Is the Editor of the Springer Journal Scientometrics indifferent to plagiarism?

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Does it measure up?

Summary: A reader of my blog alerted me to significant word-for-word plagiarism in an article published in Springer’s journal Scientometrics. I analyzed the article and confirmed plagiarism. I reported the plagiarism to the journal’s editor, András Schubert, but he responded with a condescending email dismissing the plagiarism as unimportant.

The article in question is:

Akhmat, Ghulam, Zaman, Khalie, Shukui, Tan, & Ahmed, Tauseef. (2013). Educational reforms and internationalization of universities: evidence from major regions of the world. Scientometrics 98, 2185-2205.

The plagiarism consists of multiple paragraphs copied word-for-word from other sources and strung together. The copied paragraphs do contain a citation at the end of each paragraph, but no quotation marks are used. Here is an example — The introduction paragraph is lifted from two sources. Here is the first paragraph followed by the text as it originally appeared in the original publications:

Scientometrics

Reproduced in Scientometrics

Scientometrics

How the text originally appeared

The first original source is here.
The second original source is here.

This pattern repeats itself for many paragraphs.

Next, I wrote this email to the editor and the publisher, along with one contact from Springer I made at a meeting. I copied the authors on the email. They did not respond.

I received this reply from András Schubert, the journal’s editor:

Dear Dr. Beall,

We greatly appreciate your distinguished interest in our journal, and your undoubtedly well-intentioned warning about a dubious paper published in a recent issue.

As an Editor serving the journal for several decades, I have learned that the sins and virtues of authors span a rather colorful palette, and it is far not easy to make justice even in apparently obvious cases.

Plagiarism is a severe accusation which, if confirmed, cannot be relativized or exculpated. Although according to the Wikipedia “the idea [of plagiarism] remains problematic with unclear definitions and unclear rules” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism), there appears to be an almost complete consensus, that the key criterion of plagiarism is that no credit is given to the source. As you correctly observed in your letter, this is not the case in the ominous paper.

I would say that the authors of the paper used a rather unorthodox technique in the Introduction and the Conclusion sections and the Discussion part of their paper: they compiled a large stock of relevant literature, and edited a coherent flow of text from selected paragraphs (a kind of “collage technique”) honestly indicating the sources of each of them separately. The lack of quotation marks may be objectionable, but it is questionable whether their use would have improved the readability or the credibility of the text. I would certainly not encourage other authors to follow this technique, but I cannot condemn it, either.

To be honest, using the customary way of summarizing the literature, i.e., inweaving cited text fragments (whether using quotation marks or not) into a host text, more often than not, the cited ideas are detached from their original context and serve merely as an amplifying aid to the authors’ arguments. At least, this kind of bias is avoided using full-paragraph citations.

Between the Introduction and the Discussion, the main part of the paper contains the Methodology and the Results. This part was found by two competent referees original and useful; these opinions supported the decision of the Editor-in-Chief to accept the paper. If you would happen to find any peccability in these crucial parts, this would, of course, justly question the correctness of the decision.

Anyway, we are grateful for calling our attention to the observed anomaly, and we promise to take marked attention to properly handle similar cases in the future.

Let me take the opportunity to ask you whether you would be willing to review manuscripts falling in the scope of your research competence for our journal. As a referee, you would have the opportunity to make your remarks in an early stage, thereby you could help us to improve the quality of our journal.

Sincerely yours,
András Schubert, Editor, Scientometrics

The letter essentially dismisses my report of plagiarism and does so in a patronizing way.  Schubert then panders to me by inviting me to serve as a reviewer to make my “remarks in an early stage”. This invitation leads me to conclude that Scientometric’s editorial board does little or no reviewing and is chiefly honorary.

The letter also trades on ambiguity. The definition of plagiarism is not binary, a quality that Schubert exploits to justify his inaction on the plagiarism report. By failing to use quotation marks when using the wording of others the authors of the article gave the impression that the wording they were using was their own.  Failing to use quote marks is not as Schubert claims an “unorthodox technique.”

András Schubert

András Schubert: Soft on plagiarism?

Scientometrics is published by Springer Science + Business Media for the Budapest-based Akadémiai Kiadó, a wannabe scholarly society better known as a publisher of cheap travel guides.

Based on Schubert’s statements, I think it’s fair to conclude the following:

1. If you are an author looking for an easy publication, you can copy full paragraphs from other publications (Schubert’s “collage technique”), including non-scholarly ones, without using quotation marks, as long as you put a short citation at the end of the paragraph, and submit it in an article to Scientometrics, and this won’t be a problem.

