Text recycling in research writing (COPE Lightning Talk, April 2024)

May 9, 2024 | Scholarly publishing

The “text recycling in research writing” COPE Lightning Talk in April 2024 was presented by Professor Cary Moskovitz (Director of the Text Recycling Research Project at Duke University, NC, USA).


Text recycling can be defined a number of ways. Essentially it is the reuse of material – whether it is prose, visuals or equations – in a new document where material is used in the new document as it was in the original source. The material is not presented in the new document as a quotation and usually one author on the new document is the same as the original.


Recycling material in published papers is common, however authors do need to be mindful of the copyright law that they are submitting their paper under. Under US copyright law, authors may find that generally they can reuse portions of text under the Fair Use clause, and in many STEM journals publishers ensure their policies work to accommodate this, so as not to infringe the copyright/legal ownership.


The ethics of recycling are different and it requires appropriate transparency. Legalities and ethics may differ and the author must ensure that permission has been requested if their use of copyrighted material falls outside of the Fair Use guidance and journal policies. Text recycling should be done within best practice – we cannot expect authors and editors to be experts in copyright law, however publishers’ policies should adapt to and support their communities. It is also important to highlight that authors should check their publisher agreements as this is where the details lie. These will vary from publisher to publisher and the rules around text recycling are not always consistent.


It is recommended to authors that if they are using work which is previously published, a statement could be included in the paper to highlight this, and this would act in accordance with best practice. This will allow the reader to know that the work is not original, but it will also signpost accordingly.