ACM Policy on Plagiarism, Misrepresentation, and Falsification

Approved by the ACM Publications Board on May 24, 2019

Executive Summary

ACM seeks to serve readers' and authors' interests by publishing high-quality original works, including journal articles, audio and video content, web postings, technical reports, conference articles, books, and other forms of scholarly and professional information.

ACM is dedicated to serving the global computing and information technology community by promoting the highest professional and ethical standards. Maintaining the integrity of published Works, defending authors against plagiarism and other forms of ethical violation, making these works discoverable, promoting the dissemination of these Works to the greatest possible readership, and preserving these Works indefinitely in their original published form are among our fundamental principles.

This document provides a detailed definition of plagiarism in its various forms, as well as other dishonest behavior including misrepresentation of authorship and the falsification of content in ACM Publications. It also describes:

  • the possible penalties and ramifications if it is determined that a violation has taken place;
  • how to report a potential violation;
  • how suspected plagiarism, misrepresentation, and/or falsification under this policy is reported;
  • how an allegation of plagiarism, misrepresentation, and/or falsification is investigated;
  • how to appeal a decision under this policy;
  • how and where to pose questions or ask for variations of this policy.

This policy applies to all authors and creators of items submitted for publication or published by ACM.

Introduction

ACM is a major publisher of scholarly and technological materials. These materials include journals, magazines, online materials, collections of data, conference and workshop proceedings, awards, images and movies, and other content of professional interest. Respecting intellectual property and honesty in publication are central to the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, especially 1.3, "Be honest and trustworthy"; 1.5, "Respect the work required to produce new ideas, inventions, creative works, and computing artifacts"; 2.1, "Strive to achieve high quality in both the processes and products of professional work"; 2.2, "Maintain high standards of professional competence, conduct, and ethical practice"; 2.3, and "Know and respect existing rules pertaining to professional work."

ACM Publications are viewed as premier outlets for scientific and professional publishing, whose results may have critical impacts on public safety, public policy, and future scientific research. ACM is committed to preventing and addressing any accusations of Dishonest Publication-plagiarism, redundant publication (self-plagiarism), author misrepresentation, and content falsification-in ACM Publications. This Policy addresses these concerns.

Depending on the form, intentionality, and severity of a proven violation, a range of potential penalties may be levied against violators of this Policy, including but not limited to article retraction, bans on future submissions to or involvement with ACM publications, conferences, workshops, or symposia, and communication by ACM to the violator's employer. Significant violations may also be referred to ACM's Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE) for additional sanctions.

All authors, editors, reviewers, and contributors to ACM Publications agree to be bound by this policy as a condition of participating in an ACM publication.

Definitions and Terms

Definition of Plagiarism

ACM defines plagiarism as the misrepresentation of another's writings or other creative work (including unpublished and published documents, data, research proposals, computer code, or other forms of creative expression, including electronic versions) as one's own. Plagiarism is a clear violation of ACM Publications Policy and a potential violation of the ACM Code of Ethics. Plagiarism may also represent copyright infringement . Plagiarism manifests itself in a variety of forms, including:

  • verbatim copying, near-verbatim copying, or intentionally paraphrasing portions of another's work;
  • copying elements of another's work, such as equations, tables, charts, illustrations, presentation, or photographs that are not common knowledge, or copying or intentionally paraphrasing sentences without proper or complete source citation;
  • verbatim copying of portions of another's work with incorrect source citation

Note that whether a prior Work has been formally published is not a factor in determining plagiarism; a Work not formally published may be plagiarized. This includes content provided online in preprints, tutorials, manuals, and essays, as well as offline content in any form. The representation of any other person's material as one's own Work is plagiarism.