2. You can string together as many of these cut and pasted paragraphs as you like. Although, Schubert would be impressed if all this cutting and pasting produced a “coherent flow of text”.

3. Even if Schubert believes your paper is “dubious,” an “observed anomaly” and “would certainly not encourage other authors to follow this technique,” he will not take any action if your published work contains major portions of text that are word-for-word plagiarism.

4. If someone reports your work as plagiarism, the editor will likely dismiss the report and ignore COPE guidelines.

69 Responses to Is the Editor of the Springer Journal Scientometrics indifferent to plagiarism?

  1. Well spotted! I have read many articles in Scientometrics and have been concerned by its variable level of peer review. You are right to criticise the Editor’s casual response to your valid complaint. You could have also noted that the journal is not OA, but is an expensive subscription journal.

  2. At least, you have had a reply to your complaint.

  3. Ashley Hastings says:

    So now you can publish a paper without writing it, and a journal without editing it. Scholarship is so easy these days!

  4. Jeff Shrager says:

    I’m sorry to say that in this case I, respectfully, must disagree with you, Jeffrey. I found the editor’s reply not to be at all condescending, and it’s clear that the key feature of plagiarism is failure to site. Thinking of this personally, if somebody had lifted the entire paragraph from one of my papers, but cited me appropriately, even without quotation marks, I would feel more pleased than upset. I take great pride in my published writings, choosing my words very carefully. And if someone try to improve on my writing usually they just mess up what I said. I’m generally much more upset by people misquoting me than people quoting me too accurately.

    • Jeff Shrager says:

      (Of course, I obviously don’t take as much care with my blog post comments.… “cite” :-)

    • behalbiotech says:

      then what is meaning and use of “Plagiarism, permission and copyright” asked to be signed by authors as terms & conditions from publishers.

    • behalbiotech says:

      then what is meaning and use of “Plagiarism, permission and copyright” asked to be signed by authors as terms & conditions from by publishers.

      • Jeff Shrager says:

        As someone else in this comment space concisely stated it, there are two kinds of plagiarism: plagiarism of ideas, which is failure to cite your sources, and plagiarism of text, which is using the exact words from another text WITH appropriate citation but WITHOUT indicating that you are quoting the other paper exactly. Failure to cite clearly rises to the level of what amounts to a scientific crime. However, whereas most reasonable scientists agree that it is important to indicate that you are using an exact quote, they (we) appear to disagree about how heinous a crime this should be considered. Then there is self-quotation, which many consider to be at worst a speeding ticket. I believe that one should have a conversation with the authors in any such case. Perhaps they just don’t understand the cultural standards. Perhaps they used a funky character for their quotation marks that didn’t reproduce. Whatever. Blanket condemnation, esp. in public, of either an author or authors, or an editor, or a journal without conducting a significant investigation seems to me to be an over-reaction. (To JB’s credit, he did speak to the editor before going public, and wasn’t satisfied with the response. That’s his right. I would have gone further in this case before publishing.)

  5. RMS says:

    This raises an interesting point: with Creative Commons Attribution Licenses permitting “unrestricted (…) reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited” (this quote comes from the copyright entry in my recent OA paper), will the line between what is and what is not plagiarism blur? Will similar cases as the above story become more commonplace, even in reputable journals? Are peer-reviewers aware and prepared?

  6. Miguel Roig says:

    The editor’s views on plagiarism do not appear to be consistent with how plagiarism is defined by most guidance on that subject, including Springer’s own. According to their definition, “[p]lagiarism occurs when someone presents the work of others (data, text, or theories) as if they were his/her own and without proper acknowledgment” (p. 7, http://static.springer.com/sgw/documents/784498/application/pdf/Policy_on_Publishing_Integrity2010.pdf).

    • Jeff Shrager says:

      Although there are shades to this. To my mind, plagiarism only really applies when you fail to cite. The quote marks serve to scope the citation appropriately, but leaving them out is just lazy or sloppy writing, not coming even close to the criminal offense of failing to cite sources, whether or not you quote them exactly.

      • Miguel Roig says:

        Jeff, I respectfully disagree with your position that “plagiarism only really applies when you fail to cite”. No. The citations in the paragraphs in question inform the reader as to the source of the ideas conveyed in each of those paragraphs, However, by failing to enclose the verbatim material in quotation marks, the reader is mislead into believing that Akhmat, et al wrote that material. They didn’t, and most relevant guidance on the subject, including Springer’s, classifies Akhmat et al’s actions as plagiarism. Granted, there are various shades of plagiarism and in many cases I would probably agree that plagiarism of ideas is a much more serious offense than plagiarism of text. But, to use the words of Steven Shafer from a recent editorial in Anesthesia and analgesia “plagiarism is plagiarism is plagiarism”.

