Re: Detecting Plagiarism

From: Martin Blume <>
Date: Wed, 23 Jul 2003 19:14:16 +0100

At 09:58 AM 7/23/2003 -0700, Michael Eisen asked:

>Are there statistics on how often and through what means scientific journals
>detect and pursue plagiarism?
>These would be very useful to help frame these discussions, as would some
>concrete examples that demonstrate the role that copyright plays in these
>actions. It seems like you would be in a good position to provide some.

I would like to reply on behalf of a single publisher - the American
Physical Society - to the questions concerning copyright and plagiarism. I
have stated in the past that we would pursue plagiarists whether or not we
had copyright, and that copyright would not play a role in our actions. I
have had, as a result of recent experiences, to change my mind on this. We
have had a rash of cases brought to our attention where papers in our
journals (the Physical Review journals and Reviews of Modern Physics) have
been plagiarized in others (and in one case where we published an article
that was plagiarized from another journal). The heightened awareness of
cases of scientific misconduct has probably led to an increased reporting
of such problems.

The most difficult thing we had to deal with was getting other journals to
face up to the problem and to publish a retraction of the plagiarized
article. It was here that we were able to pressure the editors of the other
journal with the fact that they were violating our copyright. This quickly
got their attention, and retractions were soon forthcoming. We would of
course have pursued this on behalf of the authors of the plagiarized
article if they had retained copyright. But this wouldn't work if the paper
were in the public domain.I can point to three different papers in the past
six months where we used copyright as a prod in dealing with other journals.

Martin Blume
The American Physical Society
One Research Road
Ridge, NY 11961-9000
phone: 631 591 4036
fax: 631 591 4275
Received on Wed Jul 23 2003 - 19:14:16 BST

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