Because science advances incrementally, scientists often need to repeat material included in their prior work when composing new texts. Such “text recycling” is a common but complex writing practice, so authors and editors need clear and consistent guidance about what constitutes appropriate practice. Unfortunately, publishers’ policies on text recycling to date have been incomplete, unclear, and sometimes internally inconsistent. Building on 4 years of research on text recycling in scientific writing, the Text Recycling Research Project has developed a model text recycling policy that should be widely applicable for research publications in scientific fields. This article lays out the challenges text recycling poses for editors and authors, describes key factors that were addressed in developing the policy, and explains the policy’s main features.
Even though this excellent policy is a very useful reference for publishers it will be helpful for researchers, research office staff and RIAs. Also see https://textrecycling.org/. We have included links to six related items. The point here is that some text recycling is permissible, but it matters where it is in a research output and how much there is.
While scientists’ new publications are generally expected to make substantive contributions distinct from their earlier papers, the close relationship among papers often requires authors to repeat some content. Such recycled material typically consists of methodological details but may also include background material such as definitions or exposition that describes prior research.
In many fields of science, “text recycling” (sometimes inaccurately called “self-plagiarism”) is not an aberration but a common writing practice.1 Deciding whether any instance of text recycling is ethical, legal, and appropriate—and possibly even desirable—depends on factors such as the amount and nature of the recycled material as well as copyright laws and any limitations on reuse that are part of an author–publisher agreement.2 Thus, there is a need for clear and consistent guidelines on text recycling.