When a paper duplicates one in another language, how can editors spot it?

By Petr Kratochvil

Same tea, different mug. Biomolecules, an MDPI journal, has retracted a 2018 paper by on the salubrious effects of tea because the authors had previously published the same article in a Chinese-language journal.

The paper, “Evaluation of anti-obesity activity, acute toxicity, and subacute toxicity of probiotic dark tea,” came from researchers in China and one from Harvard University (oddly, a post-doc in applied physics).

The case highlights a plagiarism problem that may may be difficult to spot, it turns out. According to the retraction notice, the authors were using the same tea leaves in a different cup:

The Biomolecules Editorial Office has been made aware that the published paper [1] was previously published in chinese in China Tea Processing by the same authors [2]. In order to preserve academic integrity, the title paper [1] will be marked as retracted. We apologize to the readership of Biomolecules for any inconvenience caused. The decision to retract has been made in cooperation with the authors of the article [1].

MDPI is a member of the Committee on Publication Ethics and takes the responsibility to enforce strict ethical policies and standards very seriously. To ensure the addition of only high quality scientific works to the field of scholarly publication, [1] is retracted and shall be marked accordingly.

Vladimir Uversky, who edits Biomolecules, tells us:

In December, we were informed that the paper published in Biomolecules in 2018 was published by the same authors in 2017 in Chinese in China Tea Processing. Although we regularly check submitted manuscripts for plagiarism, this story clearly represents another situation – republication in English of a work that was previously published in Chinese. Obviously, we do not have facilities to uncover such cases.

Maybe something for the roadmap at Turnitin, the plagiarism detection software company, now that they’ve been acquired for $1.7 billion.

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5 thoughts on “When a paper duplicates one in another language, how can editors spot it?”

  1. It’s too bad. I’m sure the literature would have benefited from an English translation of the paper, clearly marked as such.

  2. Many journals publish parallel versions in different languages precisely so they can appeal to different scientific communities, and this tradition has a long history. It comes to mind the English translations of Soviet journals published by the then Pergamon Press, and Russian ones nowadays by Springer. Many Latin American journals, some of which were hosted on Elsevier’s Science Direct for a while, also publish parellel versions. As Adede comments, as long as this is clearly indicated, it should not be a problem.

  3. when you have tea in a tea cup its a tea
    when you break the cup and wipe tea with rug squeeze it into different cup it is still the same tea….
    from the move “Little Buddha”

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