Copy, Not Even Shake, And Paste

Recycling fraud (also called self-plagiarism, which is of course an oxymoron) may in fact be more common in scientific literature than brazen plagiarism. Given the general ineffectiveness of respective detection software, it may only be recognized on a highly individual basis. Above, I have reported on a recent case when I had repeatedly stumbled across a quotation of my own previous work in a misleading context, which prompted me to have a closer look. In my assessment, 40-50% of both the Introduction and the Discussion was verbatim copied from a five-year old paper in another journal (including almost identical, now partly outdated, references, “in fact signal[ing] a standstill in science”) about a similar topic but employing different microbiological diagnostic tests provided by two independent companies. Just two authors were common on either publication. The last author of the former article was first author in the article under scrutiny. The department chair was also author on both articles. The first author of the former article was not on the recent article’s authors list. It may be assumed that the recent article’s first author copied and pasted from the previous article. But there was more. Identical, or almost verbatim, paragraphs could be found in another three published articles since 2007, authored by the same group led by the department chair.

After I had informed the Editor-in-Chief of the journal in which the incriminated article had just gone online, I actually received yesterday a clarifying notification. A comment From the Editor was published (subscription required) after consulting COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics) guidelines on “How to deal with text recycling”. In his comment, he writes,

According to our assessment, concerns are indeed substantiated related to text similarities in the Discussion part of two publications. However, as complete different data sets have been reported in the two publications and the 2010 publication was cited in the reference list of the 2015 publication, a retraction is not in line with the COPE guidelines [1]. There it says that a correction is adequate, if despite text similarities, “there is still sufficient new material in the article to justify its publication.

I suppose a link to the comment (or correction) will be added by PubMed to both articles soon.

21 November 2015 @ 7:40 am.

Last modified November 21, 2015.

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