# Update on Plagiarism Scandal

Last summer I wrote here about a plagiarism scandal involving more than 60 arXiv preprints, more than thirty of which were refereed and published in at least 18 different physics journals, some of them quite prestigious ones (see also the page at Eureka Journal Watch). At the time I wondered what action the journals involved in this scandal would take in response to it. Nearly six months later the answer to this question is now in: essentially none at all. As far as I can tell, almost uniformly the journals involved don’t seem to have a problem at all with being used to publish plagiarized material.

Unlike the journals, the arXiv has taken action. It has withdrawn the papers, replaced their abstracts with lists of where they plagiarized from, and put up a web-page explaining all of this. After the scandal became public, one journal, JHEP, did withdraw the one rather egregious example of plagiarism it had published. This was only done after JHEP originally refused to do anything about this when first contacted last March, arguing that since the plagiarized articles were cited in the paper it was all right, and besides, they would only consider doing something if the plagiarized authors filed a formal complaint. Copies of the correspondence about this (and much else) are at this web-site.

The nature of the plagiarism varied greatly among the papers withdrawn by the arXiv. Sometimes all that was involved was self-plagiarism (large parts of one paper were identical with others submitted by some of the same authors), but mostly what was being plagiarized was the contents of papers by others. Mustafa Salti, a graduate student at METU, had his name on 40 of the withdrawn papers, many of which have been published in well-known journals. I checked a few of the online published journal articles corresponding to the withdrawn papers and, besides the JHEP paper, I didn’t find any others where the online journal article gave any indication that the paper was known to be plagiarized.

A more complicated case is that of Ihsan Yilmaz, where the arXiv lists three of his eight arXiv preprints as withdrawn due to plagiarism and one as withdrawn due to “excessive overlap” with two other papers of which he was co-author. Very recently one of his Physical Review D papers, a paper that was not one of the ones on the arXiv, was retracted with the notation:

The author withdraws this article from publication because it copies text, totaling more than half of the article, from the articles listed below. The author apologizes to the authors of these papers and to the publishers whose copyright was violated.

After the scandal broke, Yilmaz had a letter published in Nature where he justified the sort of plagiarism found in his articles, claiming “using beautiful sentences from other studies on the same subject in our introductions is not unusual.” Evidently the editors of the journal General Relativity and Gravitation agreed with Yilmaz. They decided not to do anything about the papers they had published that were withdrawn from the arXiv, writing an editorial in which they defended the papers, while noting that “we do not regard such word for word copying of introductory and descriptive material by others as acceptable.”

I heard about the GRG editorial via an e-mail from a group of the faculty at METU, who write that:

The note is clearly quite unacceptable and insufficient in the fight against plagiarism. We cannot help but ask whether the Editors seriously believe that those who cannot compose their own sentences are in fact capable of producing genuine research worthy of publishing in General Relativity and Gravitation.

and note the retraction of the Physical Review D article, which they regard as a much more appropriate response

Update: Someone helpfully sent me pdfs of the two GRG articles, marked up to identify the plagiarized passages. Looking at these, I find it hard to understand why any journal would not withdraw such papers if they made the mistake of publishing them.

• Topological defect solutions in the spherically symmetric space-time admitting conformal motion, I.Yilmaz, M. Aygun and S. Aygun. This was gr-qc/0607104, published version Gen.Rel.Grav. 37 (2005) 2093-2104. The arXiv describes it as “having excessive overlap with the following papers also written by the authors or their collaborators: hep-th/0505013 and 0705.2930.”
• Magnetized Quark and Strange Quark Matter in the Spherical Symmetric Space-Time Admitting Conformal Motion, C. Aktas and I. Yilmaz. This was arXiv:0705.2930, published version Gen.Rel.Grav. 39 (2007) 849-862. The arXiv describes it as “it plagiarizes astro-ph/0611537, astro-ph/0506256, astro-ph/0203033, astro-ph/0311128, gr-qc/0505144, astro-ph/0611460, and astro-ph/0610840.”
• Update: The journal Astrophysics and Space Science is retracting four of the plagiarized papers, by putting up errata on-line which appeared today and are dated January 11, 2008, saying:

After investigation and at the request of the President of the Middle East Technical University (METU), Ankara, Turkey, the Editors of Astrophysics and Space Science have decided to retract this paper due to extensive plagiarism of work by others.

The papers involved are gr-qc/0505079, gr-qc/0602012, gr-qc/0508018, gr-qc/0509022.

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### 150 Responses to Update on Plagiarism Scandal

1. dr says:

I have checked that the h-value of Salti=10 in WOS!