  7. Nils says:

    “Between the Introduction and the Discussion, the main part of the paper contains the Methodology and the Results. This part was found by two competent referees original and useful”

    I’m a bit dubious here. For instance, large parts of the Methodology section appear to have been lifted from a paper by Brian G. Dahlin, which I do not see in the references:

    http://garrido.pe/lecturasydocumentos/DAHLIN%20(2008)%20the%20impact%20of%20education%20on%20eco%20growth.pdf

    Perhaps the editors would be well advised to invest in some anti-plagiarism software.

    • Carla says:

      I too found the direct lifting of paragraphs from the Dahlin paper, without ANY attribution. There is no way that any publisher could doubt that it is plagiarism.

  8. Kalman Kalotay says:

    Dear Mr. Beall,

    You are very probably right on Scientometrics’ and Mr. Schubert’s softness on plagiarism. But as for Budapest-based co-publisher Akadémiai Kiadó, you miss the point. It is the publishing house of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the official association of scientists in the country. The quality of its publications can be of course criticized, including their English style. But it is by no means a “wannabe scholarly society better known as a publisher of cheap travel guides”. It is rather a too official organization inherited from centrally planned times, if you want to criticize it. And if you visit their page, you will see that they publish all kinds of books and journals but probably no travel guides. They have “dictionaries”, “course books”, “science books”, economics books”, “mobile dictionary” (a mysterious item), “journals”, “on-line” (another mysterious item) and “e-book” as categories. I know Akadémiai Kiadó because from time to time I do review manuscripts for Acta Oeconomica, which is its old refereed journal inherited from pre-transition times.

    Best regards

    Kalman Kalotay
    Geneva

    • Well, here’s a link to some of their travel guides. And the fact that one of their journals has a patronizing editor that is soft on plagiarism reflects poorly on the Academy also.

      • Kalman Kalotay says:

        Well, the link to alleged travel guides proves that the English of Akadémiai Kiadó needs to be improved if they wish not to be misunderstood. Having read the Hungarian language description of the items you refer to, one realizes that these are in fact all dictionaries for travelers, not travel guides. It sounds by the way more logical to me because Akadémiai Kiadó has a tradition of producing dictionaries of all sizes. In turn, it would have surprised me if such a post-transition academic publisher would have engaged in the production of popular items such as travel guides.

        As for your second sentence on the negative consequences of softness on plagiarism, I fully agree with you. Unfortunately Hungary is a country whose former President had to resign (in 2012) because of … plagiarism.

    • Wayne Dawson says:

      Having lived in Japan for a long time, this is rather believable. Most likely, Hungary does not have a lot of native English speakers who are just dying to go there and do scholarly research…..

      As a rejoinder to your observation about the former Hungarian president (below), I hope you don’t mind this piece done by Tom Lehrer on “Lobachevsky”

      …some Eastern bloc era humor.

    • wkdawson says:

      Your comment (below) about the president of Hungary reminded me of a song done by Tom Lehrer “Lobachevsky”. It seems I cannot include the exact url, but you can find it on youtube under wNel8RwSLyE .

      There is a good chance they have problems with translation there. Not so many native English speakers…..

  9. SA says:

    Hi,

    Haven’t the authors cited both the references in the text? they did. Then how come it is plagiarism. May be there is a problem in placement of their citation.

    • Robert Lopresti says:

      Here’s why it is plagiarism: If you wanted to quote that paragraph in another paper you would reasonably assume that you should credit it to Akhmat et al. The fact that they put a citation at the end of the paragraph does not lead you to think that the words belong to the person being cited. Those exact words do not represent Akhmat’s thoughts, but those of the person Akhmat is citing. That’s what quotation marks would tell us.

    • Ashley Hastings says:

      I agree with Robert Lopresti. A reader who assumes the normal conventions of citation would be led to believe that Akhmat wrote the paragraph. The reader would therefore believe that the paragraph is a paraphrase of the original source. And, since paraphrases always involve some element of interpretation, the reader would believe that the paragraph represents Akhmat’s understanding and restatement of the original source, while in fact it is identical to the original source.