Definition of Redundant Publication (Self-Plagiarism)

In addition to Plagiarism, ACM also considers redundant publication or self-plagiarism a serious violation of ACM Publications Policy. Self-plagiarism is defined as the verbatim or near-verbatim reuse of significant portions of one's own published work without citing the original source. Note that self-plagiarism does not apply to publications based on the author's own previously published work (e.g., appearing in a journal or conference proceedings) if an explicit and appropriate reference is made to that prior publication. Works submitted to ACM based on the author's own previously published material must be disclosed at the time of submission and an explicit reference to the prior publication must be included in the submitted Work. Such reuse does not require quotation marks to delineate the reused material but does require that the source be appropriately cited. (For more details see the Policy on Prior Publication and Simultaneous Submissions.)

Author Misrepresentation

In addition to plagiarism, author misrepresentation is a serious ethics violation and a violation of this Policy. Author misrepresentation occurs when an author of a work inappropriately credits the authors of a Work. One form of author misrepresentation is the listing of authors who did not participate in a meaningful way in the preparation of the Work. Another form of misrepresentation would be omitting the names of authors who did participate in a meaningful way in the creation of the Work without their knowledge and/or against their will.

A clear definition of authorship is required to enable determination if an author misrepresentation has taken place. ACM defines authorship as meeting all four of the following criteria:

  • all authors must have made substantial intellectual contributions to some components of the original work; and
  • all authors have participated in a meaningful way in the drafting and/or revision of the work; and
  • all authors are aware that the work has been submitted for publication; and
  • all authors understand that they will be held equally accountable for any issues relating to the correctness or integrity of the work, including any potential ethical violations

Note especially the last of those four points.

Content Falsification

Content falsification is any form of intentional misrepresentation of results, supporting materials, or references. Each of these acts is dishonest, strictly prohibited by the ACM Code of Ethics and Professional Conduct, and by generally accepted scientific principles.

Content falsification has taken place when a Work contains material that was known by one or more of the authors to be false or untrue at the time the Work was submitted for consideration of publication. This includes instances where citations are manufactured or used without actual relevance to the content of the Work; data that has been synthesized, adjusted, padded, or trimmed without the specific details of those modifications described in the Work; synthesized or altered outputs portrayed as actual and without specific details of the alterations included in the Work; and any presentations or claims that are known to be false, but are presented in a manner that would lead the reader to believe they are true and correct.

Additional Terms
Additional terms used in this document are defined as follows:

  • "Work" refers to either:
    • published materials, editorials, or "works for hire" where ACM is the publisher; or
    • unpublished materials in submission to an ACM venue, such as a magazine, journal, or conference
  • In either case, the Work may include a Work and its associated artifacts; artifacts include, but are not limited to, code, data, images, and videos.
  • "Editor" encompasses Editor(s), or Program Chair(s), or other individuals with the authority to accept papers on behalf of the publication.
  • "Venue" refers to any ACM publication including at least journals, magazines, newsletters, and conference proceedings

 

Submission and Processing of Claims

Submitting a Claim

Any individual is entitled to make a formal claim that a violation of this policy has occurred. It is not necessary for a claimant to have any formal relationship (e.g., author, reviewer, program committee member) to the Work that is claimed to be in violation of ACM Publications Policy, nor is it required that the claimant be a member of ACM; however, it is necessary that the claim involves an ACM Work (as defined above).

Any individuals submitting a formal claim that a violation has occurred must:

  • identify themselves (i.e., anonymous reports are not considered),
  • indicate whether there is or is not a formal relationship to the Work (e.g., author of violated work, reviewer, or editor of violating Work),
  • provide a detailed written description of the claim, and
  • provide detailed evidence supporting the claim, including:
    • a citation to the original Work(s) (Work title, author, publication title, date of publication), if any;
    • a citation to the alleged violating Work;
    • indication of specific pages, sections, paragraphs, etc. in each work alleged as evidence of the violation

ACM encourages the submission of the following additional information to aid in its investigation:

  • copies of all Works involved in the alleged violation,
  • additional information regarding how to obtain involved Works that are unpublished (e.g., a technical report, an online posting),
  • any other information that would help ACM efficiently to investigate the claim

 

It is not sufficient for an individual simply to allege to ACM that a potential violation has occurred-ACM will not investigate potential violations without a complete claim being submitted.

