Pro tip: Don’t use “facts and fiction” in your title if you plan to plagiarize

ijpedsHere’s a suggestion: If you’re going to plagiarize someone else’s work, don’t draw attention to it by including “fiction” in your title.

That lesson was brought home to us by a recent retraction in the Italian Journal of Pediatrics for “Infantile colic, facts and fiction:”

This article has been retracted by the author due to extensive text overlap with a previous publication by Roberts. The author apologises for any inconvenience caused.

The paper has been cited twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, including once by a paper in the same journal.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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10 thoughts on “Pro tip: Don’t use “facts and fiction” in your title if you plan to plagiarize”

    1. Note the place and country of origin. Most of the staff at the University of Khartoum seem to have a hotmail, yahoo or gmail account, rather than a university account.

      1. Meh… I’ve struggled with this… hot/gmail is at least forever… An institutional Email is only good as long as you’re there… Is it better to always be easily reachable… Or to look a little more official but only be reachable for a few years after your publication?

        1. I have three concerns about this case:

          1) Why has BMC not shown the original paper, pasted a red RETRACTED accross each page (as does Elsevier) and then perhaps highlighted, using simple tools, the exact plagiarized text? What can we learn, as scientists, by this case, if so many details are missing? This is nothing but a shoddy clean-up by BMC, but should aso be an admission of guilt, of failure of the peer review system.
          2) “extensive text overlap”. The same problem, again and again. What is “extensive”? Is 10% overlap extensive? So, would 5% or 8% be acceptable? No quantification and no precision = no understanding of what is actually wrong.
          3) Who were the “peer” reviewers and editors in charge of this paper? How could such a relatively prominent paper on the exact same topic by Roberts have been missed by the “peer” and the “expert” editor? After all, its not like infantile colic and pediatrics are unrelated…

          Maybe it is BMC which is going to look like the fools, and not the guy from Sudan, because BMC failed to provide the RETRACTED-stamped PDF, failed to indicate exactly which text was plagiarized, failed to quantify what was “extensive” and failed to provide the peer reviewer reports so that the scientific community could also evaluate the efficiency of the “peer review” process. I see more failure by the publisher, journal, editor and peers than by the author (not excusing that he is Sudanese and maybe copying a few words might not be his country’s top ethical priority at the moment).

          One big, fat thumbs down to BMC (aka Springer Science + Business Media). And a regular slap on the wrist of Dr. Kheir.

        2. It is best to use your institutional e-mail address for work-related communication rather than a private-looking e-mail address. I consider it unprofessional to mix too much private and professional communication (but I tend to do it myself, too….).

          Many institutions offer a forwarding service once you leave them, so you will still receive messages. Sometimes the problem occurs that you cannot unsubscribe from newsletters sent to your old address, since you can only receive, but not send mail from that address.

          Scientists from some countries including India often use hotmail accounts or such because their institutions do not offer stable server structures. Unfortunately, this may sometimes create a somewhat unprofessional impression (“red flag”).

      2. This often happens outside western countries, because institutional e-mail is poor and may also be subject to institutional/government “oversight”.

        1. When I was working in a Japanese institute before, I used the institutional address for only one month. When I suspected tampering in my account, and asked the dean at that time about what access the university had to the e-mails, and when he responded “any and all”, then I quickly dumped the institutional address for a free Yahoo e-mail. There are several free e-mails that are powerful, can be accessed anywhere, anytime, useful when one is travelling, without the complications of POP-mail. In fact, for several years, the institutional address could not be used outside of Japan, which was a real pain in the butt. Virtually unlimited storage space. This arrogant attitude that a address somehow validates the quality of the researcher is total bogus. How many of the authors whose papers were retracted were using hotmail, g-mail, yahoo, rediffmail or other free e-mail accounts? I have not calculated, but I assume that most from the East would have used such e-mails, including India, Iran and China (mainly and, all of which account for an increasing volume of papers globally. In Japan, for example, most postgrads at my previous institute are requested to officially register a gmail account now rather than use an institutional e-mail, so this blind support for institutional e-mails and the logic is flawed, sorry to say. It has no understanding of the cultural setting of most non-developed country researchers. Using free mail is smart, simple effective, free and has absolutely nothing to do with dishonesty, as seems to be suggested by some (although, admittedly, it can be abused).

          For me, what is of greater concern is when I get official communications from editors about my papers and from the journal/publisher using a gmail account or Hotmail account. In the case of start-up OA publishers, many of which have a low capital outlay, I can understand. But when editors of Springer and Elsevier use gmail, Hotmail and yahoo mail accounts to communicate the review decisions, as has occurred on a few occasions with me, it is irritating, because it is so unprofessional. The image is tacky, and cheap. I also disagree with the editors or editors-in-chief communicating official decisions from their official institutional e-mail addresses. I firmly believe that all editors who communicate a decision from Elsevier and Springer should be using a and e-mail address.

          What does COPE have to say about the “ethics” of e-mails as the form of medium of communication, by authors and by editors, if anything at all?

  1. I’m not sure how “fiction” calls attention to plagiarism. If it were a case of fabrication you’d have a point.

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