      Another problem: Without quotation marks, how is a reader supposed to know how much of the paragraph is being attributed to the original source? I usually assume that the scope of reference is limited to the sentence to which the in-text citation is appended. In this case, however, the entire paragraph came from the original source, not just the one sentence.

      As Robert points out, a person who wishes to quote Akhmat’s paper will be led astray by Akhmat’s failure to follow standard citation rules. Whether Akhmat’s sloppy work is due to carelessness or ignorance, it was the editor’s job to clean this mess up before publishing the paper. András Schubert clearly wasn’t up to the job.

  10. Marcos says:

    I think I would go for something between Jeffrey and the editor positions: as the authors actually cited their sources, I cannot see it as “standard” plagiarism. On the other hand, I do not think that such “writing style” should be accepted.

    As a reader, I would find to be reasonable if the article had am editor note briefly explaining the situation, and the article could receive, say, an expression of concern or something like that. A retraction would be too much, and doing nothing would be too little…

  11. Its unfortunate that the editor dismissed this clear case of plagiarism as insignificant and of no consequences. I think some of my colleagues who come from non-english speaking countries who spend lots of money to get their papers paraphrased and copy-edited to avoid this form of plagiarism will be delighted to know that there is a journal where they can just copy and paste neatly as long as it is coherent there won’t be any problem! I am alarmed that the well respected Springer would allow such in any of their journals considering their rigorous peer review process having published with them before and still also on the process of publishing yet again in another of their well respected journals. Jeffrey, I think you should take this further because this will be setting a wrong precedence in scholarly writing. Why not draw the attention of the parent publishing company to this?

    • When I first reported the plagiarism, I included representatives from Springer as recipients of the email. Late today, I received an email telling me they will be investigating the allegations. I assume that this came only because of the blog post. (I reported the plagiarism on Saturday; today is Thursday).

      • Jeffrey, I am hopeful that Springer will spring a good surprise response now that they have said they will be investigating. I just hope the investigation will not take forever! Thanks for being an alert scholarly watchdog which endears to many as a friend and yet make you an enemy to some! And you are entitled to some enemies at your age! Cheers.

  12. Ahmad Zaki says:

    Dear Jeffrey,

    Thanks again for your report on plagiarism. The plagiarism case on non-open access journals are more difficult to be probed.

    I would like to suggest you that to focus on plagiarism rather that publishers with weak background. The publishers from emerging economies are generally not at par with those on mainstream publishers and they may have other businesses to increase earnings. I think nothing wrong if proper peer review process are in place.

    Best Regards

  13. Michael Brown says:

    The problem identified here may be common to many journals.

    The policing of plagiarism and duplication is the responsibility of the editors, and if the editors don’t do anything then plagiarism and duplications can remain in the literature. (It would seem that many publishers aren’t using anti-plagiarism software as a cross check.)

    An interesting example is provided by Shepard et al. (2013, DOI 10.1007/s11069-012-0368-1), who identified a clear example of duplication (“the analysis, text and figures are basically a reproduction of a comment that he has provided previously to a completely different study”). While Shepard et al. clearly flagged the duplicated comments and the editors of the journals (published by Springer and Elsevier) must be aware of the duplication, the relevant publications by Boretti remain in the literature.

  14. Peter B says:

    Dear Mr. Jeffrey Beall,

    Just a note regarding the “wannabe” status of the Akadémiai Kiadó: funded in 1828, partly owned by the Hungarian Academy of Science, partly by Wolters Kluwer. Publishes ~ 60 journals (http://akkrt.hu/9/journals/), more than 20 with impact factor.

    Do you also consider the Nature Group or the PNAS as wannabe publishers because plagiarism happened at them? They have investigated and retracted the articles: http://www.nature.com/news/2011/111005/full/478026a/box/2.html

    I’m quite sure, the Editor-in-Chief and the publisher will investigate the issue, which will take some time, and not the number of days what really matters here (“I reported the plagiarism on Saturday; today is Thursday”). What matters is the result and the consequence.

    • Wrong — the editor only agreed to do a bona fide investigation after the apparent plagiarism was published in a blog post. I’m not talking about Nature Publishing Group (nice try to deflect) here, I’m talking about an academic society that is on a downward trajectory that has an editor that appears to be indifferent to plagiarism.

  15. behalbiotech says:

    now an Editor from Springer is referring wikipedia for rules of publication. Is not there any list of rules/guidelines with publishers?

    well some rules by this journal are there. Do the answer of Editor to email justify these rules:

    Permissions (Author Guidelines):
    Authors wishing to include figures, tables, or text passages that
    have already been published elsewhere are required to obtain permission from the copyright owner(s) for both the print and online format and to include evidence that such permission has been granted when submitting their papers. Any material received without such evidence will be assumed to originate from the authors.

