Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A contribution to the Pierre-Yan debacle

Shawn Burdette of WPI tweeted an interesting set of coincidences between two papers, a JACS from Pierre of the University of Minnesota in 2009 and an interesting counterpart in Chemistry: A European Journal from Yan of Beijing Normal University in 2013. Apparently, Professor Pierre is very unhappy with the similarities between the two articles. See Arr Oh has nailed down the similarities in the texts quite well; I have little to add. Go over there and read.

I can add the now-required Cantrilling of the text. To left, Thibon, A.; Pierre, V.C. JACS, 2009, 131, 434. and to the right, Yan, X.; Lv, S.; Guo, R. Chem. Eur. J. 2013, 19, 465.

Orange text indicates text that is the same words. 
Suffice it to say that there is A LOT of similarity in the text in these two papers, especially in the introduction and the conclusion sections. The chemistry and figures are also remarkably similar. 

What I found most bothersome is that even the supporting information seemed similar. While most SI language is pretty boilerplate, I found it remarkable that the odd spacing of "over night" (e.g. "further dried under high vacuum over night at room temperature.") was in the JACS SI on only the 3rd and 4th intermediate, and lo and behold! That same wording is only in the 3rd and 4th intermediates of the Chem. Eur. J. SI. 

I am a big fan of alternate hypotheses, so I'm game for an explanation from commenters, or better yet, the authors. (One should note that Blogspot is not available in the PRC, so that might pose a problem for both SAO and myself.) 

I think it's long past time for all journals to subscribe to some sort of plagiarism software, like TurnItIn. If college students can't do it, neither should chemistry professors. 

12 comments:

  1. To engage in a little self-plagiarism, a slight re-hash of my comment on See Arr Oh's post for those who don't read the comments there.

    I was particularly drawn to this statement [in the See Arr Oh post] "Cherry on top? The 2013 authors bury the 2009 authors' paper in Ref. 14d." This is the 3rd such instance of intellectual appropriation with a buried citation that I know of in the last 6 years, and this is just from my limited circle of colleagues in a relatively small field. This must happen a lot more often when considering the whole of publishing in chemistry. For my personal experience: https://twitter.com/WPIBurdette/status/144062177010126848
    The authors cite our paper (Ref #10), but only state that the experimental observations were similar, not that they were rehashing our work for a different application. The uninitiated reader probably didn't realize the synthesis, characterization and mechanism were not new at all. While not plagiarism as defined by copyright law, this does not reflect well on the peer review process.

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    1. I"m totally cantrilling these comments as we speak, and reporting you to the Editorial staff of J. Blog Comm.

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  2. Wow, I found a paper once that lifted the exact wording from one of mine for just one sentence and I was pretty annoyed. This is way worse.

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  3. I think it shows how attitudes have changed that some 15 years ago, a French author more or less lifted, word for word, one of my 'Introduction' sections for his paper, and he didn't even cite me! While I was a bit irritated at the time, I was also sort of flattered... I certainly never thought of complaining.

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  4. Mind you, having read the two papers, I agree this is way worse. The CEJ molecule is a trivially different analog of the JACS one. The CEJ referees can't have done even the most trivial background check.

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  5. Does this mean I now get a CEJ subscription free with purchase of JACS?

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    1. Sure! But you have to wait four years until they catch up.

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  6. CJ-

    As far as I know, all Elsevier editors have access to iThenticate. I have used it on several occasions when I suspected something hinkey about a MS.

    Weather an editor choose to use it or not is a separate matter. But the tools have been made available to us in general.

    Harry (J. Chem. Health Saf. Editor)

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  7. "The CEJ molecule is a trivially different analog of the JACS one."

    I would call this a "me too" paper, indicative of a lack of creativity to come up with a significant improvement of knowledge.

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    1. I don't think "me too" papers are evil, but appropriating someone else's language as your own seems particularly bad.

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    2. This paper is much worse than just a "me too" situation. Had the authors written their own paper on this compound, it probably should have been rejected from CEJ for lack of novelty. The act of directly copying large portions of Pierre's paper is unambiguous plagiarism.

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  8. I thought the TOC graphics were particularly, shall we say, parallel.

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