Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Nikolai Ivanovitch Lobachevsky is a lot of bunnies name

In the March 6 Science a bunch of spoilsports, Tara C. Long, Mounir Errami, Angela C. George, Zhaohui Sun, and Harold R. Garner, ran software through MEDLINE and found that there were ~ 200 duplicates with different authors

Their name in Minsk is cursed, cause they found out who published first (and second).

It's rather scary, They have identifies 212 pairs of pretty much identical papers with different authors

The average text similarity between an original article and its duplicate was 86.2%, and the average number of shared references was 73.1%. However, only 47 (22.2%) duplicates cited the original article as a reference. Further, 71.4% of the manuscript pairs shared at least one highly similar or identical table or figure. Of the 212 duplicates, 42% also contained incorrect calculations, data inconsistencies, and reproduced or manipulated photographs.
So then Long and Co wrote ~160 of the authors (first and second) and the editors and got ~145 responses. There were some beauts:

From a first published author
"I have no statement. I cannot prove that this is plagiarism. Even if it is, what can be done?"
From someone very unclear on the concept:
"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."
even better, the Shakespeare's monkey defense:
"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."
and from an editor who published one of the copies
"Looks like [the author of the later article] did it again in 2001. This example is a bit more embarrassing because the author of the original paper is [the] editor of the journal where [the author of the later article] published the copied work. Looks like we will have to publish two retractions."


Unknown said...

Eli evidently didn't WTFV. Their names are perfectly fine in Minsk, though much cursing is happening in Dnepropetrovsk. ;)

On the notes themselves, "I have no idea why the pieces are similar, except that I am sure I do not have a good enough memory..." has all the markings of the academic equivalent of "If I Did It, Here's How It Happened".

David B. Benson said...

With electronic submissiions, ought to be able to set up a system to flag such plagarizing papers the moment submitted.

amoeba said...

You read it here first! [almost]

Arthur said...

Eli, that happens to be one of my favorite Lehrer songs. A friend of our family is a young PhD student in mathematics, working on differential topology I believe. Innocent fellow; I sat him down to listen to this song a couple of weeks back, and he had tears in his eyes, he was laughing so hard :-)

You might think electronic files makes it easier to spot plagiarism, but that's only true if you have access to the full database in some way (Google Scholar perhaps) - it's trickier than it seems at first sight. We generally do a quick title comparison check, but looking at titles here, over the years we've received as many as six manuscripts from different authors with identical titles ("theory of [...]" for instance is generally popular). And of course tricky authors would probably change the title a little while keeping the body of the paper the same. Ah well...

The classics, as they say, are timeless :-)

J. Zimmermann said...

This is off-topic, but I just learned, that the International Journal of Modern Physics has published the Gerlich & Tscheuner garbage as a review article in issue 3 of volume 23 this year. I wonder how this is possible. Rebuttals already exist - the least is to send them to this journal, but the Editors should also learn, what happened under their responsibility.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Eli for this piece, my thesis paper isn't so bad, my faults are entirely my own! :-D