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You've been plagiarized

Some experts claim that plagiarism is rampant in the scientific literature. Others say that it's a serious but relatively rare occurrence. The trouble is it's hard to put one's finger on exactly how prevalent plagiarism, duplication, improper citation, and other less tractable taboos have become in scientific publishing. It's even harder to unearth the reactions of the interested parties -- original and secondary authors and journal editors. A new survey appearing in this week's issue of __Scie

By | March 5, 2009

Some experts claim that plagiarism is rampant in the scientific literature. Others say that it's a serious but relatively rare occurrence. The trouble is it's hard to put one's finger on exactly how prevalent plagiarism, duplication, improper citation, and other less tractable taboos have become in scientific publishing. It's even harder to unearth the reactions of the interested parties -- original and secondary authors and journal editors. A new survey appearing in this week's issue of __Science__ does just that. linkurl:Harold Garner,;http://www.utsouthwestern.edu/findfac/professional/0,2356,12465,00.html a physicist-turned-biochemist and software engineer, along with colleagues at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, identified more than 200 pairs of manuscripts that had "signs of potential plagiarism" from the millions of biomedical research citations listed on MEDLINE, the U.S. National Library of Medicine's bibliographic database. Garner then contacted and compiled responses from anonymous plagiarizers, those they plagiarized, and the journal editors who published the manuscripts. "What we tried to do was capture the various attitudes and levels of response that could characterize why [plagiarism] has gone completely uncontrolled for such a long time," Garner told __The Scientist__. The responses ranged from apology and concern to denial and befuddlement. Here are some of the more interesting responses highlighted in __Science__. From authors of the original papers: "We were very sorry and somewhat surprised when we found their article. I don't want to accept them as scientists." "I have no statement. I cannot prove that this is plagiarism. Even if it is, what can be done?" From authors of the papers containing hints of plagiarism: "I would like to offer my apology to the authors of the original paper for not seeking the permission for using some part of their paper. I was not aware of the fact I am required to take such permission." "I know my careless mistake resulted in a severe ethical issue. I am really disappointed with myself as a researcher." "There are probably only 'x' amount of word combinations that could lead to 'y' amount of statements.... I have no idea why the pieces are similar, except that I am sure I do not have a good enough memory-and it is certainly not photographic-to have allowed me to have 'copied' his piece.... I did in fact review [the earlier article] for whatever journal it was published in." From editors at the journal that published the papers with plagiarism: "Believe me, the data in any paper is the responsibility of the authors and not the journal." "The news has taken us by surprise and a sense of deep concern. We are calling an emergency meeting of the editorial board to discuss the matter. [Our journal] deeply condemns the act and we stand firm to take necessary actions against the authors." From the editors at the journal that published the original papers: "It's my understanding that copying someone else's description virtually word-for-word, as these authors have done, is considered a compliment to the person whose words were copied." "I have been Editor for 14+ years and this is the first time this issue has been raised." linkurl:Daria Sorokina,;http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~daria/ a Carnegie Mellon University postdoc and computer scientist who previously linkurl:studied;http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~daria/papers/PlagiarismDetection_full.pdf software used to detect plagiarism, told __The Scientist__ that she was surprised to read the responses indicating that journal editors "were not willing to deal with [plagiarism]." Sorokina was not involved with the survey appearing in Science. Garner said that everything from cultural differences regarding the use of other authors' words to the widespread use of the internet and electronic word processing and the economic downturn could be contributing to an uptick in plagiarism in the scientific literature, a trend he described in a __Nature__ linkurl:commentary;http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/v451/n7177/full/451397a.html last year. To track down the cases used in his latest survey, Garner used a biomedical literature search engine called linkurl:eTBLAST,;http://invention.swmed.edu/etblast/index.shtml and a publicly accessible database called linkurl:Deja vu,;http://spore.swmed.edu/dejavu/ both developed in his linkurl:lab.;http://innovation.swmed.edu/ There are several other similar tools and databases -- such as linkurl:Ithenticate;http://www.ithenticate.com/ and linkurl:CrossCheck;http://www.crossref.org/crosscheck.html -- available to journal editors and reviewers, and some journals have implemented regular text scans for plagiarized passages as part of the routine reviewing process. Garner said that the suite of existing software tools and publicly-accessible databases might ease detection of inappropriate manuscript practices such as plagiarism. "You can't expect all the editors and reviewers to have all 18,000,000 papers in their head from biomedicine," he said. "The blame lies on the need to have technologies to help find this stuff and then to use them." Sorokina agreed that the widespread use of technologies could counteract the growth of such practices. "First you need to make the tools available," she said. "Second you need to convince editors to use the tools. I think it will take some time before it becomes very common." linkurl:Larry Claxton,;http://yosemite.epa.gov/rtpspeakers/rtpspeakers.nsf/byTopic/FB5D400FA7CEFAFA852573FD0067511D?OpenDocument a research biologist at the US Environmental Protection Agency, told __The Scientist__ that beyond authors and publishers, researchers' home institutions should take measures to curb plagiarism in scientific papers. "If the institutions were more diligent in looking for abuses and taking action when abuses are found, I think that would help curb plagiarism," he said. Claxton, who was not speaking on behalf of EPA but rather expressing his own experiences tracking plagiarism in the scientific literature, added that the step becomes even more important at government research institutions, which often review studies prior to publication. Garner added that his group is thinking about creating a commercial site to complement the publicly accessible tools that his lab has already produced. Garner said he envisions journal publishers or reviewers being able to sign up for the service and search submitted manuscripts for plagiarized passages for "maybe a buck or something" per paper.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:Flagging fraud;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/55287/
[17th December 2008]*linkurl:Plagiarism detection 2.0;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54641/
[12th May 2008]*linkurl:Plagiarists beware;http://www.the-scientist.com/blog/display/54546/
[11th April 2008]
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Comments