    Rights and obligations of Author:
    By executing the present Statement Author confirms that the Article is free of plagiarism, and that Author has exercised reasonable care to ensure that it is accurate and, to the best of Author’s knowledge, does not contain anything which is libelous, or obscene, or infringes
    on anyone’s copyright, right of privacy, or other rights.

    so copy of paragraphs from other article having their own copyright rules is questionable, putting citation at end of paragraph is not justified.

  16. Robert Lopresti says:

    For what it is worth, I had an article published in Scientometrics in 2010. ( doi: 10.1007/s11192-010-0293-6 ). I don’t have my files on it so I can’t tell how many comments the peer reviewers made. I was recently asked to review an article for them and provided several pages of comments that I think made a good article better. It never occurred to me to check the text for direct plagiarism (it would have been surprising if there was any, considering the type of article) but I did check the citations.

  17. Bill White says:

    I would strongly agree with Jeff Shrager, saying:
    “…If somebody had lifted the entire paragraph from one of my papers, but cited me appropriately, even without quotation marks, I would feel more pleased than upset… I’m generally much more upset by people misquoting me than people quoting me too accurately.”

    I think citation should be “verbatim”, otherwise many authors may effectively mess up the original meaning.
    I also think that “verbatim citation” is a more honest and faithful way to reference an information and avoid any deformation or dishonesty. If someone cites you in his own word, he/she may mess up your intention or conclusion, which is problematic in some cases.
    By definition, citation means : “a quotation from or reference to a book, paper, or author, especially in a scholarly work”.
    Regardless any potential misundersating or mis-citation, isn’t more pleasant to see his own words used word-by-word than to see a crude meaning?
    However, some reform may be required to limit the verbatim citation in an article to a threshold, say for example 15 or 20 % of the total text. Beyond, verbatim citation should be avoided.
    Also, we all are humans, we use the same words and/or language (everyone in his own respective tongue), so it is “normal” to see or find similar words, or the same words, written or said by different people.

  18. Albert Noel says:

    It is bad. According to the academic writing rules, only definitions can be copied word by word, with quotation marks and exact page number of article. Good writers even change the definitions in their own words. There should be a difference between pirates and researchers. What pirates do in sea authors are doing in academic sea.

    • Jeff Shrager says:

      I’ve never heard of this particular rule, and don’t quite believe it. Or, rather, don’t believe it is correct, even if it happens to be stated somewhere. One quotes when quoting is the correct thing to do for the context, and paraphrases when that is the correct thing to do. Forcing one to paraphrase under some simplistic rule, just for paraphrasing’s sake is ridiculous and leads to tortured prose and worse.

      • Steve Mark says:

        Your are right Jeff…..however, the matter is either editor is soft on plagiarism? i object that……editor is on the right forum and as he has already asked that plagiarism definition  is not clear yet….as somebody using citation….rather than quotation, both serves as the same meaning…….as editor asked, they will take care of this issue in the future…i think we have to liberatize their decisions…….

    • JBL says:

      This varies from field to field — in math, it would be bizarre to reword standard definitions. (Typically in this case there is no confusion about whether the definitions represent intellectual work of the authors.)

    • Bill White says:

      Who puts those “rules”? And, are they infallible, perfect “rules”? If you cite a person, you should cite him/her as faithfully as possible. Otherwise, we risk to deform his/her intention.
      Successive citations or multiple paraphrases may end by loosing the original meaning after X times of citations.
      “A sacred text should be cited as is”! If academic works are not as important as scientists declare, then, OK, citations could be in any form…! We would end with ignoring who and how an original idea was said…
      Anyway, this is a long debatable question…

  19. Professor Mark says:

    Well, i totally agreed the comments from Professor Schubert and many more………there is not a sin that if somebody borrowed the two to three lines from other studies and have cited properly, then linked with the continuous writing in the ongoing work, bridging one paragraph to others….(with properly cited)……and conclude it safely , then i don’t think so it is crime. For example: as the author borrow the sentences from the other sources (with properly cited) in the text…. and suppose somebody brings the same paragraph with rephrasing the sentences, damaged the actual meanings of this paragraph, then no body claim that as per Dr. Beall, this is not crime coz, they are not copied, they are rephrasing and no body even catch this sin, as the other researcher do…well, i believe that the editor of the journal is on right forum.