The process for submitting claims depends on the type and status of the Work that is the subject of the claim, as follows:

  • For Works that have already been published in an ACM Publication (Conference Article, Journal Article, Book, etc.), submit a formal claim that a violation has occurred by sending an email to the ACM Director of Publications.
  • For unpublished Works that have been submitted to any non-conference related ACM Publications, submit a formal claim that a violation has occurred by sending an email to the ACM Director of Publications.
  • For unpublished Works that have been submitted to any ACM Conference, Workshop, or Symposium, submit a formal claim that a violation has occurred by sending an email to the Conference, Workshop, or Symposium's Program Committee Chair(s). The name and contact information for the Program Committee Chair(s) can be found on the Conference, Workshop, or Symposium's website.
  • All other cases should be referred to the ACM Director of Publications.

 

Please note that ACM (via the ACM Director of Publications, ACM Publications Board Ethics & Plagiarism Committee, or Conference, Workshop, or Symposia Program Committee Chair(s) or General Chair(s)) will only process claims related to Works submitted and under consideration by ACM Publications or for Works published by ACM. Claims of violations in non-ACM publications should be directed to their publishers. Complaints against ACM members related to items not published by ACM may be referred to ACM's Committee on Professional Ethics (COPE) for possible investigation and action.

Investigating the Claim
Provided the minimum information required has been provided in writing, ACM will investigate a claim of Publications Policy violations. ACM will take some or all of the steps outlined below based on the circumstances of each individual case. ACM reserves the right to close an active investigation if additional information is requested but not provided by the claimant.

Some or all of the investigation steps to be taken:

  • Upon receipt of a claim that this Policy has been violated, ACM will review the submitted claim and supporting documentation. If any additional documentation is needed ACM will request that documentation from the claimant, who shall provide that documentation to ACM before the formal investigation can proceed.
  • When ACM formally opens an investigation into a claim the Director of Publications will inform appropriate ACM Volunteers and Headquarters Staff. The Director will then coordinate the investigation with the assistance of ACM's Intellectual Property & Rights Manager.
  • For all submitted but not yet published Conference, Workshop, and Symposium Works, the Program Committee Chair(s) shall take the lead on the investigation and shall notify appropriate parties that a claim has been received and an investigation has been initiated. If the Program Committee Chair(s) are unwilling, unable, or conflicted with the claim, the Conference, Workshop, or Symposium General Chair(s) shall take the lead on the investigation and shall follow the same steps outlined here, as appropriate.
  • If appropriate, a comparison of the Works is conducted utilizing Crossref's Similarity Check software, provided by iThenticate.com, and a report is generated that gives an initial indication of the amount of text overlap that exists between the Works. This initial scan may provide some indication of text-based plagiarism, but will not indicate whether more complex forms of plagiarism may have taken place.
  • A manual review of the materials will be conducted.
  • ACM will notify the accused that a claim has been submitted but will keep the identity of the claimant confidential as outlined by policy. ACM will provide as much supporting documentation as possible to the accused without breaching confidentiality.
  • The accused will be allowed to respond to the claim in a timely manner and provide supporting documentation. The accused's response will inform the next steps to be taken by ACM.
    • If the accused denies the details of the claim ACM will continue to investigate.
    • If the accused admits that the violation occurred and waives the right to appeal ACM's decision, then ACM will move to the penalty phase of the case.
  • A peer review of the claim by the ACM Publications Board Ethics & Plagiarism Committee including one or more subject-matter experts will occur to help ACM evaluate the validity of the claim.
  • Input will be solicited from the Editor-in-Chief (if a journal) or Program Chair (if conference proceedings) and referees of Works at issue.
  • Consulting with ACM legal counsel; and/or
  • Communicating with the individuals involved on both sides to update them on the status of the investigation and to inform both sides of decisions taken by ACM with respect to the claim(s).