Avatar of: Ellen Hunt

Ellen Hunt

Posts: 199

March 6, 2009

Unfortunately, it comes down to this. We are simply not as honest as our parents generation, and everyone knows that retaliation happens in academia. Academics are mostly shy, retiring people, and don't like confrontation. \n\nI am unsurprised by the lack of action by editors. Editors serve most journals on a volunteer basis. They have very limited time resources, and no budget for investigations. Such investigations can be extremely time consuming. \n\nEven the authors of this paper say they don't want to become cops and get into enforcement. There is no upside for scientists to be enforcers, unless it is enforcement of corruption in order to get grant money. So, small wonder that nobody wants to deal with it. \n\nFace it. We are not policing ourselves any better than Wall Street has. Well, maybe a little better, but close enough to be said.
Avatar of: James Wilmer

James Wilmer

Posts: 18

March 6, 2009

Acknowledgement of prior work and proper citation take higher places in scientific literature.
Avatar of: null null

null null

Posts: 5

March 6, 2009

It was not surprising to see the same old reasons given when plagiarism is detected. "I didn't know". "It's not the journal's fault". "We need better methods."\n\nNone of these reasons are legitimate, and none of them address the root cause. What we as scientists need to do is firmly ostracize any scientist who plagiarizes. Period. If you do not have the personal ethics and moral backbone to perform and communicate honestly, then science as a broad discipline and society as a whole neither need nor want your 'contributions'.\n\nPlagiarism is theft, and should be treated as harshly as falsified data.
Avatar of: null null

null null

Posts: 5

March 6, 2009

Scientific misconduct is ignored by journal Editors and Universities as a matter of course. My recent experience of providing a University in Finland of evidence of fraud by its senior academics has led to blind eye syndrome. Universities are not legally bound to honestly examine evidence of misconduct. These institutions have a belief system that it is better to whitewash than risk honest and fearless exposure. After ingesting the shoddy facsimile of inquiry and investigation by the University, I conclude that one can transact with greater reliability from a stranger on ebay.\nIndeed, it is published previously that the position in Finland by the Government department that oversees the National Public Health Institute is that the Declaration of Helsinki is "not legally enforceable". You got it: the Declaration of Helsinki is not enforceable in Helsinki. \nUniversities use public money to find and publish our best version of the truth about the world. It is a discredited belief that Universities will reveal the truth about their corporate selves. The integrity of the scientific record comes a distant second to fear of adverse publicity.\n
Avatar of: barbara vincent

barbara vincent

Posts: 9

March 7, 2009

As an author I have sometimes found paragraphs from my book quoted without acknowledgment. However,though a little irritating, I believe "imitation is the sincerest form of flattery". No, sorry, I don't who said that originally!!\nBarb\n
Avatar of: John Collier

