Paper plagiarizes from handwritten manuscript

semiform groupThis case of plagiarism is a little weirder than usual.

A paper has been retracted from Semigroup Forum because it includes material taken from another researcher’s manuscript — which was handwritten. In fact, the same journal had already published a paper by the plagiarized researcher, also based on the same manuscript. The journal editor told us that, although the two papers are similar, they are not word-for-word copies, and thus escaped detection.

The retraction notice for “Varieties of bands with a semilattice transversal” gives more details about the handwritten manuscript:

The material in this paper consists of a handwritten manuscript provided to the supervisor of the first author by Professor Francis J. Pastijn. The authors had no permission to publish this material and apologize to Professor Pastijn and the journal Semigroup Forum for the problems that this has caused. Professor Pastijn’s own paper, which is a development of a part of this manuscript, appeared as “Free split bands”, Semigroup Forum 90 (2015), 753–762.

The 2015 paper has not been cited, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

The supervisor mentioned in the notice is not an author on the paper, journal editor Norman Reilly told us.

Free split bands” appeared online in July 2014 in Semigroup Forum, ahead of the now-retracted paper. Reilly told us that the overlap between that paper and the now-retracted one

is significant. But much more important, however, is the fact that the Li paper repeats word-for-word part of Pastijn’s manuscript.

We asked why the plagiarism wasn’t caught prior to publication. Reilly told us:

When the article was being considered, there was no way that our editor and referee could have known about the existence of Pastijn’s manuscript.

But what about the overlap between Pastijn’s published paper and the retracted one — why wasn’t that noticed? Reilly told us:

Pastijn’s paper is based on his full hand-written manuscript, which is much longer than the part given to [the first author’s] supervisor, but it is not a word-for-word copy.

Pastijn works at Marquette University in Milwaukee. We have reached out to him but have not heard back.

The first author of the paper, Xiaoling Li, and last author Jing Xu, are both associate professors at Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology. We’ve contacted them both for more information. The Vice President of the school shares a name with co-author Yao Wang, but we were unable to confirm that they are the same person.

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