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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

“Copyright violation” fells tapeworm paper

with 4 comments

jparadisWe have a report about a case report of a “rare presentation” that doesn’t seem to be as rare as the authors would like is to think it is.

Here’s what we’re talking about:

A group of researchers from Khammam, India has lost their October 2012 paper in the Journal of Parasitic Diseases because they’d published the same article elsewhere. The paper was titled “Oro-facial cysticercosis : a rare presentation,” and described the case of a patient with a pork tapeworm infestation of the mouth.

According to the retraction notice:

This article has been retracted due to copyright violation.

Copyright violation usually implies duplication, and in these instances it’s usually easy to find the duplicated article. Not so here. We see several papers on similar tapeworm cases, but none from the same authors, jointly or severally. Which makes us wonder whether this truly is just a “copyright violation” after all.

We’ve asked the relevant parties for more details, and will update with anything we learn.

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4 Responses

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  1. Interesting. Whether this is a copyright violation depends on the contract the authors had with the first journal. If they signed away their rights to get the first article published- as so many scientists inexplicably do- then the second one could certainly be an infringement. Although, I’m not sure why the retraction needed a full intellectual property justification, when a simple lack of uniqueness would have sufficed.

    Alex Wild (@Myrmecos)

    January 31, 2014 at 11:51 am

    • How common is it that publishers even allow you to keep copyright?

      Mark Peletier

      January 31, 2014 at 2:39 pm

  2. Perhaps it is generic plagiarism. This here sounds suspiciously similar:

    A Rare Case Of Oral Cysticercosis (instead of: Oro-facial cysticercosis : a rare presentation)

    http://ispub.com/IJID/9/2/12564

    Rolf Degen

    January 31, 2014 at 12:08 pm

    • Allow me to soliloquize a little. On the issue of copyright, scientists sign away the copyright, in the case of Elsevier and Springer, using an automatic online system that cannot be surpassed. In other words, to obtain a copy of the proof PDF file, or to advance with the progress of the paper’s publication, a “tick” online serves as a formal transfer of a copyright, usually with the standard ineloquent wording, something along the lines of “I agree to all terms and conditions and understand the content… Isn’t it amazing how the history of copyright (transfer) has changed in such a short space of time. Can you remember the days (I would say like not more than 5 years ago, but feels like 20) when one had to print out the form, write in all details, sign (usually a request to use a blue pen), and the post the physical copy to the editorial office? It was inconvenient, slow, involved a lot of stamp licking, printing, hand-writing and careful thought into what one was transferring. Now, the tongue has run dry, the print process has become digital (or “eco”), the hand-writing has become an illegible mess, and copyright has become a matter of a few clicks. In the case of some journals, even the sign-and-scan phase was totally missed. Not to mention, the process has become so brain-dead that scientists click as quickly as they can to get past all of the bureaucratic garble. Some might call it a more streamlined process to speed up the process of publication. But could this rushed process of copyright transfer, that is now suddenly lacking all of the classical aspects, be starting to breed a pool of scientists that simply transfer months or even years of their intellect in a few mere clicks of a mouse, and be one of the reasons for the erosion of values in science publishing? My hypothesis is that if you make the process as brain-dead as possible, then people (in this case scientists) stop to ask questions. If they stop to ask questions about copyright, then they start to forget what they are doing, and may fail to introduce self-quality control in the name of efficiency and productivity. Failure to verify details in a process that should be as timely as the fermentation of a wine, or cheese, may be one small reason for an increase in errata, corrections, and in serious cases, retractions. As I say, this is just a hypothesis, but recent events in my own experiences over the past year or so are leading me to think that this may be more than just hypothetical. I believe that this rather blasé way of processing copyrights, and literally forcing a transfer, could be one reason why errors are introduced into the literature. In most cases, a “return within 24/48 hours” notice also forces scientists to possibly overlook errors. More recently, I have even noticed, in almost every proof that I have received over the past 4-6 months from these two publishers, errors introduced into the proof by the publisher! I should add that both Springer and Elsevier process proofs in my field of study, at least, in Chennai and Hyderabad, India, i.e., quality control has been outsourced to India from the US, Germany and the Netherlands, naturally to reduce labor costs and to maximize profits. However, this move to make the process more “efficient” will be portrayed as a positive aspect for scientists, i.e., the sooner you sign over copyright and return proof edits, the sooner your work will be posted online.

      And it is here that the elephant enters the room. If scientists sign over copyright so easily, can we also easily request the publisher to return copyright and pull the paper from a journal if there are irreconcilable theological differences? Can scientists cancel their contract with a publisher, demand the return of a copyright, and copyrighted material, if they feel that the publisher is not representing their data and intellect in their best interests or in the best interests of science? The very sorry state of science today is a mega pool of scientists that are being pushed increasingly hard to be more “productive”, in some cases at whatever cost (i.e., usually at the expense of quality and in the name of quantity). The “system” upholds the speed of productivity, and the drive for higher annual profits drives the whole system now. Ethics is flirted with as a glossy necessity to the process to which one should conform, and copyrights provide enforcement of that power grid. The true question we, the scientists, should be asking is, not who holds the copyright (i.e., the right to reproduce the material), but rather, who holds the intellectual rights? The only reason why most scientists don’t want to start asking these fundamental questions is because they would soon start to see that by moving against the “system” would be almost equivalent to shooting themselves in the foot. Or would it? Are we not fortifying and feeding the copyright culture, and strengthening it, like a tapeworm?

      Disclaimer: I am not a representative of any open access movement!

      JATdS

      January 31, 2014 at 1:06 pm


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