John Collier

Posts: 5

March 7, 2009

Two years after getting my doctorate I was working at Rice University when we got an application for graduate school including a writing sample. The Head asked me to look at it as it was in my area. I looked at the first few pages, and quickly looked at the references, but didn't find the reference to my own published work that I expected. I took it home, and found that most of the later pages had been lifted directly from my dissertation. Apparently the plagiarizer was not a very good researcher. We reported him to his university, and excluded him from all universities in Texas. I thought that the punishment was rather mild. This was 1986.
Avatar of: null null

null null

Posts: 16

March 8, 2009

A more wide-spread problem is "citation plagarism", aka "citation amnesia", etc. a phenomenon previously considered in detail on these pages. This is the deliberate omission of "prior art". Einstein allegedly once quipped "The secret of genious is hiding your sources." \n\nNothing like finding a new article reporting what you had published on and finding no citations to your work or to the work of anyone who has cited you. Not that this doesn't happen by accident-- I myself have been both a sinner and sinned against. \n\nThis goes far back. Gregor Mendel's work on heredity went miscited cited by its rediscoverers. For the details of this and how it resolved see: \n\nhttp://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/history/lecture33/r_33-1.html\n\n"...Incredibly, the 1st paper to appear in print, a note in the Comptes Rendus of the Paris Academy of Science, did not mention Mendel but used the terms "dominance" and "recessive." Receipt of the reprint by Correns (April 21) triggered an immediate rejoinder in the form of a paper (April 22!) giving due credit to Mendel..."\n\nSo the system did work, and fairly quickly.
Avatar of: VETURY SITARAMAM

VETURY SITARAMAM

Posts: 69

March 8, 2009

Plagiarism is not a problem. Whom does it hurt? It hurts sentiments rather than careers. Why does one plagiarise? Primarily to enhance ones own career by unfair means. It is the job market that plagiarism could hurt. But are we talking about trust in the world of published science or we talking about personal careers? If a European plagiarises an American paper or vice versa, since these are in different career/job/project prospecting streams, there is hardly any clash of interests other than indignation. What is the fuss all about?\nOn the other hand, there is a conspiracy of silence on many issues of editorial misconduct, which operates primarily on a ?buddy? system. Robert Nisbet in the seventies warned about increasing commercialism, which has led to progressive destruction of the academic dogma. First casualty of this is openness in inquiry. Science has entered into an active phase of historiography, which is attempting to carve history to suit ones own ends. Citation malpractices aim at this on a far wider scale than what meets the eye. Intellectual apartheid has become rampant. \nWhen we challenged the Mitchellian chemiosmotic hypothesis based on new observations that membranes show induced heterogeneity affecting permeation grossly (inadvertently because our observations arose accidentally rather than by any design on our part), there was a spate of publications in British/European journals of authors of that country claiming that our results were wrong (our results were accepted later any way). Not once was our opinion sought by these journals prior to their publications as a minimum courtesy. Who are the culprits?are they not the editors?\nStrangely, we are talking about spending government money and entrust the results to commercial publications and expect them to be fair. After all they have their own needs and we have not come with up with a system for transparent behaviour on the part of editors. There are ways to do it, but who is to bell the cat?\n
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

March 9, 2009

@VETURY SITARAMAM\nYou ARE joking right, when you think that US/European scientists are operating in different circles of employment opportunity. Ever heard of something called the mobile workforce?\n\nAs for your original sentiment, who cares? I do! It has nothing to do with science, and everything to do with MORALS. Just because something has no impact on your particular view of the universe, don't assume it doesn't affect someone, somewhere down the line. You're probably one of those people who classifies shoplifting as "harmless fun", and thinks that leeching off your neighbor's wireless network is just there for the taking, rather than a federal offense. Thankfully, not all scientists have such loose morals.\n
Avatar of: VETURY SITARAMAM