Results of the Investigation
Once a decision has been reached in relation to an allegation of dishonest publication that decision will be communicated to all parties immediately by the ACM Director of Publications or by the Program Committee Chair(s) or General Chair(s), as appropriate. Upon notification, the investigative phase will be deemed to have ended, and there will be no further communication with any party by ACM unless there is an appeal to the ACM President.

Confidentiality
All aspects of an investigation are treated with the utmost regard for confidentiality. The names and contacts of the person(s) making a claim and their relationship to the allegation (e.g., author of plagiarized work, reviewer or editor of plagiarizing work) will be kept strictly confidential and used only for the purpose and duration of the investigation.

However, to ensure timely and effective resolution, details of a claim may be circulated to individuals on a need-to-know basis. As part of the investigation, it may be necessary for ACM 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. If either the claimant or accused's institutions contact ACM to request information regarding the investigation, it is ACM's policy to disclose that a claim has been received and to indicate whether a formal investigation is ongoing but to restrict the amount of information that is shared at ACM's discretion. If ACM is contacted with an official request to provide evidence, documentation, and/or testimony for a related judicial proceeding, ACM will comply with such a request.

ACM, at its discretion, may decide to inform the general public of the dishonest publication investigation and will do so by posting minimal information about alleged violations in the appropriate section(s) of the ACM Digital Library. However, during the investigation, ACM will not disclose in any more general manner any individual author's name, paper titles, referees, investigation committee members, or any other personal or specific information regarding any allegation of publication dishonesty.

Results of the Investigation
Once a determination has been reached that decision will be communicated in writing to all affected parties by the ACM Director of Publications. For unpublished ACM Conference, Workshop, and Symposium related Works, the decision will be communicated in writing to all parties by the Program Committee Chair(s) or Conference Chair(s).

In all cases, if a violation has been found, all parties will be informed of the penalties and the actions to be taken.

Upon notification, the investigative phase will be deemed to have ended, and there will be no further communication with any party by ACM unless there is an appeal to the ACM President.

Right of Appeal

All claimants and the accused have the right to appeal official decisions. All appeals must be in writing to the ACM President no more than 30 days from the date of notification, with a copy sent to the ACM Director of Publications. An appeal must contain new material that was not already evaluated by the Committee or substantive information that might lead the ACM President to issue a different decision than the one initially made.

If no appeal has been requested, the decision shall stand and the appropriate penalties shall be implemented.

In the event an appeal has been requested, the ACM President's decision shall be final and once communicated to the parties, the decision shall be carried out with both parties being notified of the final decision.

Penalties

Definitions and Consequences

Level I - Incidental violation
  • The violators will be expected to write a letter of apology to parties (e.g., editors, authors of prior works, co-authors) identified during the investigation, including an admission of wrong-doing.
  • Published items in the ACM Digital Library will be updated with a corrigendum noting the reasons for change and addressing the issue. Unpublished items under consideration may be revised and resubmitted, or rejected without further consideration, as the Editor chooses. Any and all corrections shall be done in a manner consistent with the ACM Publications Policy on the Withdrawal, Correction, Retraction, and Removal of Works from ACM Publications and the ACM Digital Library.
Level II - Low-level violation
  • The violators will be expected to write a letter of apology to parties (e.g., editors, authors of prior works, co-authors) identified during the investigation, including an admission of wrong-doing.
  • Published items in the ACM Digital Library will be retracted. Unpublished items will be rejected without further review.
Level III - Moderate violation
  • The violators will be expected to write a letter of apology to parties (e.g., editors, authors of prior works, co-authors) identified during the investigation, including an admission of wrong-doing.
  • Published items in the ACM Digital Library will be retracted. Unpublished items will be rejected without further review.
  • The violators will be banned from contributing to the same or any related ACM Venue for a full calendar year.
  • A letter explaining the violation, findings, and penalties will be sent to the Dean, chair, or supervisor of each party found in violation.
Level IV - Significant violation
  • The violators will be expected to write a letter of apology to parties (e.g., editors, authors of prior works, co-authors) identified during the investigation, including an admission of wrong-doing.
  • Published items in the ACM Digital Library will be retracted. Unpublished items will be rejected without further review.
  • The violators will be banned from submission to any ACM Venue for the next two years.
  • A letter explaining the violation, findings, and penalties will be sent to the Dean, chair, or supervisor of each party found in violation.
Level V - Severe violation
  • The violators will be expected to write a letter of apology to parties (e.g., editors, authors of prior works, co-authors) identified during the investigation, including an admission of wrong-doing.
  • Published items in the ACM Digital Library will be retracted. Unpublished items will be rejected without further review.
  • The violators will be banned from contributing to any ACM Venue for the next five years.
  • The case and evidence will be forward to the ACM Committee on Professional Ethics for consideration.
  • A letter explaining the violation, findings, and penalties will be sent to the Dean, chair, or supervisor of each party found in violation.
Application of Penalties
Based on the findings of the investigation, one of the levels of penalty described above will be applied.
 
