In our work here at Retraction Watch, we’ve seen a number of euphemisms for plagiarism. (See slides 18-22 of this presentation for a selection.) Today, in following up on a case we covered last month, we’ve learned of a new way to avoid saying the dreaded p-word.
We reported in June that sex researcher Willibrord Weijmar Schultz had retracted two papers. One was for “substantial overlap between this paper and an earlier published paper by Talli Yehuda Rosenbaum,” while the other was for “breach of warranties made by the authors with respect to originality” and failure to cite a dissertation.
Two more retractions from Weijmar Schultz, for exactly the same reasons as the second one above, have just appeared. One was of a 1991 paper in Sexual and Marital Therapy (now Sexual and Relationship Therapy), while the other was of a 2003 article in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy.
The Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy notice reads as follows:
The Editor, Society, and Publisher received notice of an allegation of misconduct on the part of the Authors, namely, the Authors submitted the aforementioned paper to the journal without obtaining permission from Dr. Diana Jeffrey (formerly Dr. Diana Bransfield) regarding use of research from the following co-authored work in Sexual & Marital Therapy:
Weijmar Schultz, W. C. M., Bransfield, D. D., Van de Wiel, H. B. M., & Bouma, J. (1992). Sexual outcome following female genital cancer treatment: A critical review of methods of investigations and results. Sexual & Marital Therapy, 7:1, 29–64. DOI: 10.1080/02674659208404465
The aforementioned article also failed to reference the following dissertation:
Bransfield, D. D. (1985 June). Psychosexual functioning after irradiation for gynecologic cancer. Dissertation Abstracts International. 45 (12-B, Pt 1), 3990–3991.
The Editor, Society, and Publisher find this allegation to be valid. These actions constitute a breach of warranties made by the authors with respect to originality. We note we received, peer-reviewed, accepted, and published this article in good faith based on these warranties, and censure these actions.
The retracted article will remain online to maintain the scholarly record, but it will be digitally watermarked on each page as RETRACTED.
The Sexual and Marital Therapy notice refers only to the unauthorized use of the dissertation, but ends the same say.
We asked Weijmar Schultz for comment, and he forwarded our request to the University Medical Center Groningen and the University of Groningen press office. A spokesperson responded:
In a thorough investigation into affairs relating to the relevant publications by professor Weijmar Schultz and professor Van de Wiel conducted at the time, the University Medical Center Groningen and the University of Groningen concluded that there was no evidence of plagiarism.
With regard to the unintended and unknowing breach of copyright belonging to Dr. Jeffery, she and her lawyer agreed in 2007 that the researchers would send a letter of apology to all concerned (including chief editors of journals and sponsors of the research), asking the various editors to retract the relevant publications. This request was made by letter.
The researchers asked for six articles to be retracted. It was recently discovered that the publication: Weijmar Schultz, W.C.M., Van de Wiel, H.B.M., Hahn, D.E.E. & Van Driel M.F. (1992). Sexuality and cancer in women, Annual Review of Sex Research, 3:1, 151-200. was only very recently retracted by the editor concerned. It would also appear that despite the researchers’ request for retraction, two publications: Weijmar Schultz, W.C.M., Van de Wiel, H.B.M., Bouma J. * Lappohn R.E. (1991). Gynaecological conditions and sexual dysfunction. Sexual and Marital Therapy, 6(2), 177-194. and Weijmar Schultz, W.C.M. & Van de Wiel H.B.M. (1992). Sexual rehabilitation after gynaecological cancer treatment. Journal of Sex Education and Therapy, (18(4), 296-293., have not been retracted by the editors concerned.
The researchers complied fully with the agreement made at the time by asking for the articles to be retracted. It is up to the editors to honour this request.
The UMCG and the University of Groningen obviously regret this course of events, but in view of the extensive investigation carried out at the time, they do not consider it necessary to take any further action.
So apparently there were six retractions requested, of which we’ve seen three. (The first two of the papers referred to by the press office are among those we’ve seen.) And there was the retraction related to Rosenbaum’s paper, which makes a total of seven. We’ve asked for a complete list. [See update at end of post.]
But we’ve also asked what seems to be a trickier question, which is the title of this post: What’s the difference between plagiarism and “unintended and unknowing breach of copyright?” And why, if the university said there was no evidence of plagiarism, do the retraction notices all say that allegations of misconduct were “valid?”
We’ll update with anything we learn.
Update, 12:30 p.m. Eastern, 7/28/13: The university responded to our questions. Turns out there are only six retractions overall; five related to Jeffery’s work and one related to Rosenbaum’s
Please notice that the researchers asked for five articles to be retracted (they mistakenly sent six letters to editors, of which two concerning the same article).
RW: Can you explain the difference between plagiarism and “unintended and unknowing breech of copyright?”
UG: What the researchers failed to do, was, to ask Mrs. Jeffery’s approval to incorporate this team wise paper into their thesis and did not offer a co-authorship for review papers that were based on the literature review they published before in cooperation with mrs. Jeffery.
RW: Professor Weimar Schultz also had to retract this study for “substantial overlap” with another author’s work: http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2011.10101.x/pdf Was that examined by UMCG and the University, and if so, was it considered plagiarism?
UG: With regard to the retraction of the article in the British Journal of Urology International (BJUI) Dr. Van Driel et al in 2009: this article is published online and is retracted by the researchers because a paragraph text was recorded from a review article in the Journal of Sexual Medicine without adequate reference. It is a lamentable mistake based on miscommunication between the authors and certainly should not have happened. After this observation by the author of the original article, Van Driel et al withdrawn their product directly and send letters to the editor as well BJUI / JSM and sent their sincere apologies to the author of the original article. About this case, interviews were conducted between individual researchers and research dean and the Ombudsman research of the UMCG. The researchers were severely reprimanded with entry of this incident in their personnel file.