VETURY SITARAMAM

Posts: 69

March 9, 2009

It is a pity that scientific discourse is not without acrimony. My main contention is that main issues in ethics relate to much deeper issues than plagiarism. The scientific world may remain as the proverbial ostrich and fail to see. Fortunately, many have expressed concern over editorial misconduct and increasing control over press, which comes in many garbs. \nWho cares? I do too! But even as others have also written, there are even more serious concerns, which we begin to share only when we rid of this 'holier than thou' attitude.\nFor a lot of us, science means more than a job hunt.Perhaps I have been fortunate.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 85

March 11, 2009

Many many many MANY years ago, as a junior scientist, I wrote an extensive, deeply detailed, and (if I may say so myself) extremely thoughtful review of a particular sub-sub-area of biological science, which appeared as a chapter in a book published by Academic Press. Three years later, a very senior scientist in the field wrote a review chapter for a different book series on the broader sub-area that included a section on the sub-sub-area that I had previously reviewed. Essentially 90+% of that section was verbatim lifted from my earlier review article, including some of my creatively thoughtful interpretations of other people's data. At the end of each verbatim paragraph, my review was referenced in parentheses; but the quoted material was NOT presented with quotation marks. I was quite upset, and was planning to contact the publisher, but then I realized that the senior scientist's chapter was also published by Academic Press. And of course, Academic Press held the copyright for both chapters. So I said nothing, until a few years after that when I met the plagiarizer at a meeting and gently remarked that I had recognized some of my own words in his chapter. Whereupon he said, and this is almost a direct quote, that he felt that I had done such an excellent job with that sub-area that he saw no reason to not use my article extensively as the basis for that part of his own. He then smiled and said that I should feel flattered by that.\n\nAt least he didn't pat me on my sweet little head (perhaps because my husband was standing beside me at the time). \n\n

March 12, 2009

Plagiarism is a disease. It is a disease due to a person's upbringing. It is a disease of a competitive society. Any author before being published should be asked a few questions: (1) What made him conduct the research? Concrete reasons, not the bla bla bla a lot of people write in their introductions. (2) Why the author wants to publish? (3) The state of the art, i.e., research conducted previously which could not cover his area of research. (4) Did the author(s) conduct prior art search? (5) Works he depended upon and studied, not necessarily limited to references. (6) The publisher(s) also should take an undertaking from the author(s) and their places of research that the author(s) have not knowingly lifted any material from any source and acknowledged wherever and whatever have been quoted. These steps will minimize the theft called plagiarism.
Avatar of: daniel miller

daniel miller

Posts: 40

March 18, 2009

Just what exactly constitutes plagiarism? Is it using someone else's data and saying it is yours? Is it using someone else's words in the Introduction or Discussion of your article without inserting a reference? I also was unaware that one needed permission to reference someone else's work as long as there was a reference to it in the bibliography.
Avatar of: C M

C M

Posts: 4

March 18, 2009

As a scientist, all one really needs to do is a thorough evaluation of the previous literature. I have heard from other faculty of cases where scientists have redid experiments and got them published simply because their review of the literature was of course, POOR or non-existent. If people think that is too time consuming, then they shouldn't be doing research to begin with. Read the literature, research it!
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 1

April 1, 2010

Are there some tools that authors can use before sending their manuscripts to peer review to check if they had plagiarized without their knowledge? Because, given so many publications and given that there are only a finite number of ways a fact can be written, even if one doesn't like, the text one has written might be an exact copy of something that had already been published.
Avatar of: anonymous poster

anonymous poster

Posts: 2

May 6, 2010

I present a case. You submit a paper to some journal. Paper gets rejected. After some time another paper appears with same or similar results from the group of potential reviewers (you probably proposed their names anyway). What should we call that? Plagiarism? Fraud? \nAnother case. One group (I) publishes a paper and infers something. Competitor group (II) publishes another paper with different inference. Group I publishes another paper / review and criticizes group II. Then Group I publishes third paper and concludes same as of group II. What do you call that? What happens to those first two papers of group I? \nIsn?t it very common and we see every now and then? Any comments on this?\n\nCaution: This is plagiarized from my previous post to the other article. I thought this forum is more appropriate. So I posted it here again!!!\n

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