2. Peter Woit says:

a scientist,

Your estimate of several thousand papers/year in theoretical physics is the right order of magnitude. Most such papers now are on the arXiv, so you can get a good count just by looking at their yearly totals in the theoretical categories.

As for relevancy and originality, they’re hard to quantify, and this varies by subfield. In a healthy subfield where progress is being made, while there are a lot of unoriginal papers everyone ignores, there are also a lot with something original, even if of a minor sort. Unfortunately, I think that particle theory and general relativity are not very healthy fields at this point, partly because the problems remaining to work on are very hard. When it is extremely hard to come up with something original and relevant, most of the literature ends up being papers that fail to do so. What’s remarkable about this scandal is both the number of unoriginal plagiarized papers that got past referees, and the attitude of some of the journals after these were exposed. This situation is much worse than I’ve seen in other fields or at other times.

3. “a scientist” ,
as I said above, in Turkey plagiarism and lots of other things done by partizans are unwritten policy. It’s supported and protected.

Nothing happened to 15 Turkish plagiarists with ~70 plagiarism works announced by arxiv.

2 of them are from METU. Their education paused for a while.
That’s all.
Moreover METU did not do this immediately.
Those two were assistants in METU. According to laws they must be fired.
But METU did not do this.
METU’s academicians are discussing METU’s behaviour between them.

The rest of the plagiarists are under protection of their universities.

—————————————–

Ramazan Aydin : head of the comu plagiarism ring.
president of comu for 8.5 years (till march 2007) who was promoted as president by junta.

Interesting thing he was a faculty of METU physics dept.
even he was president of comu.

Osman Demircan : 2nd head of the comu plagiarism ring.
vice president of comu for 9+ years who was the main partner of Ramazan Aydin.

Interesting thing he was a faculty of METU physics dept.
for a short term in 80’s.

————————————

“a scientist”

if you are interested in and if you think that I can help you
in your research on plagiarism as a science and communication sociologist, you can communicate with me.
I have lots of material about Turkish plagiarism.

4. amused says:

a scientist,

I suggest you take a look at this Nature article about the scandal. It gives this explanation for why they were able to get away with it for so long, and presumably why they expected to be able to continue to get away with it:

“Many of the papers concern an obscure theory of gravity known as the Møller version of general relativity. Few people would be likely to check such work, allowing the students and professors to build their publication record without fear of being caught, says Ginsparg. “They were following the optimal strategy.” ”

As for why they did this to begin with, the explanation given by the Turkish prof at METU who caught them was this:

” “They’re isolated, their English is bad, and they need to publish,” says Sariolu. “So they plagiarize, I guess,” he says of the alleged plagiarizers. ”

As well as that, it sounds like what they were doing wasn’t particularly unusual in the environment they were in.

However, one important thing that isn’t at all clear from what I’ve read about this so far is the nature of the plagiarism. Did Salti & co plagiarise other peoples research results, or did they simply lift introductory and background material from others’ papers? The former is much more serious than the latter, and imo the arxiv folks and journals should have stated explicitly which of these was the case when they retracted the papers. The default assumption when someone is accused of plagiarism is that they plagiarised research results, and if Salti & co didn’t actually do this then I can understand them feeling hard done by in this situation.

Regarding the GRG editorial, I think it was actually quite reasonable. It was quite brave of the editors to decide not to retract the papers after they had already been retracted by the arxiv, and they gave a clear explanation of their reasons for not doing so. The point is that the actual research results of the papers were original and judged worthy of being published in GRG, and that is the most important thing. Having said that, it certainly doesn’t give a good impression about the paper when the authors feel the need to fill up so much of the paper with introductory and background material that has already been written elsewhere. The normal thing to do would be to briefly summarize it and refer to the previous papers for the details. Otherwise it looks like the authors are just sticking it in in an attempt to distract from the fact that their original material in the paper is shallow and uninteresting.

Finally, let me just mention that it’s not at all difficult to write lots of physics papers containing shallow and uninteresting results. If the topics and issues addressed are obscure then referees often can’t be bothered to put in the time and effort to see how shallow the paper is and are likely to just take the easiest option and recommend publication, especially if the paper is submitted to a minor journal. On the other hand, if such a paper addresses an issue of central importance to a subcommunity of serious researchers then it will usually get found out and rejected.

5. Peter Woit says:

amused,

The Salti JHEP and two GRG papers, marked to show those parts of them whose plagiarized sources are known, are linked to from my posting. Note that it is entirely possible that some parts not marked as plagiarized are plagiarized, but the source is not known.
I strongly suggest that you look at these documents. In the Salti JHEP paper, there is very little there that is not direct plagiarism.

