Every manuscript that is submitted to JGR-Space Physics undergoes a cross-check for identical text in previously published scientific content on the web. Specifically, we send it to a company called iThenticate to generate a “similarity report.” I have a previous post on self-plagiarism. This post is about understanding and interpreting those reports.
The iThenticate software scans the document for strings of characters that match those found in other scholarly publications. It specifically excludes the reference list, for which the entries should be identical between publications. However, scan unfortunately includes the affiliations, which are also always the same.
We (the editors) look at the similarity report for every paper that we manage in the system. This is part of our initial assessment of the manuscript: determining whether to send it out for review. The other big points we assess are whether the English usage in the text is adequate (too many errors and we will send it back to the authors for revision) and whether the paper meets the bar of an original contribution to the field.
Within the similarity report, the big issue that we are looking for is overlap of entire sentences or even paragraphs with a previous source. This is the thing that will get your paper rejected without review. Little things, like the affiliations, specific paper callouts, or standard phrases, are also identified by the software as identical overlap. These small things are discounted by us and not included in our assessment. I have never asked AGU about altering the iThenticate cross-check settings, but perhaps that could be done to omit these small/meaningless overlaps from being highlighted in the report. Until then, however, we all will just have to ignore those places and focus only on the big overlap sections.
So, when you get a manuscript rejected due to a high cross check, please look through the similarity report and find those places where entire sentences are highlighted. These are the places that we want you to rewrite in new wording. We realize that there is often significant overlap with previous papers, especially in the methodology section where the description of the instrument, model, and/or processing scheme is the same as that used in another study. Regardless, you have to rewrite it. It can (it many cases, should) say the same thing as before, but the sentences cannot be verbatim from another paper. We hope that you are able to revise these places of the text very quickly and resubmit within a week or two.