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Saturday, July 02, 2011

Googling Paper Titles

[From comment section]

Anonymous: I wonder if you have any views about whether authors ought to bring it to journal editors' attention if they discover a referee has googled passages from their paper in an attempt to uncover the author's identity? I don't think this issue has been brought up in discussions of refereeing, but it is a practice I think should definitely stop and making a bit of noise when it happens is perhaps one way to for that to happen. If I were an editor I would certainly want to know if my referees were breaking blind review practice, but I imagine some editors might not be very concerned about this practice and that it may bias them against the author if the latter were to make a stink to them about it.

Me: There is no surefire way to find out if a referee Googled the paper title or passages from the paper to establish the author's identity.

If a referee were to write "since the author is only a graduate student... " in his report, I would be suspicious. But referees don't usually say these kinds of things.

You can protect yourself against this practice by keeping your paper off your website or by re-naming it until it's accepted for publication.

But as you say, referees might Google passages rather than titles, and renaming the paper doesn't protect against that.

In my opinion, the best thing a young author can do is to upload their paper to Google Docs. This allows them to control the share settings. There is a setting that allows people with the link to view the paper but the paper won't show up in Google searches.

This is not a guarantee that a reviewer won't find the paper but at least it wouldn't show up in a Google search, and people who want to check out your website can still use the link on your page to get to the paper.


Aaron Boyden said...

I don't know if it's a common enough issue to justify this sort of thing, but someone might google passages to detect plagiarism.

Brit Brogaard said...

Hi, if you use my suggestion about uploading to Google Docs and adjusting the settings so only people with a link can access it (this is the link you put on your website), reviewers won't find the paper by Googling the title or passages of the paper. Of course, people can still go to your website, click on the link and read the full paper. But reviewers who don't know you won't do that. So, this is the solution I recommend.

Of course, this prevents people from Googling passages to detect plagiarism. But the most innocent form of plagiarism is to copy a passage from a paper. The really malignant forms of plagiarism are more hidden. Ideas stolen. That's hard to prove. Anyone can copy the introduction of my papers if they want. I wouldn't give a s... but if they took my ideas and published them before me, I would be furious.

Just to emphasize: It's very common to Google titles. I don't have any statistics. But I know that despite the fact that I am a very moral person, I used to do it when I was younger. Naturally, I don't do it anymore. It makes no sense.