Plagiarism
Verbatim copying of small 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 will be considered a Level I or Level II plagiarism violation, depending on the amount copied. Level I violators will be given the opportunity to correct a published work voluntarily; if a correction is not forthcoming, the infraction is upgraded to Level II.

Verbatim copying, near-verbatim copying, or purposely paraphrasing several elements of another author's Work and/or copying elements of another author's Work without citing the sources and without clearly delineating the source material will be considered a Level III violation.

Verbatim copying, near-verbatim copying, or purposely paraphrasing a significant portion of another author's Work without citing the sources and without clearly delineating the source material will be considered a Level IV violation.

Redundant publication
Self-plagiarism or redundant publication will be considered a Level II violation if there are no appropriate citations, and a Level I if there are citations but they are poorly placed or misleading.

Misrepresentation of Authors
Unintentional misrepresentation of authors is a Level I violation. Misrepresenting the authors of a Work is a Level III violation if found to be intentional. If it is determined that the violation occurred as a matter of retribution against a subordinate, or to incur a profit or for personal gain it is a Level IV violation.

Data Falsification
Data falsification is a Level III or Level IV violation depending on its scope and potential impact. If it is determined that the violation occurred to incur a profit or for personal gain it will be assessed as a higher-level violation.

Adjustments
Multiple, simultaneous violations by the same parties may be assessed higher penalties, and may also be referred to ACM COPE.

Repeated violations will be assessed at Level V, and shall also be referred to ACM COPE.

Penalty levels may be adjusted from the above if warranted by special circumstances.

As noted above, all listed authors share in the responsibility of authorship and in the penalties assessed.

Questions, Deviations, and Reporting Violations

The ACM Director of Publications should be contacted for any
  • Questions about the interpretation of this policy
  • Questions about appeals of decisions
  • Requests for deviations from, or extensions to, this policy
  • Reporting of egregious behavior related to this policy, including purposeful evasion of the policy or false reporting
 

Mailing address:
ACM Director of Publications
Association for Computing Machinery
1601 Broadway
10th Floor
New York, NY 10019-7434
Phone:
+1-212-626-0659

Or via email:
publication-policies@hq.acm.org
RE: Dishonest publication issue

ACM's Publications Board Ethics and Plagiarism Committee

The ACM Publications Board’s Ethics & Plagiarism Committee places the investigation of each claim of plagiarism at the highest priority for resolution and action. The basics are outlined here, and specific details of all aspects of reporting and investigating claims, and penalties for plagiarism are found here.

ACM Policies on Authorship

Anyone listed as Author on an ACM paper must meet certain criteria, including making substantial intellectual contributions to some components of the original work and drafting and/or revising the paper.

Authors submitting papers for peer-review to ACM publications will represent that the paper submitted is original; that the work submitted is not currently under review at any other publication venue; that they have the rights and intent to publish the work in the venue to which it is submitted; and that any prior publications on which this work is based are documented appropriately. 

Read the entire set of criteria in the Policy on Roles and Responsibilities in ACM Publishing.

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