Friday, June 18, 2010

Satisfaction - but not from the universities

H. Peter Gumm writes about the resolution of his plagiarism case that was reported here early last month. There was no active response on the part of either university involved about the plagiarism, but the publishers have removed the title from their catalog. This is a good sign, as I had speculated about whether this was a serious publisher or not. A serious publisher takes action when plagiarism is demonstrated, so they are rehabilitated in my eyes.

I reproduce Gumm's email slightly redacted here:
Dear Friends and colleagues,

yesterday, I finally received a letter from World Scientific Publishing (WSP), asserting that they would stop selling the book "Universal Algebra and Coalgebra" by K. Denecke and Shelly Wismath. Today I checked WSP's web page and could convince myself, that the book is indeed not listed anymore on their pages.

Thus a time- and nerve-consuming struggle has finally come to its conclusion, a struggle that I could not have won without your unfaltering and committed help.

 *Thank you very much, foremostly Jiri, Jan and Yde, for your support*

None of the authors of the said work of plagiarism, nor their schools, have played any active parts in stopping the sale of the book or supporting me in pursuing my rights.

Prof. Denecke, whom I met at a recent conference in Poland, keeps insisting in his stance that the book is just based on his notes.

My letter to Prof. Wismath, asking her, after four weeks to finally react, as she had promised earlier, to the letter by Profs. Adamek, Rutten and Venema,  was answered by her University's "risk manager", praising the virtues of Dr. Wismath and expressing concern about her wonderful reputation possibly being hurt. No step was taken in consideration to address my concern or to rectify the situation. As of today, the plagiarized book is still listed, without any of her claimed reservations, not to speak of an apology, on her web page.

From that same "risk manager" I learned that my publisher, Heldermann, weeks ago, had already sent a letter both to "World Scientific" and to the University of Lethbridge, asserting them "We will not take any further legal steps. The case is settled for me." I am not sure, whether such a statement was called for, and hardly consider it having been helpful to my case.

World Scientific, backed with such an encouragement, just ignored my letter in which I had presented all the facts, first and foremost my colleagues' expert statement with the painstaking chapter-by-chapter comparison of the two books and with the link to Dr. Horstkotte's article in ZEIT-Online.

After not having received an answer for four weeks, I finally sent them another mail, this Monday, threatening to take my case to all the editors of all of their Mathematics Journals. (I thought of starting with the editorial board of the "Asian-European Journal of Mathematics" for which Denecke signs as "deputy chief editor" and his assistant, Jörg Koppitz, as "managing editor" .)

After this threat, the reaction from WSP was swift. Their mail (with cc to Denecke) arrived Tuesday and it reads:

"We have received your messages and we have agreed to stop selling the title 'Universal Algebra and Coalgebra' with immediate effect. The website of the title will also be deleted by this week."

Thus, the case has finally come to a close. Some of my conclusions:

1.  The only way to prevail in such a case is going public.

2.  There is no help from the plagiator's institutions. Their
one-and-only concern is the reputation of their members. The University of Potsdam, after Dr. Horstkotte's nagging questions and after his article in "ZEIT-online", felt obliged to initiate a "pre-investigation". I wonder how long it will take (if ever) to turn the pre-investigation into an investigation or even to a conclusion.

3.  Don't be afraid of the power large publishing houses. They will
realize that without us scientists doing their work, they are just empty

Finally: I feel sorry for those victims of plagiarism whose case is not
that clear cut. It must be humiliating for them to try to pursue their
rights, when the plagiarism is performed with a trifle more subtlety.
Best regards, and THANK YOU ALL,
H. Peter Gumm
I am so amazed that the University of Lethbridge pays a "risk manager". Do they have so many risks that need managed? And money to spare for this? How high are their tuition fees? It will be interesting to see if the University of Potsdam comes to any kind of conclusion, and if so, how long it will take.

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