We have a curious case for the “avoiding the p word” files from the Journal of East Asia & International Law.
The paper in question, “Border Enforcement of Plant Variety Rights: A Comparison between Japan and Taiwan,” was written by Shun-liang Hsu and appeared in the Spring 2012 issue of the journal. Here are the first two pages.
The notice is quite detailed. It begins with the allegations against Hsu:
Chart 1 and Chart 2 of the paper concerned on page 150 and 151, respectively, are essentially the same as Figure 4 (圖4) and Figure 5 (圖5) on page 62 and 63, respectively, of the unpublished master’s thesis written under the author’s supervision. These sources were originally attributed to Figure 4 to the slide of a Japanese expert, 高橋信慶, in footnote 206, and attributed the source of Figure 5 to the website of Japanese customs in footnote 208, the author of the paper did not attribute the source either to the student work, the Japanese expert’s slide, or the website of Japanese customs.
The editors continue with a timeline, saying that the committee responded to the person bringing the allegations immediately, on July 24, 2013, and also alerted Thomson Reuters about the “suspected violation of research ethics,” presumably because the journal is indexed in Thomson Reuters’ Web of Knowledge. (The paper has yet to be cited, according to that database.) The next day, they formed a committee of “five(5) experts including one highly renowned copyright lawyer and one Taiwanese editorial staff” which asked for, and received, five days later, a PDF of the original master’s thesis in question.
In the meantime, Hsu emailed his defense of the article.
Here’s what the committee determined. Note the great lengths they go to distinguish “borrowed” and “misuse of sources” from “plagiarized:”
1. Type of violation
The two charts in the paper concerned are cited without correct sources, which constitutes <Citation Errors> in accordance with Article 2, Paragraph 8 of the Detailed Regulations to the Ethical Rule of the Journal of East Asia and International Law (hereinafter referred to as the “RULE”).
2. Grounds of Decision
For more careful examination, the committee also referred a guideline established by the Council of Writing Program Administrators (hereinafter referred to as the “CWPA”) to decide whether the case at issue should be regarded as plagiarism or mere “misuse of sources.” The CWPA guideline defines plagiarism as an ethical violation that: “……occurs when a writer deliberately uses someone else’s language, ideas, or other original (not common-knowledge) material without acknowledging its source.”
In the case at issue, the author borrowed two charts from a published material without acknowledging their sources. If the author had “deliberately” used the charts, and if these materials are not common knowledge in the academic community, then we could have concluded that the author violated the RULE and his work labeled as plagiarism.
Based on the allegation of facts, however, we could NOT conclude that the author DELIBERATELY copied the original work without giving credit to it. NOR we could conclude that the charts copied are UNCOMMON in the academic community. Rather the contents described by the two charts are fairly general and show a formal procedure, thereby can be similarly drawn by anyone who correctly understands the flow. Furthermore, the academic significance of the two charts throughout the entire paper is minor.
The committee may not have been willing to call this plagiarism, but they certainly sanctioned Hsu as if it was:
According to the RULE and its Detailed Regulations, Citation Errors will be a violation of research ethics. Thus, the following sanctions will be imposed on the author.
1. Partial Retraction
The Journal will ask Thomson Reuters, Elsevier and other relevant academic database companies to retract the two charts from their databases including Web of Science, SCOPUS, etc.
Journal of East Asia and International Law will notify this through its <Notice of Research Ethics Violation> at Volume 6, Number 2.
3. Prohibition of Publication for the Next Five Years
The author shall not be considered by the editorial board for possible publications for the next five years.
4. Notification to the Author’s Institution
The Journal will officially notify all the results to the author’s institution and request for take necessary and appropriate measures according to the ethics regulation of the institution.
We’ve contacted Hsu for comment and will update with anything we learn.
Update, 10 p.m. Eastern, 1/29/14: Hsu tells us:
I absolutely do not agree with the partial retraction in the JEAIL because the accuser sent out unauthorised copy to the journal, which has already violated copyright law in Taiwan. I notified the journal but the journal not only accept this unlawful allegation but also acted against the investigator’s opinion.
Update, 7:15 a.m. Eastern, 1/30/14: We asked Hsu what he meant by “unauthorised copy “and “violated copyright,” because we’re not quite clear on how this relates to the allegations against him. He responded:
1. The material used by the accuser is a LLM thesis and the author declared reservation of all copyrights, including publication electronically and in paper, duplication in part or in total, modification etc. (the thesis will not be published until Aug 1st this year)
2. the accuser, without the author’s authorisation, took the stock from the library (she was the dept. head and had full access to all the dept. facility and library collections) and copied 2 charts from the thesis and modified them and sent to JEAIL as proof.
3. Until now, the accuser still did not obtain of the author’s consent nor informed the author what she has done.
I am confident to say so because I have the author’s authorisation and has confirmed with the author that the accuser’s act was not to her awareness. The university I work in, the journal are all well informed about this unlawful accusation, but nothing has been done so far, except partially retracting my paper and likely punishing me.