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DBL%20Hendrix%20small.png College chemistry, 1983

Derek Lowe The 2002 Model

Dbl%20new%20portrait%20B%26W.png After 10 years of blogging. . .

Derek Lowe, an Arkansan by birth, got his BA from Hendrix College and his PhD in organic chemistry from Duke before spending time in Germany on a Humboldt Fellowship on his post-doc. He's worked for several major pharmaceutical companies since 1989 on drug discovery projects against schizophrenia, Alzheimer's, diabetes, osteoporosis and other diseases. To contact Derek email him directly: Twitter: Dereklowe

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August 31, 2011

The Finest Retraction Notice Ever?

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Posted by Derek

RetractionWatch has this gem from the Journal of Clinical Microbiology. My favorite part is midway through: "Moreover, we realized after our article had been published that major parts of the text had been plagiarized almost verbatim. . .".

Oh, yeah. There is that. But there's more at the link. The RetractionWatch people are trying to get more details, but I wish them luck. This looks like one of those things that no one is going to be very happy to talk about. . .

Comments (12) + TrackBacks (0) | Category: The Dark Side | The Scientific Literature


1. tuky tuky on August 31, 2011 11:47 AM writes...

Hilarious. In addition, most of the authors were not even meant to be in the paper. That is some serious lack of communication

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2. Sleepless in SSF on August 31, 2011 12:13 PM writes...

I interpret the co-author removals in a different light. It seems to me that the PIs (Cisterna and Ezpeleta) are making an effort to shield their collaborators from blame in the plagiarism debacle. Basically, by saying that those co-authors had nothing to do with writing the paper, they are implying that they could have had nothing to do with the plagiarism either.

And despite Retraction Watch's comment that the paper broke all the rules (plagiarism, shoddy referencing, author shenanigans), it seems to me that there is only one real problem here -- the plagiarism. The plagiarist copied from the Colombo JCM paper and then substituted another paper for it in the references, so the shoddy referencing is really just a cover-up for the plagiarism and not a separate problem. And the author shenanigans are, IMHO, as explained above.

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3. gippgig on August 31, 2011 1:09 PM writes...

I was once looking at a paper and happened to notice that I was listed as one of the authors! (The paper wasn't retracted or fraudulent; it followed up on something I had pointed out to the real author. A correction was published removing my name.)

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4. Anonymous on August 31, 2011 2:50 PM writes...

If you look at the actual retraction letter linked by RetractionWatch, you will notice an editorial that cites the retracted paper, which is followed by the journal editor's response...both are worth looking at.

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5. Anonymous BMS Researcher on August 31, 2011 10:02 PM writes...

My wife used to be Managing Editor for some medical journals. She had to deal with a few plagiarism cases. Not fun.

I also recall the columnist for the student paper on my undergraduate campus who lifted some paragraphs from Sports Illustrated.

But my favorite plagiarism story is from my father, who is a retired professor. He once asked another prof in his department to look at some passages that seemed suspiciously well-written in a student's paper. After a few seconds the colleague exclaimed, "I wrote this!"

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6. D.J. on September 1, 2011 10:10 AM writes...

@Anonymous #4:

RetractionWatch picked up on those letters and posted a followup here:

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7. newnickname on September 1, 2011 10:31 AM writes...

The journal editor replied to some criticism: "Approximately 2,500 manuscripts are considered annually for publication by JCM. There simply does not currently exist a cost-effective plagiarism screening process that could be applied proactively to this number of manuscripts that would yield reliable information in a timely manner. For this reason, the ASM and JCM apply the CrossCheck plagiarism screen selectively whenever concerns for plagiarism arise." First of all, they only need to run the check on mss that pass earlier, cheaper tests (human peer review). But someone already posted to RetractionWatch that the incremental Crossref fee is only 75 cents per document. (There is also an annual subscription fee based on publisher revenue.) I guess human peer reviewers are cheaper than 75 cents per paper.

www . crossref . org / crosscheck_fees.html

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8. PW on September 1, 2011 2:53 PM writes...

Newnickname, while your point is still valid, that price is probably just for CrossCheck's DOI linking service. They use a separate plagiarism detection tool, iThenticate (www. crossref . org / crosscheck / index.html), to search crosscheck's database. From the website, the latter costs $50 per paper for authors to check their manuscript, so presumably much less for a publisher on a bulk contract.

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9. Innovorich on September 2, 2011 6:19 AM writes...

Bayer claim that 65% of academic research is crap:

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10. Cascade on September 3, 2011 12:06 AM writes...

Talking about plagirism is it ok to use NMR spectras as it is from previous work and paste it the SI of a new paper claiming them to be of the recent work. If somebody gets caught having done that are there any consequences...i mean serious ones.

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11. Winston on September 3, 2011 10:20 AM writes...

It's a Columbo retraction ("Oh, one more thing...")

Also, am I reading this right that the article purportedly described conditions in Spanish hospitals but was plagiarized from an article that described conditions in Brazilian hospitals? Because that would be an additional problem.

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12. bioc on September 11, 2011 9:45 AM writes...

@newnickname, PW:

As noted in one of the Retraction Watch comments, there is a free online database of papers eTBLAST, for detecting plagiarism. Plus, the paper in question was copied from a previous paper in the same journal. Surely all the ASM journals can search prospective papers against the entire ASM database. And if they were really serious about plagiarism, ASM (and ACS, etc.) could make their literature databases available to eTBLAST.

What I found more disturbing was the comment from the editor that

"I find the second assertion of Nsuami et al., namely, that peer review of the Cisterna et al. paper was inadequate, at best curious; uniformed and lacking in common sense might be better terms. The Cisterna et al. paper was carefully and thoroughly reviewed by two individuals with primary expertise in the field of the epidemiology of antifungal resistance, the focus of the Cisterna et al. paper. While it is true that this review process failed to identify certain data presentation inconsistencies by Cisterna et al., a fact that we very much regret, overall the reviews were comprehensive and instructive."

How is it that reviews can be "careful, thorough, comprehensive and instructive" yet fail to notice mis-citations and arithmetic errors?

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