Blatant plagiarism sinks paper (and earns a sabbatical!) for mathematician

Image via Akash Kataruka
Image via Akash Kataruka

You know it’s a good one when it makes it onto the Wikipedia page for “scientific misconduct.”

On April 21, the International Journal of Pure and Applied Mathematics retracted two 2008 papers by scientist Alexander Spivak of Holon Institute of Technology in Israel. In September, the journal updated the notice to explain why: The papers both contained copy/pasted chunks from a 2001 paper by Spivak’s post-doc boss at Tel Aviv University, Zeev Schuss, and two other authors.

The tipster seems to have been Schuss himself, who told us about his role in the unravelling of the fraud:

I learned of the plagiarism when asked for my opinion about the work of the person in question. I received from his institution reprints of his publications and noticed the plagiarized papers. Having communicated my findings to his institution, I took no further action concerning this matter and left it further handling to his institution. It seems that not much has been done until the matter was posted to a blog.

The blog post was on Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz (in Hebrew), part of a longer criticism of Israeli higher education generally. The author, Tali Heruti-Sover, states that after the plagiarism was discovered and the retraction issued, Spivak was not fired. Instead, he was given a year’s sabbatical by Holon, where he was a lecturer.

Spivak is not Holon’s only noted miscreant. According to the same Ha’aretz article, the head of the institution was investigated by police in August for charging plane tickets to see his grandchildren to the university.


[Note (September 18-25, 2014)]
The article has been retracted as it (a major part of text and results) is a duplicate of the previously published article:
B. Nadler, T. Naeh, Z. Schuss, The stationary arrival process of independent diffusers from a continuum to an absorbing boundary is poissonian, SIAM J. Appl. Math., 62, No. 2, 433–447; doi:10.1137/S0036139900372363.
This article has been retracted at the request of the Managing Editor.
September 26, 2014: The link to pdf file is active according to the COPE RETRACTION GUIDELINES

We’ve reached out to Spivak and IJPAM, and will update with any new information.

8 thoughts on “Blatant plagiarism sinks paper (and earns a sabbatical!) for mathematician”

  1. Why would a faculty grant someone like this a sabbatical or keep them in their jobs in the first place? Why, as a rule, does nobody ever respond to whistle-blower’s allegations? Aren’t the cheaters’ colleagues appalled and indignant? Surely they do not condone someone cheating and cutting corners while they continue to work honestly? Unless, such disgraceful behaviour is more common among academics than we think and it is “wiser” for faculties to treat such incidents quietly.

    1. A professor delivered a keynote lecture. That lecture was published in the proceedings of the conference. More than 90% of the publication was the same as the first two chapters of the PhD thesis of the professor’s student. The thesis predated the lecture. The student was not a co-author of the published lecture. The university was apprised of this matter by a distinguished professor at the same university. A committee was formed. Presumably, it investigated the matter. No action against either the professor or the student became evident. I concluded that the university authorities thought it “wiser” to attract a certain type of attention.

  2. I’ve never even heard of this ‘Holon Institute of Technology’. I know Israel has seven (or 8… does Open count?) universities and I’m sure Holon is not one of them. According to wikipedia, it’s a college, so I’m not sure if they have a lot of money for research.

    It sounds like it could become a university in a few decades, unless this scandal derails that plan.

  3. Two interesting observations arising after a quick check on the web:

    (1)The IJPAM is published by Academic Publications Ltd which is on Beall’s list of potential, possible, or probable predatory scholarly open-access publishers (

    (2) The same mathematician owns three more papers published in IJPAM:

    The reference lists in all of them are more than just suspicious: the most recent references go back to… 1985 or 1987. How can the gap of at least 22 years (2009-1987) be explained? The papers look like republishing of some very old stuff.

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