February has turned out to be a bad month for people found guilty of plagiarism. On Friday, we covered the case of the German
foreign defense minister who lost his PhD after his university became aware he had copied passages from newspaper stories into his thesis.
And now we’ve learned that the University of Sao
Paolo Paulo (USP) dismissed a full professor earlier this month after an investigation into a study he retracted last year because parts of it had been plagiarized. It has also stripped one of the professor’s former students of her PhD.
Andreimar Martins Soares, a pharmacologist, was forced to retract a 2008 study in Biochemical Pharmacology purporting to show how a particular snake’s venom might fight dengue virus and the leishmania parasite. That paper, it turned out, included images and text from a 2003 paper in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy by a group of researchers at the Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ).
The UFRJ group notified the two journals in 2009, and two USP committees began investigating the matter sometime after that. A 2009 story in Globo describes the plagiarized images and text.
According to the retraction notice:
This article has been retracted at the request of the editor as the authors have plagiarized transmission electron microscopy figures published by others in Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, vol. 47 (2003), pp. 1895–1901; doi:10.1128/AAC.47.6.18951901.2003). As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takesa very strong view on this matter and we apologize to readers of the journal for this incident.
Carolina Dalaqua Sant’Ana, a researcher whose thesis was based on the work, lost her PhD. The school’s former dean, Suely Vilela, was also a co-author, but a committee did not find her guilty of plagiarism.
There was no plagiarism, but an unfortunate mistake of substituting pictures by my former doctoral student. There was no bad faith, and all measures are being taken to retract this serious error by the publisher and the scientific community.
The original 2003 paper has been cited 40 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge. The plagiarized 2008 paper has been cited seven.
The dismissal, carried out by USP rector
John Joao Grandino Rodas, was the first such firing for plagiarism at the university in 15 years. Rodas told Folha:
The punishment of faculty, students, or technical and administrative staff, is always painful. However, it must be borne in mind that in very serious cases such as these, the lack of due punishment undermines the university, whose greatest treasure is credibility.
According to the newspaper, Soares has appealed the decision, and said it was unfair.
Updated 2/28/11, 12:10 p.m. Eastern, to correct first sentence. Thanks to Karin Wiebauer for spotting the error. And also at 1:50 p.m. Eastern, 2/28/11, to correct “John” with “Joao” in “Joao Grandino Rodas.” Apologies for the mistakes.