|Source: PrariePastor, Wordpress|
Regular readers may recall that I posted back-to-back on suspicious swaths of text in two peer-reviewed papers by Xi Yan, a chemistry professor at Beijing Normal University. Along with others (including the authors of both original papers), I concluded that the huge blocks of essentially unchanged text in Yan's papers merited action by the respective Editors of Chemistry and Dalton Transactions.
So, what happened?
Check out the Dalton paper - there's now an "Addition" listed, off to the bottom right of your screen. It reads (emphasis mine):
"After the publication of our article, it was brought to our attention that an earlier publication containing related work to that described in the article should have been referenced: 'Dynamic copper(I) imaging in mammalian cells with a genetically encoded fluorescent copper(I) sensor', Seraphine V Wegner, Hasan Arslan, Murat Sunbul, Jun Yin and Chuan He, Journal of the American Chemical Society, 2010, 132, 2567-2569.
The authors apologise for this oversight."Oversight? "Related work?!" A cowardly, measly, long-overdue REFERENCE?!?!?
Fact: Xi Yan has been caught twice with duplicated text and re-hashed science.
Fact: He has now been given a "pass" for bad behavior by RSC Editors.
I cannot accept this decision. Simply put, it flies in the face of everything I know as an honest scientist. Papers are hard to write! Original science doesn't come easy! I sympathize, but that doesn't condone taking another person's work as your own. This failure to discipline permits not just Xi Yan's folly, but opens the door for future plagiarism.
Hypothetical: Playing under these rules, what's to stop me from re-publishing all of E.J. Corey's papers under my name? I'll just subtly alter the substrates, and make sure to bury his name is my References section! Does anyone else realize how ridiculous that sounds???
Another wrinkle: a friend of the blog mentions that the RSC, along with several other publishers, belong to COPE, a publication ethics group. From COPE's own Code of Conduct (emphasis mine):
"Best practice for editors would include:
• adopting systems for detecting plagiarism (e.g. software, searching for similar titles) in submitted items (either routinely or when suspicions are raised)
• supporting authors whose copyright has been breached or who have been the victims of plagiarism
• being prepared to work with their publisher to defend authors’ rights and pursue offenders (e.g. by requesting retractions or removal of material from websites) irrespective of whether their journal holds the copyright"Following ChemBark's example, I'll lay out my recommendations:
1. The half-hearted "Addition" should be taken down, and Yan's paper retracted.
2. Xi Yan should issue a massive mea culpa to his university, Dalton, and its Editors.
3. Dalton should take steps to ensure that future plagiarised papers are screened out prior to publication.
Failure to take these steps will result in a severe lack of confidence for all future journal publications. I have reached out to the Editorial staff at Dalton for comment, and will update this post if/when I receive a response.
Update (2/17/13) - Try this at home: Friend of the blog S.C. passes along DOC Cop, an online manuscript comparison tool. I uploaded the two texts, and received a match report of 19%. Although, a quick look-down indicates it's likely much higher than that (the software misses one-off substitutions and different reference numbering). I would estimate ~35% duped text.
*To everyone who comes here for fun chemical adventures and light-hearted content: I'm sorry. I don't mean to be the chemistry Internet Police, but I strongly, strongly believe that science needs a level playing field. More fun to come, I promise.