A tsunami of plagiarism in Serbia, but hardly any retractions
Today, we have the pleasure of presenting a guest post from Mico Tatalovic, who wrote in October aboutretractions in journals in his home country, Croatia. Here, he describes what appears to be an alarming rate of plagiarism in Serbian journals.
A report for the Serbian science ministry by the Centre for Evaluation in Education and Science (CEON) found that whopping 11% of scientific journal articles by Serbian authors published in English language but in Serbian journals were plagiarised. The proportion was similar across all sciences (natural, medical, technical and social).
Apart from widespread plagiarism, they also found that 0.35% of the articles in the the Serbian citation index and journal database (SCIndeks) were published twice in identical form, often in the same journal.
Forgetful editors who still track manuscripts ‘manually’ may forget to mark them as ‘published’, which can result in duplicates in the same journal, according to Pero Sipka, director of CEON.
Interestingly, editors and publishers were less likely to deem a paper plagiarised than were outside analysts, according to the report, and not all editors and publishers openly cooperated.
Given the shocking amount of plagiarism you might also expect to see a flurry of retractions, but it’s not so.
In fact, a search for ‘retractions’ (in both Serbian and English) on SCIndeks brings up only 6 retractions, and this is from more than 123,000 articles published since 2000 (since 1991 for social sciences journals) in some 445 journals listed there.
Some of these may be in the aftermath of CEON’s findings, but Sipka said the number of retractions that followed was “small” and only “symbolic.”
Four out of the six retracted articles are still fully available from the database or the journal’s website with no indication that they had been retracted. One of them has been deleted entirely, both from the journal’s website and the database – and if it wasn’t for the gap in page numbers where it once sat, would have left no trace.
Also, all have been retracted by the editors for self-plagiarisms or plagiarism, with no apparent efforts to get a reaction from the authors. None of the retraction notices quote the author of plagiarised article. One of them, Vuk Mijailovic, says he only heard about the retraction of his paper from a friend who works in the Military Medical Academy (VMA), the institution that publishes the journal that retracted his paper..
This was his first published paper, he says, adding that no-one even gave him a chance of giving his side of the story:
The mistake was caused by my inexperience. I sent the article for a presentation at a Serbian congress of emergency medicine, but instead of sending just the abstract I had sent the whole text. Following this, my paper got published without my knowledge in the ABC Journal of Emergency Medicine, and, not knowing this, I sent it for a review at Vojnosanitetski pregled journal. The situation ended up pretty stupid and unpleasant, and it’s a consequence of me not knowing that congresses need only abstract, not whole texts.
Lack of information is not an excuse here: There are more than a dozen articles on SCIndeks dealing with plagiarism and authorship issues, including a 2002 article on how to retract.
The retraction notices appeared twice in Srpski arhiv za celokupno lekarstvo (Serbian Archives of Medicine), both in 2010, and then one each in Stomatološki glasnik Srbije (Serbian Dental Journal), in 2010, Computer Science and Information Systems in 2010, Vojnosanitetski pregled, in 2009, Ekonomski anali (Economic Annals), in 2006.
Both of the retractions in Serbian Archives of Medicine were decided upon at a same meeting of the editorial board, which decided to retract the articles because they had been published “in almost identical form” in other journals. One was a 2004 article “St Luke and his Cult as holy healer of the Serbs,” which was published in 2003 in Arhiv za farmaciju (with the same title). The retracted article is still fully available through the database with no indication of retraction.
The other paper is 2008’s “Recombinant activated facto VII and intraoperative use of cell saver in treatment of arteriovenal malformation,” which was published, again, with almost the exact same title, in Vojnosanitetski pregled in 2007.
Although the supplement where this appeared is not available through SCIndeks, the paper is fully available from the journal’s website, with no indication of retraction.
A retraction notice in the Serbian Dental Journal says the article from 2009 has been
retracted, that is annulled, and does not appear in the database of this journal [anymore]. Through this its further citation in the author’s bibliographies is being disabled and its further citation prevented.
The main reason for the retraction, the notice says, is that “almost identical work” but by different authors had appeared in Journal of Laser Application in 2005,
which is against the principles of good scientific practice and ethical codes of scientific research.
In its retraction notice, Economic Annals “regretted it had to tell its readership about one unfortunate event” about a 2006 article which turned out to be “not original and simply represents a piece of plagiarism.” So the editors retracted the article, which, according to them,
means that no citations of listings in literature of bibliographies are allowed, and accordingly the editorial office retracted the text from the journal’s website and it has taken steps to remove it from other relevant Internet sites.
The notice also apologises to the scientific public and readers, as well as the authors of the original text – although it never says where and when that was published.
And the article in Vojnosanitetski pregled says a majority of the 2008 article ‘Prognostic significance of acute bundle branch block in patients with acute myocardial infarction’ overlapped with one previously published in 2007 in ABC – časopis urgentne medicine (Emergency Medicine Journal).
Computer Science and Information Systems‘s editors said in a retraction notice that ‘Blind Separation Using Second Order Statistics for Non-stationary Signals’ published in 2010 “is a confirmed plagiarism of the original work”, masters thesis from 2007, and apologised to the original authors.
They dealt with the retracted article in an interesting way: the title and the list of authors and their affiliations are still on their website, but below it is the retraction notice followed by instructions to download the original article that was plagiarised.
But, this has not been updated in the national database, which still lists the full article with no indication it has been retracted.
None of the retracted articles has been cited yet, according to the SCIndeks database.
In response to the CEON report, the Serbian science ministry is updating its rules on evaluating scientific work to include a section on plagiarism, according to the Danas newspaper.