Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Just an Erratum?

At the beginning of the month I reported on the retraction of a paper by N. Memon by the Springer Verlag. Retraction Watch then learned that Springer had retracted the retraction, making it into an Erratum instead:

Hmm, can a scientist publish a paper and a publisher sell it when a table has been copied without permission? Most particularly, why was the retraction retracted when Springer had already been informed over a year ago that this paper was a plagiarism? It reproduced material that the authors had also published with IEEE and which has been deemed a serious level 1 plagiarism there with the paper being retracted in January 2013 for being a greater than 50% plagiarism of prior work.

VroniPlag Wiki researchers applied the fragmentation technique to the paper in order to visualize the plagiarism (PDF) in a perhaps more understandable manner.

The colours show the type of plagiarism diagnosed:
  • grau=Komplettplagiat: the source of the text parallel is not given, the copy is verbatim.
  • rot=Verschleierung: the source of the text parallel is not given, the copied text will be somewhat modified.
  • gelb=Bauernopfer: the source of the text parallel is mentioned, but the extent and/or closeness of the copying is not made clear by the reference. 
The modified bits in red are a fascinating read:

"Joe talks to Jack" in the source becomes "Atta talks with Khalid" to give the text a better terrorist feel:
Original Katz et al. (2004) Copy

A paper about criminals gets reworded to address terrorists in the introduction:
Xu & Chen (2003) Copy

Why would a scientific publisher (and not a junk journal or other shady operation) not swiftly remove such a paper from their online offerings once they learn of it? They seem to be condoning it by playing down the seriousness of the offense, just speaking of an erratum and only focusing on the table. Do scientific standards and aspects of quality not count for anything these days?

Update: Link added, type 1 -> level 1, attempt to fix the formatting. Thanks to G. Hindemith!

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