Dentists Bryan and Paul Jacobs, a father and son team, wrote a paper describing a novel surgical technique in March 2013. In October 2013, several Croatian dentists published their own paper using the technique.
A year later, the story has gotten a little more interesting. The November issue of the Journal of Oral and Mixillofacial Surgery, which published the second article, has two letters. One, from the Jacobses, accuses the Croatian authors of plagiarism. The second is a response from author Dragana Gabrić Pandurić, claiming “our real intention was to emphasize, not plagiarize, their work.”
Here’s the letter from Bryan and Paul Jacobs (paywalled):
I am writing with a concern about potential plagiarism. My father and I published an article last year about a technique for addressing excessive gingival display.1 When reading the article by Gabric Panduric et al2 published in the Journal of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, we were pleased to see our work cited but, on closer inspection, found that the authors went well beyond citation.
Our concern is twofold. First, their claimed “novel,” “reversible trial” technique is exactly our technique and in fact the term we coined. Second, virtually the entire Surgical Procedure section is a verbatim copy of ours, as are the final 8 to 10 lines of the Patient Profile. We have no doubt that the Journal values academic integrity as highly as we do and thought that this must be brought to your attention.
And here’s Pandurić’s response:
I am writing with regard to the plagiarism allegation made by Drs Bryan Jacobs and Paul Jacobs in their Letter to the Editor. I deeply regret the allegation, particularly because Dr Jacobs’s article and work were cited in the Introduction and the Discussion. By using the term “novel” in our article, we did not mean “new, explained or used for the first time,” but rather a technique recently published in the literature (and cited). In the Surgical Procedure and Patient sections, we used the same surgical technique as cited in the Discussion, but with different laser parameters, and the incisions were started from the laser-assisted frenectomy lines. Regarding postoperative instructions, we used the same patient description as published in Dr Jacob’s work, but used the same instructions for most of our surgical patients. Similarity in sentence structure is unquestionable, but the work also was cited in the Discussion when explaining the presurgical evaluation and immediate postsurgical treatment.
On behalf of my colleagues, I express a deep regret because our intention was certainly not to plagiarize Dr Jacobs and his father’s work, but rather to use their great technique, and cite it repeatedly, for our patient with similar indications, thus showing the possibility of gummy smile treatment using laser-assisted surgery and avoiding an invasive surgery such as orthognathic surgery. In addition, it is virtually impossible to plagiarize the clinical case report because of the individuality of each patient and surgical indications and the differences in each surgeon’s skills and experience. Furthermore, the purpose of publishing scientific and clinical articles should be the presentation of novel techniques, materials, and methods, with the tendency to promote their wide acceptance by colleagues and their application in everyday clinical practice.
I apologize to Dr Jacobs and his father, on my personal behalf and on behalf of my colleagues, if they believed their work was plagiarized, although our real intention was to emphasize, not plagiarize, their work.
Paul Jacobs sent us the following via email:
We feel that the article published in the JOMS was a cut and paste version of our article from the IJPRD (Lip Repositioning with Reversible Trial for the Management of Excessive Gingival Display: A Case Series). Sentence structure and exact wording, most often in exact order is present in several areas without quotation or attribution to our article. Our article was sited once, but I feel that there was intent to infer that their article was presenting our novel idea as their own. The exact wording is not a coincidence, as they state they read our article.
We also heard from Pandurić :
Dr Jacobs did not contact me or any of my coauthors, which I would do first for the same situation, in order to hear from the “first hand”. He just sent the letter to the Editor and then JOMS’s Editor in chief contacted me and ASK me to write a reply, while he found, as we did, there is no base for accusation. After sending the fast reply, he had informed us he was agree and would publish the both.