Engineer: Paper plagiarized my thesis — badly

GeoScience EngineeringAn engineering journal has published a statement by a researcher alleging that a 2015 paper in the same journal plagiarized his thesis — and was so poorly done it “should not have been published.”

In the “counterstatement” to the 2015 paper, Christian Seip of the Rostock University in Germany said the paper — about the development of a Marine Spatial Data Infrastructure (MSDI) in Croatia — took content from his dissertation thesis, about MSDI geoportals in Germany.

In addition, Seip argued that the original paper, “A Framework for Evaluation of Marine Spatial Data Geoportals Using Case Studies,” in GeoScience Engineering (GSE) — shows “major weaknesses” and therefore “should have not been published even [if] it was not plagiarized.”

Seip told us:

I wrote this paper because I was rather angry that someone plagiarized my paper(s), almost copying them word for word and I wanted to make it public that such things can even happen even in IT/Engineering. Also, I have never published the evaluation framework proposed by me in a real journal, but only in conference proceedings and I had the fear that the plagiarized paper may be cited instead of my papers because it’s in a journal.

Seip told us the journal said it would retract the original paper and his counterstatement, and publish the paper that originally was part of his thesis.

Both the plagiarized paper and my counterstatement will be retracted and my original paper will be published. I hope the editor is going to include a note in the issue my paper appears in, explai[ni]ng the whole situation.

GSE is not indexed by Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

In his counterstatement, Seip writes that the paper in question

…violates good scientific practice. It passes the work I did for my dissertation thesis and the marine spatial data infrastructure of Germany (MDI-DE) project off as original work by the above mentioned three authors.

Throughout his three-page counterstatement, Seip highlights the plagiarized parts of the paper and where they had been taken from. He concludes:

Overall the paper is hard to understand most of the time because of the language, thus the English of the paper should be improved to be really valuable. If I were a reviewer of this journal I would have recommended to not published such a paper, i.e. reject it or only accept it after a major revision but I would doubt that that would help as the paper lacks scientific substance, background and relevance.

We’ve reached out to the journal’s editor-in-chief, Jan Valíček, who is based at the Technical University of Ostrava in Czech Republic, and have also contacted Marina Tavra and Vlado Cetl, co-authors of the allegedly plagiarized paper from the University of Split in Livanjska, Croatia. We’ll update the post with anything else we learn.

Update: 5/5/16 8.35 a.m. eastern: we’ve now heard back from Marina Tavra. She told us:

The paper entitled A Framework for Evaluation of Marine Spatial Data Geoportals Using Case Studies; was written as an overview article and presentation for PhD students meeting in Slovakia in June 2014 ( The article was chosen for publishing after the PhD students meeting. At that time I didn’t had much experiences of writing scientific papers. Nevertheless the intention of meeting was learning, networking and get more experience for PhD students, which in my case turned out to be the hard way because of this article.

I didn’t send this paper to the GSE Journal for publishing. It was chosen after the meeting and revised according to instructions of editor and reviewers from the journal. Work from Dr. Seip is regularly cited in the paper and listed among references (with surname Rüh, as he had at that time). There is really no question at all of deliberate plagiarism. Phd thesis of Dr. Seip was not published at the time I wrote this overview paper for the PhD students meeting. Once again, I deeply apologise for my clumsy and inappropriate citations to Dr. Seip and to the GSE Journal for any inconvenience.

Hat Tip: Rolf Degen

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4 thoughts on “Engineer: Paper plagiarized my thesis — badly”

  1. I may have said this before, but I think it bears repeating. Open-access repositories of theses and dissertations are like a gold mine for plagiarists.

    If you grab text and other content from a thesis or dissertation that was only recently added to the repository, you can defeat plagiarism detection software and services.

    This is because the content hasn’t been published long enough to be indexed by the plagiarism checking services. The services will report content lifted from these dissertations and quickly submitted to journals as original and plagiarism-free.

    1. That’s not an argument against Open Access, Jeffrey, but an argument against relying on so-called plagiarism detection software. The opposite is the case: if things are open access, anyone at a later point in time can determine that a text is a plagiarism and publicly document the fact. Open Access makes authorship transparent, if the dates of the text truly reflect the dates the material was published.

  2. very interesting thought! it is better to opt for restricted access to the thesis or dissertation for two years or so. This will give enough time for the student and the supervisor to publish papers. Otherwise, it is going to be plagiarised by someone just like the case highlighted above. Good luck

  3. Quoth Jeffrey: “Open-access repositories of theses and dissertations are like a gold mine for plagiarists.”

    But they are also a goldmine for those of us who are not content with science progressing “one funeral at a time”, and who are always on the lookout for something slightly off-the-wall which might perhaps lead somewhere, eventually. (There’s a limit to the number of conferences one can physically attend.)

    By advocating a sledgehammer approach in order to defend, as Debora rightly pointed out, overreliance on “so-called plagiarism detection software” (BTW, almost every word I have ever written has been lifted from the OED), Jeffrey apparently hopes to obviate the need for genuine scholarship, even though Christian Seip himself observes in the case of this particular paper that “Apart from not making sense most of the time … you really have to ask yourself if you are doing any original work at all” (kindly point me towards a detection algorithm for this one!)

    Which brings to mind Tulving & Madigan’s (1970, p.442) famous wish that “at least some writers, faced with the decision of whether to publish or perish, should have seriously considered the latter option”. Wherein lieth the real problem – and automation won’t solve it.

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