Sunday, April 20, 2014

Use of plagiarism-detection software on rise in Japan following Obokata/STAP flap

Within the post Riken affair boosts orders for anti-plagiarism software , one learns there has been increased interest in Japan for plagiarism detection software following the Obokata/STAP cell incident.

As to the "copying without attribution" matter, the article observed:

Riken, in its final investigation earlier this month, said Obokata had not engaged in willful misconduct concerning the passage, noting the quote was the only one of 41 where Obokata did not give attribution, and that the method in question is a common procedure used in many laboratories.

An article by Dennis Normile [RIKEN Panel Finds Misconduct in Reprogrammed Stem Cell Papers ] gives a more complete discussion of the problem with Obokata's actions

For example, part of a description of a method for karyotyping—examining the number and structure of chromosomes in a cell—was not only copied from a paper published by a separate group, but was also not consistent with the procedure actually followed by Obokata’s team. But the committee says Obokata had faithfully cited many other publications and couldn't recall where the text came from, so the committee found it impossible to call this misconduct.

Thus, although the copied method text was well-known, the real issue was that the copied method text was not descriptive of the method actually used. The greater "bad act" was the misrepresentation, not the copying without attribution.


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