
  3. If the paper is under submission, the paper can be automatically rejected by the Editor-in-Chief without further revisions and without any further plagiarism investigation coordinated by the ToC Editor-in-Chief. In addition, a letter of warning will be sent by the Editor-in-Chief to the authors with a copy of the ToC Policy and Procedures on Plagiarism.

c. Verbatim copying of portions of another author's paper with citing, but not clearly differentiating what text has been copied (e.g., not applying quotation marks correctly) and/or not citing the source correctly.

NB: Representing substantial portions of another’s work as one’s own can result in the stronger penalties of 6a even when that work is cited.

  1. The authors will be asked to write a formal letter of apology to the authors of the plagiarized paper, including an admission of the plagiarism.
  2. If the paper is under submission, at the discretion of the Editor-in-Chief, the paper can either be automatically rejected without future review or a revision will be required that clearly and correctly cites the previous work without any further plagiarism investigation coordinated by the ToC Editor-in-Chief. In addition, a letter of warning will be sent by the Editor-in-Chief to the authors with a copy of the ToC Policy and Procedures on Plagiarism.

d. Self plagiarism or redundant, duplicative publication (verbatim or near-verbatim reuse of significant portions of one's own copyrighted work in subsequent papers where the authors have not disclosed in the subsequent paper the previous publication).

  1. If the paper has appeared in press, ToC will post a Notice of Self Plagiarism or a Notice of Redundant Publication based on the investigation on the paper’s main page.
  2. If the paper is under submission and at the discretion of the Editor-in-Chief, the paper can either be automatically rejected without future review or a revision will be required that includes a citation to and discussion of the previous paper and without any further plagiarism investigation coordinated by the ToC Editor-in-Chief. In addition, a letter of warning will be sent by the Editor-in-Chief to the authors with a copy of the ToC Policy and Procedures on Plagiarism.

Should the authors refuse to comply with the above (e.g., if they refuse to write a formal letter of apology) or if it is determined during the plagiarism investigation that there have been multiple violations of any of the above forms of plagiarism by the same authors, ToC retains the right to impose further sanctions such as automatic rejection of all current and future submissions for some extended period of time, possibly invoking statutory/injunctive relief.

7. Third-Party Claims against ToC

Should a claim arise against ToC (i.e., that a paper published by ToC has plagiarized copyrighted work) the ToC Editor-in-Chief will fully cooperate with the third party during the investigative phase and will inform the ToC Board of Editors of the conclusions and of the actions taken.

[1] Manuscripts submitted to ToC based on the author’s own previously copyrighted work (e.g., appearing in a conference proceedings) must be disclosed at the time of submission.