    • leo says:

      I read this piece called “the seven sins in academic behavior in the natural sciences”, authored by Wilfred F. van Gunsteren at ETH Zurich. He also brought up a similar argument. One of his points states: “technical descriptions of a procedure with slightly varying parameter values that is used in research over and over will not be changed from one paper to the next or from PhD thesis to PhD thesis, because there is no academic value in modifying a description already highly optimized with respect to clarity. Such copying of test does not violate the basic rules of academia and doesn’t constitute plagiarism”. The author also stated that “true plagiarism is, however, the theft of ideas followed by improper referencing”. So it all comes down to referencing.

  20. Lisa says:

    This debate is majorly focused/critics to the editor, which is painful, it is a matter of reviewer who evaluate the paper, and if they think the paper is suitable for publication, then why this debate is ongoing, think what you are talking?

    • Jeff Shrager says:

      It is the author’s responsibility to not plagiarize, not the responsibility of either the editor or the reviewer’s to notice it (although it’s optimal if they do, and can nip the issue in the bud). However, it IS the responsibility of the editor to respond to it when it is pointed out. JB appropriately informed the editor, and the editor responded. All we are discussing here, really, is whether the editor responded appropriately.

  21. Ashley Hastings says:

    Reading some of these recent comments, I am starting to wonder whether the battle to preserve appropriate standards of scholarship has already been lost. It appears that some of those offering comments have little understanding or experience when it comes to scholarly writing.

    There are many times when verbatim quotations would be cumbersome. Writers often need to extract the gist of cited material and rephrase it in terms that are more relevant to their purposes.

    I have never heard of the rule limiting quotations to definitions. Sometimes it is desirable to quote short passages of text, and this does not require permission unless the quoted material is substantial.

    Reviewers make recommendations, but editors make decisions and have the ultimate responsibility for upholding legal and scholarly standards in their journals.

    • Nils says:

      Some of the recent comments indeed miss the point, and I wonder whether the commenters have looked at the paper in question.

      The paper does not include the occasional quotation, it contains almost nothing but sentences from other sources. And as I wrote earlier, most of the Methodology section is taken from another paper without attribution.

      Get over it, folks, the article by Akhmat et al is a plagiarism, period.

    • Miguel Roig says:

      I’m with Ashley on this one. Over the years I have given workshops on avoiding plagiarism and other questionable writing practices to students, postdocs, and faculty from across the full spectrum of the sciences and I am continuously amazed at the extent to which some researchers are misinformed about fundamental rules of scholarship. I suppose that it is sometimes (and I mean very few times) understandable when these types of misunderstandings are the result of unfamiliarity with Western scholarly traditions (e.g., citation, paraphrasing/summarizing, quotation) that in most English-speaking nations are typically introduced in secondary schools and later refined in tertiary schools and with further training. But, I am really at a loss to explain these types of misunderstandings in those who should know better. The rules of scholarship are rather simple: When using others’ verbatim text, such text must be enclosed in quotation marks (or if the quoted material is substantial one uses block quotation, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Block_quotation) and a citation must also be provided. If others’ material (i.e., idea/s) is to be paraphrased and/or summarized, an author must thoroughly rewrite that material in a way that his ‘writing voice’ shows in the new work and a citation to the original work must be included. Yes, writing scientific articles presents some challenges for authors in the hard sciences because of the technical nature of the language used, particularly in Methods sections. So, for example, the plagiarism definition used by the US Office of Research Integrity allows for the “limited use of identical or nearly-identical phrases which describe a commonly-used methodology or previous research” (http://ori.hhs.gov/ori-policy-plagiarism). This type of flexibility is built in because, as some have pointed out in this forum, rewriting of technical descriptions can run the risk of altering the original meaning. But notice: “limited use of identical or nearly-identical phrases”. Phrases are not sentences and sentences are certainly not paragraphs. Some editors allow for greater freedom of reuse of one’s own work (reuse of one’s own previously published methods section) or perhaps of even others’ work, but if this is so, this flexibility must be communicated in the journal’s instructions to authors. If those allowances are not made explicit then the standard rules outlined above should be assumed to be in operation. To not follow them in this day and age is a risk not worth taking.

      PS: My icon is not representative of who I am, for I believe myself to be, and others tell me, that I am really a very pleasant guy. :)

      • Miguel Roig says:

        I see that the icon changed after I posted the above reply. Not crazy about that one either, but it will do.

  22. niki says:

    Dear Jeffrey Beall , I disagree with you about Springer and MDPI !

