Remote Sensing pulls soil scattering paper lifted from earlier thesis

Remote Sensing has retracted an article whose author decided that a previously published thesis said it best—and decided not mention that inconvenient fact.

The article, “Study of soil scattering coefficients in combination with diesel for a slightly rough surface in the cj band,” was published in late December 2009. The author was Alireza Taravat Najafabadi, a researcher in the department of geoinformatics at the University of Pune.  At some point in 2010, the journal received word that the paper likely contained plagiarism.

From the retraction notice, issued earlier this month:

It has been brought to our attention by a reader of Remote Sensing that substantial  portions of this article have been copied verbatim from an earlier published thesis without credit.

The alert reader was Najafabadi’s research supervisor, a professor at the University of Pune, said Shu Kun Lin, the publisher of Remote Sensing, in an e-mail to Retraction Watch. Again from the notice:

After confirming this plagiarism with the authors [sic], we have determined that indeed this manuscript clearly violates our policy on originality of all material submitted for publication and the generally accepted ethics of scientific publication. Consequently, the Editorial Team and Publisher have determined that it should be retracted. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.

Although MDPI, which publishes Remote Sensing, does not use CrossCheck or other plagiarism-detection software, it is open access, so every manuscript is searchable against the Internet, Lin said.

Therefore, plagiarism can be easily found. … In the moment we do not do any check ourselves; we rely on reviewers to do this. However, there will be always some stupid and crazy guys [who] show up as plagiarists.

Najafabadi’s article is still available on Remote Sensing’s website, but with a clear watermark alerting readers to the retraction.

The paper likely will be Najafabadi’s last in the journal. Lin said he won’t consider any other manuscripts from the researcher.

3 thoughts on “Remote Sensing pulls soil scattering paper lifted from earlier thesis”

  1. This seems like a problem with a bad advisor. It seems unlikely the student understood how this works – all material in published theses is also published as journal articles. Many schools do not allow their students to use re-prints in their thesis, so it all has to be re-written to fit the dissertation as a whole (or to fit the articles, depending on which is written first). How could the student have published an article about their dissertation work without their advisor seeing it? Wouldn’t they be the second author? If their advisor was working with them properly, it would have come up before it was even submitted.

  2. I think we all need some clarification here. Under what definition is a thesis ‘published’? Sure, I paid to have five copies of my thesis work printed and bound, and two of them are stored in a dusty office in London, but it’s not public information, you can’t access it anywhere on the web, etc, etc. I would not define my thesis as being published, per se, and I’m not sure that many people would. Discrete experiments that made up the content for it were used in separate publications before and after it was written.

    I also don’t believe many advisors would consider a student’s dissertation to be published, not in any sense that counts for grant proposals, anyhow.

    Please explain – was this thesis previously ‘published’ elsewhere in its entirety? The posting above seems to indicate that you have not been able to locate the original

    1. Chris — Thanks for your comments and for reading. We have been trying to find out more about the “thesis”, but haven’t gotten to the bottom of it yet. When we do, we’ll add to our initial post.
      However, it’s certainly true that substantial parts of theses become journal articles. So it doesn’t strike us as all that odd for the editor of the journal to describe the case the way he did.


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