Sunday, October 07, 2007

Plagiarism: Culprits of the month


Rahul catches is tipped off about an Anna University group's paper (published in the Journal of Materials Science) whose abstract is a near-verbatim copy of that of an earlier paper in PNAS from a Swedish group. Here are the first two sentences (Rahul has the full abstract and the links, so go to his post for details):

The PNAS paper

Oxides with the cubic fluorite structure, e.g., ceria (CeO2), are known to be good solid electrolytes when they are doped with cations of lower valence than the host cations. The high ionic conductivity of doped ceria makes it an attractive electrolyte for solid oxide fuel cells, whose prospects as an environmentally friendly power source are very promising. ...

And the JMS paper:

Oxides with the cubic fluorite structure, e.g., ceria (CeO2), are known to be good solid electrolytes when they are doped with cations of lower valence than the host cations. The high ionic conductivity of doped ceria makes it an attractive electrolyte for solid oxide fuel cells, whose prospects as an environmentally friendly power source are very promising. ...

Very blatant, and very, very disturbing. All eyes should now be on Anna University's next move.

9 Comments:

  1. Rahul said...

    Abi - as I said in my post, I didn't catch this (it's not even my field) -- I was tipped off. But I imagine many, many people in the field would have caught it; it surprises me that the referees didn't.

  2. arun said...

    It is indeed deeply troubling.

    A classic case of "nakal me bhi akal chahiye".

    I compared the papers. The Anna University paper is almost a word for word verbatim copy of the PNAS paper but for a few dropped references and replotted figures.

    There are four authors. It would be interesting to see how this is going to be handled by the university amid all the finger pointing that will follow.

  3. Krish said...

    It is a shame. If you remember, one of our mutual friends caught one paper from an engg college in Tamilnadu while refereeing for an international journal. I am happy that we could publicize such frauds using blogs. I have also sent it to some people I know in Anna University. Let us see what happens.

  4. gaddeswarup said...

    Abi,
    Blogs seem to be a good venues for publicizing this nonsense ; it is possible that job flexibity for you and possible membership of influential committess may decrease.

  5. Anonymous said...

    This is being reported in the Swedish media (5th Oct 07)
    http://www.dn.se/DNet/jsp/polopoly.jsp?d=597&a=699836

    Interestingly, the authors of the J Material Sci article have referred to the original PNAS article, incorrectly though as Andersson DA 2006!

    Even more bizarre is the context in which they have referred to the PNAS article: when they compare their (?) theoretical results with experimental values. They refer to the PNAS article when they should have been referring to Faber et al., (1989).

    Even more bizarre is that the review process missed all this!

    Either they are brazen or they are shooting for the Darwin award.



    Sridhar

  6. Abi said...

    Rahul: Thanks for that clarification. I have corrected the post.

    Arun, Krish, Swarup: I'm glad that blogs are able to shine the spotlight on cases of scientific fraud. It's not clear what kind of effect it will have, though. We will have to wait for the official reaction from Anna U.

    Sridhar: Thanks for that link. Is there a way to have that report translated?

    The review process clearly had no first level filter for detecting plagiarism. I'm sure it will be installed. However, I wouldn't blame the refereeing process for this fiasco.

  7. Semantic Overload said...

    This is just a tip of the iceberg. There is so much plagiarism that goes around. Especially within related, but different area of specialization that do not have a lot of academic cross-pollination.

    Considering the rate at which information is growing, the only scalable way to handle this will be through automated data mining techniques that are woefully inadequate at this point.

    Until we come up with something relatively decent, this will continue to be a rampant problem in academia.

  8. Rahul said...

    I have posted a translation of the Swedish article.

  9. Anonymous said...

    hi , in today HT read the following article .

    6 AIIMS professors in plagiarism charge row- Hindustan Times

    at following link

    www.hindustantimes.com/redir.aspx?ID=1348517b-ea90-4b33-80da-13865929f579


    it would be great if you wtire some thing on it ...... fan