  23. Lisa says:

    Thanks Professor Shrager for correcting my last conversation. I definitely don’t support the authors, i firm believe that, author’s work based on justice, each and every paragraph cited properly, as you already indicated in previous conversation to others that you most likely to see your scholarly writing without any loss of actual meaning which you want to say. I totally agreed your statement and believed on the same lines. As far as comments on the editorial and reviewer activities, you are right and i believe that editor of the journal, who has an enormous profile of his credit, give the right answer on this situation.

  24. Bociari says:

    Dear Jeffrey, I seen a doubt website, http://www.elixirpublishers.com, They use a similar logo like Elsevier..This may cause confusion in authors.. Can you analize it?

    thanks!
    Marco

  25. Bill White says:

    The question I am posing in regard to this issue is (or similar issues): would it be FAIR to penalize an author for 1 or two sentences, one or two paragraphs he/she copied? He/she may did it with ignorance, without knowing about plagiarism or simply because he is novice.
    What is the true or concrete implication of such issue?
    I think that an author who copies on another author (without citation), he does it undoubtedly by ignorance or incompetence, otherwise he would not not do it.

    • tekija says:

      I M H O, a great many cases of such plagiarism are indeed due to ignorance – pretended ignorance, motivated by financial or other substantial gain in career track

      But let us set the plagiarism debate and return to the paper itself.

      - As far as I can see, there is no way to repeat or verify the calculations that the authors made. The underlying data are not specified in any great detail. For one thing, each Table is based on a number of countries in one region – but which countries is not specified anywhere.

      - Some data appear very suspicious in this regard. See e.g. Table 5 “Specification one-fixed effects regression of educational outcomes and growth indicators in North America”. There were 22 countries. What are these 22 North American countries?

      - What is the validity in Table 2 to combine data from Europe and Central Asia?

      - The tables contain dozens of p-values at 0.01 0.05 and 0.10 levels. The issue of multiple comparisons is entirely ignored in analysis.

      - One can also note that also the results contain large passages lifted verbatim (with the usual citation at the end).

      - At the end is this rather funny disclaimer: “Authors are thankful to the anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions. Any remaining errors are the authors own responsibility.” Is it required by the journal as a rule?

      - The review, revision and re-review with subsequent production to on-line publication was accomplished between:

      Received: 13 August 2013
      Published online: 26 September 2013

  26. Brent says:

    As Nils (and Carla) noted above, the paper clearly contains plagiarism. It includes verbatim sections from a paper by Dahlin (http://garrido.pe/lecturasydocumentos/DAHLIN%20(2008)%20the%20impact%20of%20education%20on%20eco%20growth.pdf) without attribution. Specifically, the portion starting on the bottom of page 2189 (after the “i.e.”) is directly from the Dahlin paper (starting on page 9). Dahlin isn’t cited anywhere, nor is Wagstaff, who is Dahlin’s source on the Mincerian equation.

    Interestingly, and unsurprisingly, they did a poor job of copying the equation — converting tau’s to t’s in the first equation, but not the second, and then continuing to refer to tau in the following paragraph. They also messed up the second summation in the first equation, having it start with T = t-1, instead of t = s+1. It’s understandable how a reviewer might miss the mistake in the equation around the t-1 vs. s+1, but the capital T is completely unused and unreferenced, so that ought to have been picked up.

    The long passages quoted verbatim from other papers without quotes, but cited, might be forgivable (although it’s still pretty sketchy); however, the outright copying from Dahlin without citation is plagiarism, pure and simple.

  27. West says:

    I appreciate the information provided by this site and have used it to make publishing decisions. However, this post has the feel of gotcha journalism.

  28. SD says:

    No, no, no! The definition for plagiarism is not and must not be up for debate. There is confusion in the discussion here among three different things: plagiarism, writing style, and the degree of seriousness of the plagiarism (intentional, mistaken, criminal, etc). The style and seriousness may be debated and may be culturally influenced but the definition of plagiarism may not.

    As a teacher who works in developing countries, helping scholars understand international standards for maintaining academic legitimacy and integrity, I am horrified! Not by plagiarism, but by a scientific organization’s editor behaving as if it doesn’t matter. It does matter and we are doing no favors to the scholars in the developing world if we deny that it matters simply because it is difficult for them to grasp while their educational systems and their language skills in English are still developing.

    I will not address Mr. Beall’s tactics or motives which are irrelevant to the material facts: the editor ignores the plagiarism and claims to respect the ideas of these scholars (which are also plagiarized, btw). In my opinion, there is no respect happening here.

