An Elsevier book plagiarizes an abstract published by…Elsevier

Elsevier plans to remove the introduction from a book on mineralogy after investigating allegations of plagiarism, including from another Elsevier publication, according to emails obtained by Retraction Watch. 

Photo Atlas of Mineral Pseudomorphism by J. Theo Kloprogge and Robert Lavinsky, was published in 2017 and still appears to be for sale for $100 for a hardcover and ebook bundle. (The usual price is $200, but there is a sale on at the time of this writing.) Its listing on ScienceDirect includes the introduction with no note about removal.   

As we’ve previously reported, Elsevier last year retracted an entire book by Kloprogge, an adjunct professor at the University of the Philippines Visayas and honorary senior fellow at the University of Queensland, that plagiarized heavily from Wikipedia.  

According to the emails we obtained, Gloria Staebler, of mineralogical publisher Lithographie, Ltd., noticed the plagiarism in the book in May while preparing to formally publish a manuscript   by Si and Ann Frazier that had been circulated in a mineral club newsletter in 2005. In a May 31st email to an editor at Elsevier, Staebler laid out her evidence: 

In doing MY due diligence, I have found that almost all of this 2005 essay (see attached, highlighted in yellow) has been copied verbatim into the book that you published “Photo Atlas of Mineral Pseudomorphs” by J. Theo Kloprogge and Rob Lavinsky; ISBN 978-0-12-803674-7.

Realizing that only a single paragraph (bottom on page 4, highlighted in blue) of this section of the introduction book was not lifted from the Fraziers, I typed that section (highlighted in blue) into Google and found that it had been plagiarized from an entry published on Enyclopedia.com.

I jumped to page 9 and found that to have been mostly lifted, but with sophomoric phrase replacements. I only got part way through (highlighting in blue), but it is obvious that this and the page that follows is taken from Pring et al, attached. That the entire section is not highlighted does NOT indicate it contains any original work by Kloprogge, only that I don’t have time or interest in doing the work of your editorial team.

Nevertheless, moving to page 11, I found first section was lifted verbatim from this abstract: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0016703711004431 PUBLISHED BY ELSEVIER!

The editor responded the same day, asking for “some time to review everything and get back to you.” 

Before going to Elsevier, Staebler followed “the journalist code of ethics flowchart,” as she put it, and contacted Kloprogge about her findings. He denied having lifted the text and said any overlap was “pure coincidence”: 

I am very surprised about this as I have never heard of Si and Ann Frazier, let alone have access to their manuscript. Since I live and work in the Philippines I have no knowledge of what is published in local club newsletters in other countries like the one you provided the link for. I purely work with what the local university libraries provide access to.

… 

Any parts that do seem similar are due to pure coincidence and have not been plagiarized by us in any shape or form. Both Rob and I are serious about our work and since I was not aware of their work in any form they have not been cited or credited. If I had access I would have properly referenced it. The pdf you linked is less than one page compared to over 100 pages of text in our book with more than 8 pages of several hundred references and some 150 pages of original photos. I carefully checked this text to mine and do not see any major sections of text that are verbatim the same. Hence, your comment about large swathes of text being copied seems impossible to me.

In another reply, he sent some files and wrote: 

My original manuscript on the history was started back in 1999… As you can see from attributes of the two files (word document of the chapter and a powerpoint presentation) both files were created in 1999. The chapter in March 1999 and the presentation in October 1999 for a seminar I gave in November 1999 (see screenshots with file attributes). The text in the powerpoint presentation was based on my chapter at that time and predates the article by Frazier by some 6 years. Therefore, it is impossible for me to have plagiarized their work.

In her email to Elsevier, Staebler wrote that Kloprogge’s claims about the PowerPoint presentation being unchanged since 1999 was “verifiably false.” She explained:

The metadata of the photos and other data in his Powerpoint presentation, indicate that it was modified many years after the 2005 essay was published in the Mineralogical Society of Southern California newsletter.

Staebler asked Kloprogge if he was suggesting that the Fraziers had plagiarized his work instead of him plagiarizing theirs. He replied: 

I don’t suggest that they did as I have no idea how they would have been able to get a copy of my talk. All I know is that I did my original writing back then for this chapter.

Over the years after that I have been ill for long periods (last time for 2 years, before my forced retirement) and people did have unauthorized access to my room and computer at that time and may have copied files from it. Actually, most of my extensive research and teaching mineral collection I kept in my office in locked cabinets as well as a lot of books and journals were stolen in my absence and I had to go to court against the university to get compensated.

We emailed Kloprogge to ask him for comment on the emails and allegations. He responded: 

I don’t know how you got access to my private and confidential emails but it is clearly in an illegal manner as I never gave permission for the content to be shared with anyone!

Therefore, I have forwarded your email to the legal department at Elsevier to deal with this.

On June 14th, the editor notified Staebler of Elsevier’s decision: 

We have reached a decision and will be removing the introduction from the book. This will include the ebook, the ScienceDirect version, and the print version. The book will be unavailable to purchase or download while we make this update.

Before the decision, Staebler told us: 

I have not seriously gone through the scientific part of the Pseudomorphs book, but in the random sections I checked found every one to have been spiked. At this point I doubt there is any original work in the book. 

We asked the editor at Elsevier for a comment and have not heard back. 

Staebler told us she is glad Elsevier is taking action, but still frustrated: 

I was amazed that something so blatantly copied could make it past Elsevier’s editorial team (and software), but I became upset when Kloprogge suggested that Si and Ann Frazier had spiked HIS work. Thankfully I have a wonderful support network, which talked me down and gave me sound guidance.

Initially, I found it difficult to get through to Elsevier’s editorial/legal team. The website forms are not helpful, and their corporate phone contacts were time-consuming and fruitless. I then began reaching out to individuals involved with the book, writing the publisher first, but she did not acknowledge my email. The breakthrough came when a friend suggested I contact Dr Rauchfuss, who had discovered and documented Theo Kloprogge’s plagiarism of the Chemistry text. Rauchfuss connected me to Ivan and suggested I email the acquiring editor, Amy Shapiro, who quickly acknowledged my email. [Editor’s note: We do not provide advice in specific cases like this, but are always grateful for the opportunity to report on them.] It took about a month from first contact to yesterday when Amy told me that Elsevier had made the decision to retract the book’s Introduction, which essentially means the entire book, though as of this morning it is frustratingly still available for sale on Elsevier’s site.

While I am grateful that they are pulling the book, I am frustrated with Amy’s carefully worded emails in which she does not acknowledge plagiarism or any wrong doing and is not issuing an apology. It is further disappointing that Elsevier doesn’t proactively check the entire manuscript (and other work by the same author) and alert every offended author to what has transpired.

Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our work, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at team@retractionwatch.com.

4 thoughts on “An Elsevier book plagiarizes an abstract published by…Elsevier”

  1. Forget it Jake, it’s Elsevier.

    (To be clear: this is an expression of frustration, not indifference.)

  2. Not that it’s an important point, but Gloria Staebler evidently does not know what spiked means in publishing, which seems odd given where she works.

    Per the Oxford English Dictionary, the only publishing-relevant meaning of spike is:

    Of a newspaper editor: to reject (a story or part of one) as by filing it on a spike

  3. Plagiarism always happens in history, from art to science, to every intellectual field — no surprise. Especially, when such cases happen across countries, it gets more difficult to find out.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.