Retraction Watch, Noah Webster style, cardiology edition

intjcardiolPlagiarism and duplication might involve the same act — the misuse of text and/or data — but they are different species. Take it from Eldon Smith, who as editor of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology defined the two acts of misconduct for his readers:

Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit (1). One usually thinks of plagiarism in science as publishing phrases, sentences or passages (without attribution) that were previously published by someone else. …

If an author publishes the same article twice, he or she is guilty not only of the misconduct of duplicate publication, but also of plagiarism; this time, the author has plagiarized himself or herself. Unfortunately, such blatant misconduct is not rare. … It is difficult to understand how this can be interpreted as an honest error.

Perhaps the editors of the International Journal of Cardiology might want to take a look at Smith’s editorial.

The journal has retracted a 2008 paper by a group from India for what is being called duplication. Trouble is, that’s not the case.

Here’s the notice for the paper, titled “Artifacts and noise removal in electrocardiograms using independent component analysis“:

Reason: This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief and Author.

This article is a duplicate of a paper that has already been published in He T., Clifford G., Tarassenko, L.: Application of independent component analysis in removing artefacts from the electrocardiogram, Neural Computing & Applications (2006) 15(2): 105-116. DOI:

One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that the paper is not under consideration for publication elsewhere. As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.

The now-retracted paper has been cited 17 times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, while the original has been cited 30.

It’s immediately clear that the names of the authors on the two papers are entirely different. Although a single shared co-author might have signaled duplication of a manuscript, there’s no such crossover. No, this seems to be a pretty straightforward case not of duplication but of wholesale plagiarism. That the editor allowed the authors to call it by another name — if that’s indeed what happened — is disappointing.

0 thoughts on “Retraction Watch, Noah Webster style, cardiology edition”

  1. Strangely, the authors of the retracted paper cite as their first reference, the He, Clifford and Tarassenko paper. The NCA paper has much more detailed equations, examples and cardiograms, the IJC is simple and dumbed down with no detail. It refers to equations and results not present. Was there originally an online supplement with the meat of the paper in it? Or maybe this was supposed to be a review or summary, and the editors felt it drew too broadly from one single paper?

    I am frankly confused about what is going on with the IJC paper.

  2. I do not see a simple case for plagiarism. The UK paper is much more detailed than the Indian paper, the UK paper has many more equations and diagrams than the Indian paper, and the textual matter as well as the diagrams look different in the two papers. There may have been plagiarism of ideas, but the retraction notice does not make that clear. Also, the UK paper is cited as Ref. 1 in the Indian paper.

    An expert is needed to clarify the situation.

  3. The definitions of Eldon Smith are wrong. Most of the people who talk about the so-called self-plagiarism are wrong. The existing definitions of plagiarism are unsatisfactory because they make difficult, in some cases, to say what actually we are dealing with. Years ago, I proposed a definition of plagiarism which is much better:
    “Plagiarism is a falsification of the fact of authorship”

    According to this definition, there is no such thing as self-plagiarism because in “self-plagiarism”, the fact of authorship is stated correctly, not falsified.
    My view is that there is no any sort of plagiarism if the author(s) publish exact copy of one paper in several journals or in the same journal – for as long as the journals know of previous copies and the copies refer to the previous copies. It’s simply a matter of journals’ willingness to do this. There is another issue here: journals that are claiming copyright, cannot allow this. But it is never a plagiarism.

    In the case discussed here, there can be problems caused by multiple authorship. This can be resolved by the authors; they can say that the authors of the second paper were authorised to make their publication. And if there are indeed proper references, no authorisation is even needed. Again, the journals, first journal and the second journal, both, can object, but this is the issue of copyright, not the issue of authorship and plagiarism.

    The third issue is their lists of publications that grow. Again, if the papers have differences, no one can object, it can be perfectly natural process of development of ideas and adding new data. Most of the good papers by the same author are overlapping. This case is complicated only because it requires scrupulous reading and correct application of rules and definitions. But, otherwise, if there is no dispute between the authors, I think, may be the case against them (with the exception of copyright issues) is wrong.

    BTW, copyright violation is not a scientific misconduct, even though the consequences can be serious.

    1. “Plagiarism is a falsification of the fact of authorship”

      Sounds exactly like the first quoted line from Smith’s editorial: “Plagiarism is the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results or words without giving appropriate credit (1).”

      Where I don’t agree with Smith’s statement is that one could plagiarize oneself. After all, if the papers’ author lists are practically the same, effectively there is appropriate credit. Only this should be called duplication in a retraction notice.

      However, both plagiarism and duplication are against just about every journal’s policy, and we certainly need no blurring of those lines based on whether the sets of authors agree or disagree.

      1. My definition, generally speaking, means the same as other definitions, but it specifies the element of “falsification of the fact of authorship” present in plagiarism, which for instance in the case with “self-plagiarism” helps to avoid the wrong interpretation. In all other cases, my definition satisfies the requirement of giving the minimal necessary condition for applying the term.

        In my post of Feb. 21, I made a really serious mistake taking the wrong approach to the question of duplications. When the exact copy of a previous paper is submitted, the matter is clear – this is a violation of the journals’ copyright, but there is no copyright issue when a paper contains only parts duplicated. Copyright cannot be given for a part of the paper, only for the whole thing. Images though are things in themselves, but not the paragraphs of the paper. So, in the case under discussion, there is no copyright issue and there is no plagiarism issue (a reference was given), and there is never a “self-plagiarism”.

        The criteria for judging a paper to be a duplication should be discussed. Obviously, the opinions in particular cases can be widely different. Now, it is only worth seeing that the “Author” also requested the retraction.

        1. Duplicated portions can be a violation of copyright. The “fair use” clause allows duplication (properly attributed, not used with intent to claim authorship) of small portions for certain purposes. For example, a writer may show readers the exact wording of a few sentences of the original in order to take issue with the wording or to demonstrate that, in the context of the original, an idea is wrong or misinterpreted or similar or whatever the current writer is trying to show. But duplication of more than small portions, and duplication outside the narrow limits of fair use, is a violation of copyright. A copyright-holder does not have to prove that the “whole thing” has been copied. Some copyright violation cases have hinged on what percentage of the original was used — with percentages far below 100 percent being considered violations — or what effect the duplication had on the copyright-holder’s rights and interests even when the duplicated portions were properly attributed.

          1. May be too late -today- but I disagree. Some journals do not request copyright transfer. They understand that science is a different thing. I don’t even know how c-right managed to get here. C-right is prohibition to make money on the sale of duplicates, that’s what it is. If money were not made, no violation. Remedy for violation in court is giving the money made on c-right violation back to c-right holder. It was told million times – for educational purposes, duplication is permitted. Libraries understand this. What money a researcher makes on duplicating his own paper? And what are the damages to the journal? Nil. All these arguments are dead? The whole thing is just about giving another slap to the scientists – Sit! And it’s the same thing again – organisation against individual.

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