Getting medieval: Society says it is retracting 14 book reviews for plagiarism

More than a dozen book reviews by a history PhD student are under scrutiny for plagiarism concerns. 

The reviews are published in the Al-Masāq Journal of the Medieval Mediterranean, a Society for the Medieval Mediterranean journal published by Taylor & Francis. The majority of the papers appear to be stolen whole works from other authors published in different historical journals.

The society posted a retraction notice today saying that the reviews had been removed, but at the time of this writing, all 14 are still available on publisher Taylor & Francis’s site, without any editor’s notes or other flags.

The society’s notice says:

The editors regret to report that we are investigating possible plagiarism in book reviews submitted by Spyridon Panagopoulos. We have removed the reviews published by him, which are listed below.

We sincerely apologise to the original review authors.

Then it goes on to list the 14 reviews, dating from 2014 to 2020:

Panagopoulos has had a recent retraction in the Bryn Mawr Classical Review because the review was an unmodified translation of a previous review written in French.

The notice, which the Bryn Mawr Classical Review Twitter account shared on August 5, says:

The editors regret to report that the review published as 2020.07.49 of M. D. Lauxtermann, Byzantine poetry from Pisides to Geometres: texts and contexts, vol. 2, duplicated in extenso the review of the same book by Baukje van den Berg published in Byzantinische Zeitschrift (113 [2020] 254-259).  The review we published was submitted by Spyridon Panagopoulos and proved to be a French translation, complete and more or less exact, of Dr. van den Berg’s review.  It has been permanently removed.

Bryn Mawr appears to have deleted the retracted reviews, rather than leave them intact but watermarked, as recommended by the Committee on Publication Ethics.

Neither Panagopoulos, a history graduate student at the Ionian University in Greece, nor Esther-Miriam Wagner of the Woolf Institute in the UK, the editor of the Al-Masāq Journal of the Medieval Mediterranean, immediately responded to email requests for comment.

Update, 0000 UTC, 8/13/2020: Clifford Ando of the University of Chicago, editor of Bryn Mawr Classical Review, wrote Retraction Watch in email:

We commissioned a review from Mr. Panagopoulos on 25 March.  A review of the same book was published — in English — in Byzantinische Zeitschrift in May of 2020.  On 22 May 2020, Mr. Panagopoulos submitted his text to us, in French.

Every text submitted to Bryn Mawr Classical Review is read by three editors prior to publication.  The process works well.  BMCR has operated for 30 years and published many thousands of reviews, and this is the first instance of our publication of a plagiarized text of which we are aware.

As for why the review was deleted entirely, he wrote:

The journal’s published statement provides an account.  The text being a French translation of an English text, with no work added by the plagiarist, no obvious good was achieved by retaining the text on the website.

Update, 2030 UTC, 8/13/20: Panagopoulos is up to 20 retractions, including five in The Medieval Review.

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4 thoughts on “Getting medieval: Society says it is retracting 14 book reviews for plagiarism”

  1. If students are required to use “Turn it in” or other plagiarism checking databases, why not also authors of book reviews? After all, book reviews are perhaps more susceptible to plagiarism than research articles.

    1. Are ‘TII’ and/or other plagiarism checking tools able to detect plagiarism across different languages? My guess is not.

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