BMJ says it’s “an ongoing effort” to find articles by plagiarizing concussion researcher Paul McCrory

Paul McCrory

Weeks after the British Medical Journal corrected a press release about nine retractions and dozens of expressions of concern to mark articles by a prominent concussion expert, a spokesperson for the journal told us it’s still “an ongoing effort” to identify all the articles on which the expert is the sole author. 

The concussion researcher, Paul McCrory, was editor in chief of the British Journal of Sports Medicine, published by the BMJ, from 2001-2008, and published many editorials on which he was the only listed author. McCrory also chaired the influential Concussion in Sport Group, was involved in drafting consensus statements on concussion in sports, and consulted with leagues.

Ten of those articles, however, have been retracted this year for plagiarism, recycling his own work, and misrepresenting a reference. 

In comments to us, his only public statements to date about the matter, McCrory acknowledged some of the plagiarism as unintentional “errors,” and offered “my sincere and humble apologies.” He no longer chairs the Concussion in Sport Group, and the Australian Football League has critically reviewed his work for the league, the Guardian Australia reported. 

The first retraction came in February, and more scrutiny of McCrory’s work followed (particularly from data sleuth Nick Brown, a familiar name for Retraction Watch readers), culminating in the BJSM issuing a press release on October 10th announcing nine more retractions. 

The press release also stated that the BMJ would place an expression of concern on all articles in its journals on which McCrory was the sole author, and specifically gave 38 as the number of articles it would mark. 

In our story about the announcement, also made in an editorial in the BJSM, we noted that we had found 78 single author papers for McCrory in the journal. 

Days later, on October 14th, the BMJ corrected the press release to note an “error” in the number of articles to get expressions of concern: 

The standfirst and text of the press release specified that expressions of concern would be placed on 38 other articles published in BMJ journals on which McCrory was the only author. This was incorrect. Thus far we have identified 74 single authored articles in BMJ journals (71 in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, 2 in The British Medical Journal, and 1 in Injury Prevention).  Please update any existing online copy. We will place an expression of concern on all single authored articles by McCrory published in BMJ journals.

We asked the BMJ’s media team how the publisher had become aware of the error and sent them the list of 78 articles we’d found by McCrory only, asking why there seemed to be a discrepancy in our counts. 

On November 4th, a spokesperson replied, blaming the age of the articles for the difficulty in finding them, though we identified 78 via an online search: 

Many of Paul McCrory’s single authored articles in BMJ’s journals were written before digitisation, hence identifying the full list of articles is an ongoing effort. At the time of our original press release, which focused primarily on the 9 additional retractions, we had cross checked 38 other single authored articles that merited an expression of concern. We decided to place an expression of concern on all articles in BMJ journals that were single authored publications by McCrory. It was erroneous to give the impression in the press release that 38 was the total number of single authored publications by McCory in BMJ journals, hence this was corrected. Ongoing searches have uncovered more single authored articles and our process continues.

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2 thoughts on “BMJ says it’s “an ongoing effort” to find articles by plagiarizing concussion researcher Paul McCrory”

  1. It seems really strange to me that the journal can’t find papers published in their own editions, but some journo without access to their data can find them. Or maybe they used Bing ;).

    Also:

    “…38 was the total number of single authored publications by McCory in BMJ journals…”

    Is the typo in “McCrory” from the original text? ie. does it require a [sic] ?

  2. It is not a surprise. We just published a book with Elsevier on energy storage where the third book co-editor never write or read a single page from this book.

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