Ghostwriting: The Paid Writing

Those who are new to this term should not apprehend it as writings by Ghost!!! However, medical researchers’, authors’ and editors’ fraternity are well-versed with this term.

Ghostwriting denotes to the practice of writing for and in the name of someone else especially a named author or writer. This practice has become a widespread trend these days.

Ghostwriters, as it sounds, are definitely not the ghosts but are those hired writers who do not claim their own creative works. They are the individuals who usually make significant contributions to the research or writing of a manuscript for the medical fraternity or institutions. They are heavily paid for selling their creativity.

Despite of its widespread usage, it is difficult to track down the ghostwriting practice in the medical writings, journals and research papers. No wonder, the secret behind the term coined is its invisible omnipresence.

A study done by journal PLoS Medicine revealed the rise in the practice of ghostwriting. This paid form of writing has raised both ethical and legal aspects in medical journals. It puts an impact on the integrity of the scientific facts and figures used for a particular medical research. Fingers are now being pointed on the ethics of the medical journal publications.

Moreover, it is now considered as a legal offense and can bring misconduct to the researchers or authors or writers paying for such malpractice. Legal experts are accounting such writing as professional fraud and misconduct.

The Internal Committee of Medical Journal Editors (ICMJE) has finally designed some guidelines to curb this ghostwriting trend and provide the credit to its original writer/author only. As per these guidelines, the authorship of a research paper is judged on the basis of:

  1. Substantial contributions to conception and design, acquisition of data, or analysis and interpretation of data;
  2. Drafting the article or revising it critically for important intellectual content; and
  3. Final approval of the version to be published.

We hope this article will surely help you in understanding the present practice of ghostwriting, which is gradually becoming a burden for the journals, especially medical journals.

Is self-plagiarism ethical?

Research papers or journals are the medium of spreading knowledge and new ideas evolved. Innovative and original piece of work would certainly be more educative and admirable. Nevertheless, authors and writers are often found to be reusing their old piece of work or some extracts from their previous published papers while writing a new research paper.

When questions are raised against this content reuse, authors claim that those stuffs are their own works and materials, and thus, they can reuse them as they wish, and it cannot be termed as plagiarism since they have not stolen the ideas from any other author or source.

The ethics of plagiarism are not applicable to such reuse, as a result of which it has been overlooked till date. While the discussion is whether this reuse is ethical or not, the publications and the journals, on the other hand, have set certain guidelines for such works citing it as Self-plagiarism.

What is self-plagiarism?

Self-plagiarism is a form of plagiarism where the writer reuses his/her own previously published work in portions or entirely while creating a new study paper. It can breach the publisher’s copyright on those published work when it is reused in the new study papers without appropriate citations. Let us now know more about the ethical aspects of self-plagiarism.

Self-plagiarism can be detected when:

a)  A published paper is used to republish elsewhere without the consent of the co-authors and the publisher of the paper or work.

b)  A paper of a large study is published in small sections with an intention to increase the number of publications.

c)  A previously written work either published or not is reused again in portions in the new study papers.

Although the laws of self-plagiarism are not enforced, it somehow reflects the dishonesty of the author. Moreover, the journals and the publishers are rejecting such copy-paste works as they are seeking writings based on original research findings and proper citations of all the references.

Nowadays, journals are also pointing out questions on the reuse of one’s own work. In order to avoid self-plagiarism, one should try to keep his/her work original, and in case it is necessary to include any portion from his/her previous works, it should be then properly cited with proper references. I hope this article will surely help you in detecting prospective self-plagiarism before submitting your paper or work to publications or journals.