Wednesday, August 12, 2009

CV Bloat with Recycled Papers

I happened across a paper today and saw that there was a similar paper by the same German authors, just in a different order of authorship:
I wondered what the difference was. So I downloaded them, and discovered that the major difference is in the formatting. Oh, there is a figure dropped and a sentence added and a paragraph or so removed, but even a misspelled word such as "Acknoledgement" is in both papers. Oh, wait - the list of students contributing to the work is missing in the Wernigeröde paper, and the word "proposed" has changed to "developed". It is, after all, three months later.

At Harald Loose's web site there is a third reference to be found:
Hmm. Prof. Loose has lost his co-author - but except for formatting, this paper is identical to the Wernigeröde one. Same text, same figures, same data. The only difference seems to be that he's used a spelling checker and fixed the spelling of "Acknowledgement".

But for all practical purposes, we have three papers that are identical material. Two have the same name, but different authors (one being dropped). They are identical, except for the formatting. Two have the same authors, but in different order with different paper titles, but they are for all practical purposes the same.

Prof. Loose has bloated his CV with three publications by recycling not just the content, but also the wording. Ms. Lemke does not seem to be at the FH Brandenburg any more, although her CV would have two papers for the work of one. Neither of the later papers refer to the previously published ones.

This kind of self-plagiarism is not acceptable according to the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) rules for good scientific practice:
"... bereits früher veröffentlichte Ergebnisse nur in klar ausgewiesener Form und nur insoweit wiederholen, wie es für das Verständnis des Zusammenhangs notwendig ist. " (previously published work is only to be reused when clearly labeled an only when necessary in order to understand the context)
Perhaps the papers were never "really" published and are only available online. But I do feel that the newer ones should refer to the older ones, and the identical papers should have identical authors. I have asked the author if he cares to comment.

Update: I wrote to Prof. Loose and asked if he could give any clarification. He wrote a very nice letter back, I've decided to write a new blog entry on a point that he raised there.

He explained that the first two papers were not to be considered scientific papers. They were just the written form for talks given at small workshops. And the order of the authors was switched so that the first author was the one giving the talk. He himself is mystified by the third paper as to why the second author is no longer on the page and will check it up when he gets back home. I wish to thank him for a speedy answer!

Update 2012-07-15: Prof. Loose's home page is linked from his school, but completely unaccessable.


  1. Author Lemke might be innocent, though. Her coauthor may have submitted the second version without her agreement or knowledge. Which isn't permissible either, but since ethics does not seem to be of high importance anyway....

  2. Indeed, on her online list of publications, she only lists the first (and presumably original) publication.