Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Nine-year-old plagiarism allegation leads to retraction of math paper

with 17 comments

entropyIt is often said that science is self-correcting, but it is usually more accurate to add “in the long run” to that statement.

Take, for example, this retraction of a 10-year-old paper in Entropy that had been questioned since 2005. Here’s the notice for “Statistical Convergent Topological Sequence Entropy Maps of the Circle:”

The editors were made aware that a paper published in Entropy in 2004 [1] may have plagiarized an earlier paper by Roman Hric published in 2000 [2]. After checking with specialized plagiarism software, we found that this claim is indeed correct and almost the entire paper is a verbatim copy of the earlier one. After confirmation of this fact, the editors of Entropy have decided to retract the paper immediately.

We would like to apologize to the readers of the journal that it took so many years to notice this error and to retract the paper. Apparently there is a comment on MathSciNet (http://www.ams.org/mathscinet/) since 2005 that points out this case of possible plagiarism [3], however the editorial office was not aware of this until recently. We request readers of the journal to directly get in touch with the editorial office and the editors of the journal for similar cases in the future, so that they can be handled promptly.

References

1. Aydin, B. Statistical Convergent Topological Sequence Entropy Maps of the Circle. Entropy 2004, 6, 257–261.
2. Hric, R. Topological sequence entropy for maps of the circle. Comment. Math. Univ. Carolin. 2000, 41, 53–59.
3. MathSciNet, MR2082710 (2005f:37075), http://www.ams.org/mathscinet getitem?mr=2082710

The paper has yet to be cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Hat tip: William T.A. Harrison

Written by Ivan Oransky

February 24th, 2014 at 11:00 am

Comments
  • Gerhard Hindemith February 24, 2014 at 11:08 am

    “After checking with specialized plagiarism software, we found that this claim is indeed correct and almost the entire paper is a verbatim copy of the earlier one.”

    Luckily they had this “specialized plagiarism software”, what would they have done otherwise?

    • Neuroskeptic (@Neuro_Skeptic) February 24, 2014 at 11:20 am

      “Plagiarism software” is a time saving device, nothing more. It can be useful for screening large volumes of material but when it comes to investigating a particular case of alleged plagiarism – as in this case – there is just no substitute for doing it ‘by hand’ – i.e. by Googling bits of it.

      • Gerhard Hindemith February 24, 2014 at 11:58 am

        My understanding is that the software was used to check the claim that two known papers are indeed close to identical. You might see that directly and certainly no Googling is required, but yes, also for that purpose a tool like: http://de.vroniplag.wikia.com/wiki/Quelle:Textvergleich might be helpful to see the text overlap at a single glance. However, to proudly mention a “specialized plagiarism software” in this context I find quite hilarious …

        • Dave W. February 25, 2014 at 4:57 am

          You may have to use “specialized software” to make sure that the paper is not plagiarizing other papers as well. Specialized software does more than a simple text comparison: it can, for instance, also compare references lists of different papers to detect papers that could be an entirely rewritten version of another, publisher paper.

          • Neuroskeptic (@Neuro_Skeptic) February 25, 2014 at 11:13 am

            Or you could compare the reference lists yourself.

            Plagiarism detection is natural language processing – computers are not better at this than us (yet) although they can do simple stuff faster.

          • Neuroskeptic (@Neuro_Skeptic) February 25, 2014 at 11:16 am

            Oh wait I see what you mean: it could compare the reference lists against a *corpus* of previous papers.

            I thought you were referring to comparing a paper to a single alleged source.

    • Qui? February 26, 2014 at 2:00 am

      Based on a hint dropped by Jeffrey Beall, we wish to make an anonymous report of potentially duplicated figures involving three original research papers.

      Samy E. Oraby, Ayman M. Alaskari (2010) Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM) Topographical Surface Characterization of Multilayer-Coated and Uncoated Carbide Inserts. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology Vol:46 2010-10-24, pp. 402-413
      http://waset.org/publications/2584/Atomic-Force-Microscopy-(AFM)Topographical-Surface-Characterization-of-Multilayer-Coated-and-Uncoated-Carbide-Inserts
      Ayman M. Alaskari, Samy E. Oraby, Abdulla I. Almazrouee (2011a) SEM and AFM Investigations of Surface Defects and Tool Wear of Multilayers Coated Carbide Inserts. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology Vol:49 2011-01-26, pp. 534-538
      http://waset.org/publications/5045/SEM-and-AFM-Investigations-of-Surface-Defects-and-Tool-Wear-of-Multilayers-Coated-Carbide-Inserts
      Samy Oraby, Ayman Alaskari, Abdulla Almazrouee (2011b) Prior Surface Integrity Assessment of Coated and Uncoated Carbide Inserts Using Atomic Force Microscopy. Materials 2011, 4, 633-650; doi:10.3390/ma4040633 (MDPI)
      http://www.mdpi.com/1996-1944/4/4/633