    We are not truly giving these people respect for their ideas or the opportunity to advance and to join the worldwide academic community if we fail to teach them those skills that ultimately give them that access. I will not explain the nuances of plagiarism and style here as others have already done that to some degree, but I request all the scholars here who commented otherwise to please consider that it is to your advantage, to your country’s advantage, and to the world’s advantage that these skills be properly taught so that your ideas can be properly shared and incorporated into your field of study.

  29. Miguel Roig says:

    Thank you very much for this most thoughtful contribution.

  30. Jeff Shrager says:

    Yes, thank you for this most thoughtful contribution (uh, oh, I think I just plagairized Miguel! :-) Whereas I agree with you about not doing anyone favors by allowing them to cheat, I must respectfully disagree that the definition of plagairism “is not” debatable. First off, pretty much everything can be debated (although I guess it’s debatable whether that’s true for platonic concepts), but more specifically, the case here (at least the initial case where there were quotation marks clearly left out, but correct citations) not only can be debated, but we’re debating it before your eyes! So I think that on the face of it, the strong form of your assertion is proved false.

  31. drswetharm says:

    its funny when someone who can write a whole article cannot take the pain of writing a proper introduction and conclusion. Using the same sentences someone else wrote shows utter lack of creativity and points towards the possibility that the data too might be cooked up. i have seen several of my colleagues and friends do the same for their thesis with the explanation ‘everyone does it’.. This practice is just the extended ‘acceptable’ version of plagiarism, and should not be .encouraged for the sake of original research.

  32. Brent says:

    I’m not sure exactly when it happened within the past four weeks, but the article has now been retracted. Here is the explanation from the article’s page (http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs11192-013-1130-5):

    “The Editor-in-Chief has decided to retract the following article G. Akhmat et al.: Educational reforms and internationalization of universities: evidence from major regions of the world. Scientometrics 98, pp. 2185-2205, DOI 10.1007/s11192-013-1130-5. Upon investigation carried out according to the Committee on Publication Ethics guidelines, it has been found that the article duplicates paragraphs of various internet sources as well as copied paragraphs from published papers. In particular the authors duplicated parts from Section V of a report on The Impact of Education on Economic Growth: Theory, Findings, and Policy Implications by Brian G. Dahlin, Duke University 2008 without proper attribution. The author(s) has (have) agreed to the retraction.”

    Given the extent of verbatim copying from other works, I might’ve put “authors” in quotes…

    In any case, I’m glad to see that the Editor-in-Chief of Scientometrics did the right thing here. Hopefully it will also lead to a more rigorous review and editorial process at the journal. At least one researcher who I have a great deal of respect for has published in the journal, so I would hate to see the reputation of the journal be tarnished to the point where it negatively affects people who have published in it.

    • SD says:

      YAY! This makes me really happy. We really did not need Springer saying this was ok. Thank you, thank you, thank you to Jeffrey Beall and to Springer and to the angels of academic integrity! My faith is restored.

      • SD says:

        Btw, I don’t have time right now to investigate (on a deadline), but I notice these authors, together and in other groups, have a lot of articles published.

    • B. Dahlin says:

      I don’t suppose I can substantiate this claim because I do not Facebook or tweet, but I am Brian Dahlin, the author of the original paper that was apparently sourced in the Akhmat work.

      First, it’s entertaining to me to see an old paper of mine generating discussion. :) I wrote this paper in late 2001 as a master’s thesis in my graduate studies at Duke University. It has since been circulated by many, erroneously referenced (I once saw it attributed to “Bruce” Dahlin), and I am not surprised that portions of the content have been lifted or heavily borrowed from.

      Regardless, I am glad that nearly 13 years after writing the original paper, students and researchers continue to find it helpful as a background/walkthrough of growth theory and literature. I would have discussed policy implications more, but we had a severe ice storm in Durham, NC shortly after Thanksgiving that year which caused us to lose power for a week and I lost a good portion of the policy-related text that I had drafted. The published copy is basically what I had saved before the storm hit. Ahh, the memories.

      Brian Dahlin

  33. […] a research librarian and scourge of the predatory publishing world, had previously posted on his blog about his frustrations with the journal’s seeming indifference to the word theft. (He also […]

  34. […] a research librarian and scourge of the predatory publishing world, had previously posted on his blog about his frustrations with the journal’s seeming indifference to the word theft. (He also helped […]

  35. […] a research librarian and scourge of the predatory publishing world, had previously posted on his blog about his frustrations with the journal’s seeming indifference to the word theft. (He also helped […]

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