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Estimating the prevalence of text overlap in biomedical conference abstracts

  • Kinney, Nick1, 2
  • Wubah, Araba1, 2
  • Roig, Miguel3
  • Garner, Harold R.1, 2
  • 1 Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine, 2265 Kraft Drive, Blacksburg, VA, 24060, USA , Blacksburg (United States)
  • 2 Gibbs Cancer Center & Research Institute, Spartanburg, SC, USA , Spartanburg (United States)
  • 3 St. John’s University, 300 Howard Avenue, Staten Island, NY, 10301, USA , Staten Island (United States)
Published Article
Research Integrity and Peer Review
Springer (Biomed Central Ltd.)
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2021
DOI: 10.1186/s41073-020-00106-y
Springer Nature


BackgroundScientists communicate progress and exchange information via publication and presentation at scientific meetings. We previously showed that text similarity analysis applied to Medline can identify and quantify plagiarism and duplicate publications in peer-reviewed biomedical journals. In the present study, we applied the same analysis to a large sample of conference abstracts.MethodsWe downloaded 144,149 abstracts from 207 national and international meetings of 63 biomedical conferences. Pairwise comparisons were made using eTBLAST: a text similarity engine. A domain expert then reviewed random samples of highly similar abstracts (1500 total) to estimate the extent of text overlap and possible plagiarism.ResultsOur main findings indicate that the vast majority of textual overlap occurred within the same meeting (2%) and between meetings of the same conference (3%), both of which were significantly higher than instances of plagiarism, which occurred in less than .5% of abstracts.ConclusionsThis analysis indicates that textual overlap in abstracts of papers presented at scientific meetings is one-tenth that of peer-reviewed publications, yet the plagiarism rate is approximately the same as previously measured in peer-reviewed publications. This latter finding underscores a need for monitoring scientific meeting submissions – as is now done when submitting manuscripts to peer-reviewed journals – to improve the integrity of scientific communications.

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