Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Author Archive

Board member resigns from journal over handling of paper accused of plagiarism

with 12 comments

A biologist is crying foul at a journal’s decision to correct (and not retract) a paper he claims plagiarized his work — and one of his colleagues has resigned from the journal’s editorial board as a result.

The 2016 paper, published by Scientific Reports, is an application of a previously published algorithm designed to better identify regulatory sequences in DNA. The three authors, based at the Shenzhen campus of the Harbin Institute of Technology, used the technique to identify recombination spots in DNA. They called it SVM-gkm.

On April 2, Michael Beer of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore notified the editors of Scientific Reports that he believed the paper had plagiarized his work. Despite Beer’s efforts, the journal ultimately decided to issue a correction notice, which cites “errors” and the authors’ failure to credit Beer’s work. That isn’t good enough for Beer — nor one of his colleagues at Johns Hopkins, who resigned from the journal’s editorial board saying “the recent affair with Mike Beer’s work being plagiarized did not impress me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Four in 10 biomedical papers out of China are tainted by misconduct, says new survey

without comments

Chinese biomedical researchers estimate that 40% of research in their country has been affected in some way by misconduct, according to a new survey.

The authors are quick to caution against putting too much stock in this figure due to the subjective nature of the survey, published in Science and Engineering Ethics. The estimates also spanned a wide range, with a standard deviation of ±24%. But they say that the responses to this question and others on the survey suggest that scientists in the region feel academic misconduct remains a major problem that authorities have failed to adequately address. (Indeed, a recent analysis from Quartz using Retraction Watch data showed that researchers based in China publish more papers retracted for fake peer reviews than all other countries put together.)

The survey was designed by employees at Medjaden, a Hong Kong-based editing company that assists mainland Chinese biomedical researchers publishing in English-language journals. They invited all of their registered users by email to complete two surveys—roughly 10,000 users in 2010 and 15,000 in 2015. Like most online surveys, this one had a low response rate—around 5%, so caveats about sampling bias apply.

Study co-author Hua He, who is also Medjaden’s CEO, said:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mark Zastrow

May 18th, 2017 at 9:30 am

Does labeling bad behavior “scientific misconduct” help or hurt research integrity? A debate rages

with 4 comments

Is eliminating the concept of “misconduct” a sign of progress in the fight for research integrity, or a step backward?

That’s the debate playing out in Australia, where a proposal from national research bodies would make it the latest country to embrace a broader definition of ethical lapses in research, doing away with the term “misconduct.” Proponents argue the change will encourage more reporting of all types of bad behavior—not just the most extreme forms such as data fabrication, which are typically associated with the term “misconduct.” But critics argue the move could soften enforcement, as every institution applies its own definitions of misbehavior. (To tell us what you think, take our poll at the bottom of the story.)

The proposal comes in the form of a revised edition of Australia’s national research code of conduct.  Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mark Zastrow

February 23rd, 2017 at 1:00 pm

University of Tokyo opens investigation into retracted stem cell paper

without comments

KCCY_15_22_COVER.inddThe University of Tokyo is investigating a 2011 stem cell paper in Cell Cycle, recently retracted over irregularities in four figures.

The university has confirmed there is an investigation, but would not specify which paper it concerned; the corresponding author on the paper, however, confirmed to us that it is the focus of the investigation.

In the retraction notice, published Nov. 1, the journal wrote: Read the rest of this entry »

In Korean textbook scheme, some plagiarists found not guilty

with 3 comments

court caseSEOUL — When does plagiarizing an entire textbook not violate copyright law?

In a South Korean court, apparently.

On Wednesday, a district judge found ten professors who plagiarized textbooks guilty of copyright infringement—but ruled that four professors who added their names to subsequent printings were not guilty.

This case, which began as an alleged plagiarism ring of obscure science and engineering textbooks, could now rewrite the nation’s existing copyright law and spark debate on the high social standing enjoyed by professors. Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mark Zastrow

June 15th, 2016 at 5:31 pm

Korean prosecutors seek jail time for professors in massive plagiarism scheme

with 5 comments

court caseSEOUL — In one of the single biggest instances of misconduct we’ve ever come across, prosecutors in South Korea are seeking up to 18 months’ prison time for 75 professors who are among those charged with plagiarizing science and engineering textbooks wholesale.

Prosecutors say that since the 1980s, 179 professors at 110 universities across the country have been publishing other authors’ books under their own name, merely swapping the covers, making only cosmetic changes to the text, and assigning them to their classes. Thirty-eight titles are involved, ranging from architecture, civil engineering, fire fighting, mechanical engineering, and chemistry. Of the 179 charged, 23 are the books’ original authors, who allegedly continued to be cut royalties from the repurposed texts and hoped to maintain good relations with the publishers for future books. The plagiarists stood to boost their CVs for their yearly high-stakes evaluations, in addition to the book contracts. Five employees from the four publishing companies involved were also charged.

Seventy-five of the professors have been formally indicted without detention on charges of copyright infringement, and will face a bench trial by judge. (Juries are rarely used in South Korean criminal proceedings.) The prosecutor’s district office in Uijeongbu, north of Seoul, is in charge of the case; the bureau’s chief, Soon-jeong Kwon, told us Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Mark Zastrow

December 23rd, 2015 at 2:00 pm