Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Fear of getting caught not really a plagiarism deterrent

A commentary in Nature about plagarism and multiple publication titled "A Tale of Two Citations" concludes with the words:

But above all, the fear of having some transgression exposed in a public and embarrassing manner could be a very effective deterrent. Like Dickens's Ebenezer Scrooge, the spectre of being haunted by publications past may be enough to get unscrupulous scientists to change their ways.

The authors probably have not been in touch with the Poshard matter, which demonstrated that "unintentional plagiarism" has diminished the fear of having a transgression exposed.
See IPBiz post:
Separately, the Schon incident was not a deterrent to the Hwang incident.

The authors also noted: Scientific productivity, as measured by scholarly publication rates, is at an all-time high.
They cited-- but don't seem to mention a recent NSF study to the contrary.

Of idea-stealing: Unlike repeated publication by the same authors, simultaneous publication is rarely observed for duplicates that do not share authors (see Supplementary information), undoubtedly due to the fact that it is usually difficult to re-use someone else's work before it appears in print — unless the duplicating author also happens to have been a referee of the original. Although anecdotes abound of referees stalling a publication in order to give themselves time to duplicate and publish the same result first, the general lack of duplicates with different authors appearing in rapid succession suggests that this is either rarer than feared, or that the perpetrators do a good job of concealing it.

The authors appear unfamiliar with the now-classic story of a certain submission on 1-2-3 superconductors.

***UPDATE. 24 Jan 2008***

SUE GOETINCK AMBROSE, in the Dallas Morning News, in an article titled, UT Southwestern finds possible plagiarism in scientific database, wrote:

Dr. Joseph Kuhn, director of general surgical research at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas, was among those whose work appears to have been substantially copied. UT Southwestern researchers reviewed a 2002 article by Dr. Kuhn and colleagues and found that in 2007, researchers from France published a highly similar article in a different journal. Overall, 40 percent of Dr. Kuhn's article was duplicated in the French article, including the entire introduction and methods section, the UT Southwestern database indicates.

Dr. Kuhn said he didn't know about the French paper.

"I'm not terribly surprised," he said. "The temptation to copy and paste is not just in high schools."

Dr. Roy Fleischmann, a rheumatologist and clinical professor of medicine at UT Southwestern, may also be a victim.

About 55 percent of a 2003 article by Dr. Fleischmann is duplicated in a 2004 article in a different journal, authored by Dr. Lee Simon, a rheumatologist at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Dr. Fleischmann said he was upset when notified of the duplication by Dr. Garner but is reserving judgment until the case is resolved by the two journals.

"It's distressing," he said. "You spend three or four months writing an article, and then it's duplicated. I don't know whether the second journal asked for permission to duplicate."

Dr. Simon, speaking through a representative, declined to comment and directed questions to the journal in which he published. The journal's editor did not reply to an e-mail inquiry.

Ambrose also wrote:

Still, merely recycling one's own work to stretch a résumé hurts the scientific enterprise, said Thomas Mayo, a lawyer and medical ethicist at Southern Methodist University.

"You have an unethical gaming of the system by an individual who gets two or more credits from one article," he said. "That's the measure for promotion, salary, grant awards. If you have rigged those numbers, the rewards that come your way are a form of ill-gotten gain."

IPBiz thinks of the way Google ranks webpages.

The Scientist blog noted:

One of the nabbed authors is a "big shot" at "one of the most prestigious universities in the United States" who is now being investigated by a journal for plagiarism, author Mounir Errami told the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Under a title Text tool to give cheats a blasting, news com au notes:

They developed and used an automated text-matching tool, eTBLAST, to trawl through more than 7 million related scientific abstracts held in the online database Medline, which indexes more than 5000 international journals.

"We estimate there are potentially more than 200,000 duplicates in Medline (now)," they reported last night in the journal Nature.

They claimed that not only can eTBLAST detect suspect publications, it could be used to discourage "unscrupulous scientists" from behaving badly.

from the Chronicle of Higher Education:

After two researchers warned last week that many examples of plagiarism may mar biomedical journals, a paper flagged by their search process has been retracted.

The Boston Globe reported yesterday that the journal Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology had retracted a 2004 paper by Lee S. Simon, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Harvard University, because it contained overlapping text with a 2003 article in the journal Expert Opinion on Drug Safety.

On a plateau in American scientific publications, see


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