Wednesday, June 13, 2007

LA Times discusses DeCherney apology to Cha

An article in the June 9 issue of the LA Times includes the following text about the publication, with Cha's name, of material in the journal Fertility & Sterility which had previously been published in the journal KJOG:

After The Times reported on the controversy in February, Cha's attorney threatened both DeCherney and the newspaper [i.e., the Los Angeles Times] with defamation lawsuits.

[For some background, see DeCherney withdraws plagiarism charge against Cha ]

William Heisel of the LA Times was NOT particularily diligent in digging into this story.

For example, although Heisel wrote: Cha has said he originated the idea for the research that was the basis for the paper and was entitled to be named as first author, Heisel does not explain how Lee, who was aware of the first paper published in KJOG and who works for Cha, allowed the first paper to go into KJOG without Cha's name appearing at all. Separately, the paper in KJOG (of which the later paper in Fertility & Sterility is a translation) was based on Kim's doctoral thesis, the ideas underpinning which seem to be unrelated to Cha.

Furthermore, although Heisel writes --Now DeCherney, who could not be reached for comment, is taking the blame for Kim's name being left off the article, writing that "two formal requests were made in 2006 … asking that Dr. Kim be added to the article as an author and … I did not respond to either of them."-- Heisel does not address the issue of whether or not Kim's name was "on" the manuscript as-submitted to Fertility & Sterility. Californiastemcellreport included the following text attributed to DeCherney: After checking our records, I acknowledge that Dr. Jeong-Hwan Kim's name was included as an author when the manuscript was originally submitted, though I am not aware of the circumstances that ultimately led to his exclusion from the list of authors. But nobody mentions that this is gobbleygook; IF KIM'S NAME WERE ON THE PAPER AS-SUBMITTED, AND NO ONE KNOWS HOW IT DISAPPEARED, THEN KIM'S NAME SHOULD HAVE APPEARED ON THE PAPER IN FERTILITY & STERILITY AS PUBLISHED. [See]

A comment written by Brian Hanley to a story on The Scientist by Andrea Gawrylewski is of interest:

To report this straight without pointing out that the editor has apparently been bullied into his statement is rather less than excellent reporting. The lead of the article and the title should have been worded so as to signal to the readership what is probably going on here. Perhaps, "Original lead author sues for theft. Editor bullied into retraction?"

There are some clear facts toward the end of this article. A. The paper was published elsewhere first. B. The paper was published elsewhere with different authors. C. The lead author of the originally published paper is not happy and claims his work was stolen to the point of legal action. D. The editor has been served with legal bluster that appears rather questionable.

It is one thing to use the legal system to redress wrongs. This must be allowed and supported. It is quite another to abuse it in order to paper over quite questionable actions. Journalism has a duty to the public to expose probable abuses.

I am quite familiar with the realities of dealings in nations that have not lived by the rule of law, or are in transition. It is an unfortunate fact that for the majority of the world's people, the law is a method of oppression and coercion, not justice. I expect more from The Scientist than spineless skirting of the central matter when such methods of abuse invade our sphere. Such stuff is a rot in the system, and in the long run quite dangerous to us all. The corrupt know that boldness and bullying are their only hope. Such stuff must be opposed, and not with whispers.

IPBiz notes the irony of using the presence of somewhat gratuitous common co-authors between the KJOG and F&S articles as a "defense" to plagiarism. This becomes a rather unusual example of why one should NOT have gratuitous co-authors. Separately, IPBiz notes that the LA Times does not want to discuss how the word "plagiarism" appears in the published author guidelines for the journal Fertility & Sterility.

[See also More on Cha Retraction


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