More Apparent Template-Plagiarism from BioMed Central

microRNA Dong

The original article, published in April, 2015.

microRNA Ali

This later article, published in September, 2015, apparently uses the earlier article as a template.

Another apparent case of “template-plagiarism” in a BioMed Central (BMC) journal has come to light following my blog post on a similar case recently. It appears that the later article was created using the earlier one as a template, as in the earlier case. Both papers appear in the same journal, Diagnostic Pathology.

In this case, the original paper is “Decreased expression of microRNA-124 is an independent unfavorable prognostic factor for patients with breast cancer.” It was submitted to the journal in November, 2014 and published at the end of April, 2015. There is no evidence or indication of any ethical problems with this earlier paper.

The later paper is entitled “Down-regulated microRNA-124 expression as predictive biomarker and its prognostic significance with clinicopathological features in breast cancer patients.” According to the paper, it was received on June 3, 2015, accepted on August 28, 2015, and published on September 29, 2015.

Like the last case, this later paper is short, with only about two pages of text. It does not cite the earlier paper. Much of the text almost or nearly matches the text of the earlier paper. The papers’ conclusions demonstrate this similarity:

Similar conclusions.

Similar conclusions.

The article lists the five co-authors as:

Ali Arabkheradmand, Department of Surgery, Cancer and Reconstructive Surgeon, Cancer Institute, School of Medicine, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

Aghdas Safari, Department of Gynecology, Khanevadeh Hospital, AJA University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

Mehri Seifoleslami, Department of Gynecology, Khanevadeh Hospital, AJA University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

Emad Yahaghi, Department of Molecular Biology, Baqiyatallah University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

Masoumeh Gity, Department of Radiology, Medical Imaging Center, Tehran University of Medical Sciences, Tehran, Iran.

Again, BMC lists the editor-in-chief of Diagnostic Pathology as Anil V. Parwani from Ohio State University.

How many other cases are there like this in BioMed Central Jornals?

24 Responses to More Apparent Template-Plagiarism from BioMed Central

  1. Sudesh Kumar says:

    How is it possible for publishers to detect such cases if the authors rewrite some parts of the paper and change some data?

    Please Jeffery can you give your comments.

    I was wondering about this. One thing of note is that authors who copy articles like this will probably not re-write the whole article. So if the publisher does a plagiarism search of the second paper, the first paper if it is already published will come up in the plagiarism check. I checked some parts of the introduction of the second paper for plagiarism and sure enough, the first paper was no. 1 in search results.

    First paper was published on April 29, 2015 and second paper was received on June 3, 2015. This means by the time the second paper was received, the first paper must have been indexed by plagiarism checking software.

    Does this mean that BMC does not do even a basic plagiarism search of its papers when they are submitted?

  2. herr doktor bimler says:

    “In summary, our data suggest that […] as well as our study indicates…”
    It looks like “copy editing” is not a thing at this particular journal.

  3. tekija says:

    Again, in the alledgely copied paper, Table 2 shows some statistics that any reviewer should spot as incorrect, if not made up then bad analysis or sloppy writing: in Cox regression p cannot <0.05 be if the confidence interval includes 1. Yet this passed.

  4. tekija says:

    This is the same journal as the previous one: Scientifically speaking, I do not see the evidence to fault the publisher; instead the evidence speaks against the competence of the Editor.

  5. tekija says:

    Diagnostic Pathology keeps on giving.

    Check the statistics table in this further miR paper and the text it goes with (I did not pursue whether it is copied or not):

    http://www.diagnosticpathology.org/content/pdf/s13000-015-0422-x.pdf

    It is immediately evident that the statistics are at fault throughout. The p values in the text become larger i.e. less significant when chi-square increases, the opposite of what should be, and the <0.007 and <0.009 very unusual notations.

    The table is nonsensical. The 2 x 2 tables and p values do not match at all. It is rather obvious on a glance, but if not, you may wish to plug the numbers here:

    http://www.graphpad.com/quickcalcs/contingency1/

    Try e.g. Distant metastasis – it is a bit different from <0.001
    8 3
    10 9 ( the calculator reverses rows and columns – but actually this does not matter, results are the same either way)

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      What a bizarre publication. There is a Figure 2 (“Pathology of osteosarcomas. High-powered photomicrographs of human osteosarcomas show condensation of the neoplastic cells”), but it seems to have wandered in from some other manuscript or textbook entirely, as the references in the text to a Figure 2 seem more compatible to the actual Figure 1.
      Moreover, Figure 2 is apparently taken from a source “H&E”, with nothing in the Abbreviations paragraph to indicate whom H&E might be. Indeed, the Abbreviations section has little to do with the paper either.
      Did anyone review the manuscript before its acceptance?

      There is an Acknowledgement to a Dr. Javanbakht for “providing the diagnosis of bone neoplasms with histological interpretation and for his editorial and administrative assistance
      and his scientific review in the preparation of this article”… inviting the question, if he did most of the work, why isn’t he an author?

    • tekija says:

      Half an hour of detective work suggests that this paper is a scam, albeit a bit more sophisticated than the two that Jeffrey Beall has posted about.

