Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Translation of the Swedish article on the plagiarism case

A commenter on Abi's blog pointed out the only example of media coverage that seems to have occurred of this case (which seems to have been known for two months). Unfortunately it's in Swedish.

Dag-Erling Smørgrav very kindly sent me a translation. I don't in general reproduce entire articles on my blog, but in this case I think it's merited (and, needless to say, DES is not responsible).

Article was pure plagiarism

A scientific article written by five Swedish researchers has been plagiarised in a respected international journal. "I have never seen anything like it," says Börje Johansson, professor at the University of Uppsala and KTH[1] and one of the authors.

In late August Sergei Simak, lecturer at the University of Linköping, sat down at his computer and looked up cerium dioxide. A recent article with an exciting title popped up on his screen and he started to read.

After only a few sentences, it was clear. The text was identical with the one he himself, Börje Johansson and three other researchers had written and published a few years earlier in the respected journal PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America).

"They have replaced the abstract, changed the figures a little and added a citation to our article - beyond that the content is exactly the same as in ours," says Börje Johansson.

The article is about research that might prove useful in the development of fuel cells - a potentially important energy source in the future.

"There are perhaps four years of work behind the results presented in our article."

The plagiary[2] was published in May in the Journal of Materials Science, a respected scientific journal. Editor-in-chief Barry Carter writes in an email to DN that it is one of the most serious cases of plagiarism he has seen. A retraction will soon be published in the journal. The article is still published online, but Barry Carter writes further that the publisher, Springer, are investigation whether and how it can be removed from their home page[3].

Barry Carter considers it likely that one or more of the so-called authors of the plagiary are innocent.

Tom Mathews, doctor at the Indira Gandhi center for nuclear research in India and one of the four researchers named as authors, distances himself from the article in an email to DN. So does Roshan Bokalawela, graduate student at the University of Oklahoma in the USA.

DN has not been able to reach the other two authors. One of them claims in an email to the Swedish researchers that he received a draft from a researcher in Nepal.

According to the Swedish regulation[4] on university colleges[5], it is the duty of the university college since September 1st, 2006 to investigate all reported cases of suspected scientific cheating.

Lisa Kvist Wadman

[1] Kungliga Tekniska Högskolan (Royal Institute of Technology) in Stockholm

[2] The Swedish word "plagiat" can mean either the act or the result of plagiarism; I chose to use "plagiarism" for the former sense, and the archaic form "plagiary" for the latter.

[3] sic, I assume they mean "web pages".

[4] "förordning" equivalent to a federal regulation in the US or a statutory instrument in the UK

[5] "högskola", literally "high school", officially translated as "university college"; an institution that offers education up to a master's degree or equivalent in a limited range of subjects.

I find it odd that, after two months, Springer is still investigating whether and how to remove it from their home page. Even if they do not, surely they can put up a notice that this article was plagiarised. (arxiv.org has an automatic plagiarism detector. It is high time journals started doing the same thing.)


Suresh said...


This is most curious in that it goes beyond plagiarism. I am at a loss to account for how Mathews and Bokalawela appear as co-authors given that they have distanced themselves from it. What's going on? Unfortunately, the Swedish article does not give details of their statements.

Incidentally, the plagiarism news appears on the webpage of Linkoping University where two co-authors of the original paper (Simak and Abrikosov) work:


p said...

The reviewers and journal should be blacklisted too...clearly its a case where the review process is far from watertight