      2010 and 2011a recovered from http://www.waset.org/author/samy-e-oraby

      Potentially duplicated figures:
      Fig. 1 (2011a) = Fig. 3 (2011b)
      Fig. 15 (2010) = Fig. 1 (2011b)
      Fig. 2 (2010) = partly identical to Fig. 2 (2011b), although 2011b acknowledges the source while 2010 does not.
      Fig. 2 (center) (2011a) = Fig. 10c (2011b)
      Fig. 3 (2010) = Fig. 4 (2011b)
      Fig. 3 (right) (2010) = Fig. in Table 2, Sample 2 (2011b)
      Fig. 3 (top row, right) (2010) = Fig. 11b (2011b)
      Fig. 4 (three lower 3D graphs) (2010) = Fig. 5 (2011b), which may be = to Fig. 6 (2011b)
      Fig. 5 (2010) = Fig. 7 (2011b)
      Fig. 6 (2010) = Fig. 8 (2011b)
      Fig. 4b (2011a) = Fig. in Table 3, Sample 2 (2011b)
      Fig. 4a (2011a) = Fig. in Table 3, Sample 3 (2011b)
      Fig. 7 (top) (2011a) = Fig. in Table 3, Sample 5 (worn-Pos. 2) (2011b)
      Fig. 9 (bottom) (2010) = Fig. 12 (2011b)
      Fig. 11 (2010) = Fig. 11c (2011b)
      Table 1 and 2 figures (2010) = almost identical to Table 2 and 3 figures (2011b)

      We call on the retraction of all three papers since duplication is the antithesis of originality and multiple, potentially simultaneous submissions to avoid detection would violate submission ethics requirements of both publishers.

      COPE states: ‘Retraction is a mechanism for correcting the literature and alerting readers to publications that contain such seriously flawed or erroneous data that their findings and conclusions cannot be relied upon’. http://publicationethics.org/files/retraction%20guidelines.pdf

      We hope this will take 9 days and not 9 years to retract.

  • Sylvain Bernès February 24, 2014 at 11:51 am

    At least, blogs are working better than editorial staffs: this case of plagiarism has been commented on the Beall’s blog on 19 February 2014:
    http://scholarlyoa.com/2014/02/18/chinese-publishner-mdpi-added-to-list-of-questionable-publishers/#comment-46103
    The retraction is released by “Entropy” on 21 February 2014.
    I feel the “specialized software” used by MDPI is named “Internet”. Many researchers over the world have been used “Internet” for a long time, you know.
    Please, Editors, YOU MUST NOT FOOL THE SCHOLAR COMMUNITY. WE ARE NOT IDIOTS.

    And by the way, please STOP to publish papers you don’t understand.

  • Jeffrey Shallit February 24, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    The review of this paper at MathSciNet, available since 2005, points out the plagiarism. In light of this, it is hard to accept the journal’s claim that they did not know about it.

    • DJM February 26, 2014 at 11:17 am

      MathSciNet is only available to a subscriber list, so the only people who could have been aware of this are those subscribers, none of whom apparently thought it was a good idea to notify the journal involved.

  • Nils February 25, 2014 at 2:48 am

    According to this blog entry:
    http://publishing.mathforge.org/discussion/143/the-replicability-problem-in-mathematics/?Focus=1323#Comment_1323
    they were made aware of the plagiarism, but chose to ignore it.

    • Sylvain Bernès February 25, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      The Math2.0 post (Nov. 2012) you quote reads:
      “the representative of the journal has protested against the review instead of being thankful for the service of finding the cheater”.
      This is quite a different behaviour compared to “they chose to ignore it”.

      • Nils February 25, 2014 at 1:31 pm

        You’re right, that behaviour is even less ethical. My point being, the editor in chief of Entropy in 2005 must have been aware of the problem. It took the controversy in Beall’s blog for them to finally take proper action and to retract the paper.

        • DJM February 26, 2014 at 7:11 pm

          Wrong, if someone (obviously with MathSciNet access) had not mentioned the plagiarism in a comment to one of Beall’s blog posts there is no way the journal could ever have known about this.

          • Nils February 27, 2014 at 3:03 am

            Well, I have by now seen some e-mail correspondence between the MathSciNet reviewers and representatives of the journal proving that the journal did, in fact, know about it.

  • The Iron Chemist February 25, 2014 at 3:51 pm

    Meh, Entropy’s not a real scientific journal anyway.

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