      Please check the following two papers published in 2014 and 2015 in the Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Medicine (APJTM) — why anyone would like to publish on pathology and molecular biology of cancer in a journal dedicated to tropical medicine (” to meet the growing challenges of understanding, preventing and controlling the dramatic global emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases in the Asia-Pacific)” and why the Editor of this Elsevier journal would like to accept and publish such an apparently off topic papers in this journal is an open question, but perhaps the reason was that the two papers came from China and this journal according to its home page sponsored by the Institute of Tropical Disease, Hainan Medical University, China:

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1995764514601760

      http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1995764515001030

      Compare these two papers to the Diagnostic Pathology (DP) one posted by Beall and you will probably appreciate that many sentences are modified, rather elaborately, from the first and other from the second one. There is quite a bit of “original writing” in this paper but some sentences are still taken as almost direct quotes, e.g.

      In APJTM:
      “Cancerous tissues and adjacent non-tumor tissues (>3 cm distance to the resection margin) were collected from 68 patients who underwent curative resection of osteosarcoma.”

      In DP:
      “Cancerous tissues and adjacent non-tumor tissues (>3 cm distance to the resection margin) were obtained from 30 patients who underwent curative resection of osteosarcoma..:”

      Most significantly, the part referring to the nonsensical statistical table in DP mentioned above appear rather similar:

      In APJTM:
      “Clinical association analysis using a Pearson chi-squared test indicated that low miR-218 expression was evidently correlated with large tumor size (x2=5.380, P=0.020), advanced clinical stage (x2=6.692, P=0.010) and distant metastasis (x2=4.180, P=0.041).”

      In DP:
      “Clinical correlation analysis showed that increased expression of miR- 130b and decreased expression of miR-218 were significantly
      associated with advanced tumor stage (x2 =6.285, P < 0.007; x2 = 7.172, P < 0.009), distant metastasis (x2 = 5.528; P < 0.001; x2 = 4.617, P < 0.001) and size of tumor (x2 = 5.01, P = 0.013; x2 = 4.271, P = 0.019),"

      Moreover Tables 1 in these two papers, respectively, are essentially identical content-wise.

      The big difference is that in the original APJTM paper, the 2 x 2 table numbers, the chi-square statistics and the p-values all match perfectly, and on this basis no need to doubt the data (you can plug them in the calculator through the above link, select Pearson chi-square without continuity correction, and you get exactly the same results) whereas in the DP paper none of the values are correct. As said above, this is evident at a glance to a reader familiar with basic statistical principles.

      So I suppose that the authors of the DP paper grabbed these two Chinese ones, mixed, edited and made up a manuscript of them, copied the table and faked the numbers, but they were not competent to produce numbers that give correct statistics. It seems to me that they just made up p values that are close to those in the APJTM paper. This suggests that no laboratory work was done and the journal should request original data.

      Time wise, the more recent of the Chinese originals (which contain a lot more experimental work than the DP paper, which only took a small part of them) was published on-line on July 29. The DP paper was submitted on August 1. Quick work! I wonder whether this was to lessen the likelihood of finding the apparent original.

      I spite of their seemingly more elaborate scam, the two Chinese originals could be found within minutes with a simple google search.

      It is very disappointing and frightening that the flamingly incorrect Table 1 passed peer review and editorial oversight in DP.

      As to the copy editing of Diagnostic Pathology, let it speak for itself, the first sentence from the introduction:

      "Osteosarcoma (OS) is a primary malignant bone tumor with high morbidity in children and young adults; hat is more common in males than in females [1–4]."

      A real hat trick.

      • Thank you very much for this extremely valuable comment.
        It appears that some of this may be the work of article brokers.

      • tekija says:

        Thank you; I have to streighten my typing on two lines. First “posted by Beall” was intended as “posted above”, i.e. my previous post about the osteosarcoma paper, and second one 1 missing from its publication day that was 11. Apologize.

  6. Roger Carter says:

    The fact that this is happening in a BMC journal is deeply distressing. BMC is seen as a flagship quality open access platform and to have this happen under their brand is absolute poison. Those in charge of quality at BMC have to address this obviously rogue editor as a matter of urgency or risk the trashing of their otherwise good reputation.

    • herr doktor bimler says:

      Ultimately it is not just the reputation of BMC that’s at stake, but of the Springer empire, now that they have bought the BMC stable.

  7. DRbio says:

    BMC has enough credit to join your list

  8. David says:

    If BMC has qualified to join the Beal’s List of Dubious Journals, should we not thrash BMC also, and by extension, the Springer Empire?

    • J.J. says:

      Srpinger is not an “Empire”. It’s a commercial company that will provide the service that their customers want. Apparently what academics want increasingly are “open access” journals with minimal or no editorial work. I think the phrase “be careful what you wish for” is indicated in that case.

  9. Thank you for raising your concerns regarding both this and the previous article. We will of course look into it carefully and are already investigating the previous article that was highlighted. We would like to reiterate that take this extremely seriously and are committed to addressing any problems that we identify.

  10. YML says:

    There is this interesting case which a BMC journal article has at least 8 figures derived from a PLoS One publication and also another that was repeated in several journals.. nothing was done apparently.

    https://pubpeer.com/publications/22897821

    http://www.ccforum.com/content/16/4/R158

    This may deserve a blog post.

  11. J.J. says:

    I find the name of the publisher a bit dishonest. It’s obviously aimed at creating confusion with Pubmed Central.

  12. […] Beall segnala un caso di plagio evidente già dal titolo del paper, dopo quello di uno  "spazzatura" di cui […]

  13. Henrik says:

    I just wonder how many scam papers one can find in Science and nature – just consider that before ditching BMC. I think that number is higher than BMC and PLos together.

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