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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Publisher to pulp existing copies of science communication book because of plagiarism

with 6 comments

speight bookThe publisher Taylor & Francis has decided to pulp all existing copies of a 2012 book on science communication, and suspend electronic copies indefinitely, after it became clear that the text was plagiarized from the work of another author.

The book, Clear and Concise Communications for Scientists and Engineers, was written by energy and environmental consultant James G. Speight. According to Colin Purrington — the creator of a very popular poster tips site whose past attempts to protect his intellectual property may be familiar to Retraction Watch readers — pages 166-169 are “largely copied” from Purrington’s page on scientific poster design.

In a letter to Taylor & Francis, Purrington wrote:

Even his bibliography (last page) appears entirely copied/pasted from the one I have on my page (he used a typo I purposely include to catch such plagiarism – even a typo I _alerted_ readers to).

Purrington also said that

There are other sections that certainly overlap with the content of my webpages (e.g., oral presentations, writing manuscripts, avoiding plagiarism, etc.).

From an email sent to Purrington by a Taylor & Francis attorney:

Please be advised that Informa and Taylor & Francis each have the utmost respect for the intellectual property rights of others and take such accusations extremely seriously. In connection with your claims, Taylor & Francis has elected to pulp all existing copies of this title in its physical inventory and will further suspend all electronic sales indefinitely.

The publisher will refund any individual or institution who requests it, and will issue a DMCA takedown notice for PDF version of the book that Purrington found online. Purrington was hoping that the publisher would send out a press release about the decision, but the company declined.

Still, overall, Purrington is pleased with the decision. It’s certainly decisive, and pretty quick — he only contacted the publisher in late March.

We’ve contacted Speight for comment, and will update with anything we learn.



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Written by Ivan Oransky

April 17, 2014 at 3:13 pm

6 Responses

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  1. In what must be a bizarre coincidence, here is an interesting reference from a century ago:

    From here, a link to a page of “The Stanford Companion to Victorian Fiction by John Sutherland”:


    ===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

    Keith DeHavelle

    April 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    • I have long advocated that books published by Springer Science+Business Medium must be carefully examined.


      April 17, 2014 at 3:50 pm

  2. Just for fun: apparently the same James Speight is also the author of a book on ethics in science: http://www.amazon.com/Ethics-Science-Engineering-James-Speight/dp/047062602X/ref=sr_1_12?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397788780&sr=1-12&keywords=james+speight.

    Bruce Lewenstein

    April 17, 2014 at 10:41 pm

    • Also just for fun: Dr Speight’s book on ethics has strong opinions on the value of public retractions.

      Colin Purrington

      April 18, 2014 at 7:03 am

  3. From the retracted book (p 136): “Plagiarism is a major ethical offence and falls under the category of fraud. For a scientist or engineer to use and claim the words or ideas of another person as his or
    her own, without acknowledging the contribution of the other person, is unacceptable.” This is a tragic case of how your own words may come back to haunt you. And another proof that having a professional focus on ethics does not make you behave more ethically.


    Rolf Degen

    April 18, 2014 at 1:49 pm

  4. Dr. Speight is not the only one to write about ethics and then get caught with his hands in the cookie jar. Dr. Suman Sahai (see her Wikipedia biography) was found to have plagiarized her “Habilitationsschrift” (a thesis needed in Germany before one can apply for a professorship) at Heidelberg University. Nothing if not consequent, she argued several years later that “ethical concerns are largely a luxury of developed countries which the Third World cannot afford” (she’s from India)… See http://www.nativeweb.org/pages/legal/shiva.html for reference.

    One Timeonly

    April 22, 2014 at 2:08 pm

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