Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Plagiarism at the professional level

Remember my discussion of plagiarism? Remember how a couple of readers didn't seem to thing that this was necessarily that big a deal, particularly if it was "just" background stuff and not actual data? Well, I'd be curious to know what they think of this case. I hope that someone follows through and notifies the editors at the respective journals. Makes you curious about their other publications, doesn't it?


NONE said...

I thought it was very, very bad, until I realized both papers are meant as reviews, not original research. This takes it down a notch or two, making it merely bad, or maybe at best "very bad", with just one "very".

Seriously though, of course they should have paraphrased it. But I have seen sketches and schematics reused in reviews (including figures taken from my own papers) - typically a proper citation is in order. There are a lot of reviews that are just terrible - not very informative and often biased towards work done by authors of review - as if review is a way of claiming their work as somehow more substantial than it is.

Peter Armitage said...

Well as I pointed out early there is a very prominent Rev. Mod Phys. that has about 3 pages copied verbatim, from an associated theory paper. Pretty low.

But I am not surprised.

Douglas Natelson said...

IP - Maybe this was just beaten into my head by my high school and college teachers, but stealing other people's words and figures without attribution is about as unprofessional as it gets. There's just no excuse for not citing the figure and verbatim copying the text and citations. I have seen cases where one author commits to writing multiple review articles on the same topic, and they all end up sounding very similar and sharing figures, but that's a very different issue.

Peter - If you keep dropping hints, I'll have to try and figure out which one....

Anonymous said...

Well, being one of the two persons you are referring to, this is what I think:

1) One thing is to duplicate a single relatively general, introductory background statement (as in "It has been long known that strong electronic correlations underlie much of the phenomenology of high-temperature superconductivity").
The other is, as in this case, to copy verbatim relevant parts of the description of experimental apparata, including figures. This is a complete joke, and I thought I had made it pretty clear that when it comes to figures and results, I too call it plagiarism.

2) I still believe that it is not the responsibility of a teacher (or editor) to google every single sentence of a paper and measure its degree of overlap.
3) Naturally, if and when something of a similar extent is uncovered, it is the responsibility of the Editor to withdraw the document from the journal and issue an official statement to the readers. As for the authors, I think they have lost their face.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Doug, for posting about Everyday Scientist's unpleasant discovery. I've alerted AIP.

CarlBrannen said...

Okay, I had some sympathy for the plagiarizers before seeing this. That was amazing. How stupid would you have to be, to think that this would not be noticed?

If you really know your stuff, you should be able to spit out a new version of it about as fast as you can retype somebody else's stuff. If you don't know your stuff, then how the heck do you get an editor to publish your review article?

I don't have access to the articles, are they the same from beginning to end? Is it a copy of the whole paper or just a section of it?

The reason I'm asking is not to excuse the copy and paste; the minor changes look like the kind of thing that an editor would change just to put an oar in the water, I'm just wondering how this could happen.

If it's from beginning to end then it's truly unbelievable, what with two authors and all. A section I could understand (but not excuse); maybe deliberately inserted it into the article as a sabotage.

Anonymous said...

There is one important issue that Americans may not realize about plagiarism. It may be very difficult to write an article in English for a foreigner. I have written more than 30 papers and lived in the US, but I am still stilling some (or parts of) sentences from others. It is not because I am lazy, but I want my article to sound nice.

Saying this, Gilles Cheriaux and Jean-Paul Chambaret have been too far in my opinion. They have copied several sentences in a row. They could at least change the figure.

Anonymous said...

This kind of plagiarism is (unfortunately) quite frequent, at least for introductory-type sentences. What do you think of this one?

"The discovery of superconductivity in H2O-intercalated Na0.33Co2 has reopened investigations of the physical properties of NaxCoO2 compounds, which remained largely unexplored so far. In the simplest picture, the Co planes contain x nonmagnetic (S=0) Co3+ ions and 1-x (S=1/2) spins (Co4+ low-spin state). One of the surprises in the emerging phase diagram is thus the presence of magnetic order at rather low Co4+ concentrations x>0.75. The origin of this order and how it evolves with x are presently unknown or controversial. These questions are directly related to the electronic state of Co and to the microscopic organization within CoO2 layers."
Phys. Rev. Lett. October 2005 (

"Although appreciable experimental and theoretical effort has been devoted in studying the superconductivity in H2O intercalated NaxCoO2 compound, the physical properties of NaxCoO2 remained, so far, largely unexplored. In the simplest picture Co-planes contain x non-magnetic S=0 Co3+ ions and 1−x S=1/2 spins Co4+ low spin state. What's amazing in the NaxCoO2 phase diagram is the presence of magnetic order at rather low Co4+ concentrations x>0.75. The origin of this order and how it evolves with x are presently unknown or controversial. These questions are directly related to the electronic state of Co and to the microscopic organization within CoO2 layers.
Solid State Communications, March 2006 (

Don't blame too much the frenchies. These ones seem to be the victims...