I don’t think the GRG editorial accurately reflects the extent and nature of the plagiarism in the two papers it discusses, and note the retraction by PRD of one of the author’s other papers as being more than one-half direct plagiarism.

Before defending the plaigiarists on the grounds that “what they were doing was not particularly unusual”, you might want to think a bit about what it must be like to be an honest Turkish theorist, competing unsuccessfully with not-honest people who have long publications records built on plagiarism. Hearing that the editors of the publications involved won’t do anything about this, and physicists like you think it’s all right, is really maddening to them

6. dr says:

e. vagenas,yu-xiao liu,t. grammenos, i. radinschi,t. harko,w. schleich, r. sharma and a. pradhan had sent some mails to plagiarists.

http://sozluk.sourtimes.org/show.asp?t=fizikte+bilimsel+asirma+skandali

Did someone look at those people’s publications?

7. amused says:

Peter,

Do you agree or disagree that it is important to distinguish between plagiarisms where the authors lifted research results and where they lifted introductory and background material? I had already looked at the 2nd GRG paper before writing the previous comment, and have just looked at the marked up JHEP paper. In both cases it is not at all obvious to me that the authors have plagiarised any previous research results. Did you or anyone else check this? In the case of the GRG papers it seems that the editors have seriously looked into this and concluded that the plagiarism consisted entirely of introductory and background material. And the authors seem to cite the papers from which they “borrowed”, which is a mitigating factor.

“I don’t think the GRG editorial accurately reflects the extent and nature of the plagiarism in the two papers it discusses,…”

How is the nature of the plagiarism different from what the editorial describes?

If I was an honest Turkish physicist I wouldn’t be losing much sleep about colleagues getting away with lifting introductory and background materials from others’ papers, as long as their research results were their own. The thing that would be maddening to me is that the Turkish system is apparently set up to reward those who publish lots of papers containing shallow and uninteresting results, rather than those who have the skill and put in the time and effort to produce interesting results (which takes longer and results in a lower number of publications).

By the way, I have some personal experience with this. At the time i was starting out in research and published my first few papers, I somehow acquired a “fanclub” of researchers in a certain developing nation (not Turkey) — they wrote a number of papers putting rather shallow and uninteresting (and sometimes simply wrong) twists on the stuff I had done, sometimes lifting background material verbatim from my papers (but always with a citation, and never to the extreme extent of Salti & co). Their papers were mostly published in lesser journals, but one got into NPB and another in PLB. I never found this upsetting, in fact i was amused and quite flattered. My main concern was that “serious” people might think I was part of their club and therefore dismiss my work without giving it a fair assessment. If this was happening to me it must surely have been happening to many others as well (there was nothing great about my papers), so it seems that this kind of plagiarism lite is not at all unusual and has probably been going on in many places for a long time.

8. Peter Woit says:

amused,

If a published paper contains large amounts of plagiarized material, I don’t see the point of going through it line by line and arguing about what is “background” and what is “new”. If a student I’m teaching hands in a paper that I see is half plagiarized text from other sources, I’m not going to argue with him about whether or not he has original ideas in the other half. Instead I’d tell him to never do this again, and rewrite the paper, in his own words, making explicitly clear what he has done that is original. If the GRG editors think that there are worthy research ideas in the two papers at issue, they should still have withdrawn the plagiarized versions and insisted that the authors provide a new unplagiarized version that makes clear what is their own original research and what isn’t. As published, it is nearly impossible to separate out in those papers what is original and what isn’t, certainly impossible for a typical reader who doesn’t have access to the marked up pdfs.

The GRG editorial explicitly claims that in the first paper the only plagiarism is self-plagiarism, but if you look at the marked pdf, you will see that this is not true. Also, the way it is written, it does not make clear how extensive the plagiarism in these papers is. It’s not an honest evaluation of the plagiarism in the papers, but an attempt to excuse it.

I just don’t see why anyone thinks it’s a good idea to bend over backwards to defend these papers. One look at the marked-up version should be enough to convince one that these are not things that belong in the scientific literature. Recall that this all broke when someone noticed that Salti, a grad student who, at his oral exam, didn’t seem to understand what he was talking about, had 40 papers, many published in respectable journals. The situation is outrageous, and I just don’t see why people want to defend the indefensible, other than in a misguided attempt to prop up a collapsed refereeing system.

9. 2 of 6 plagiarists of comu ring,
Sezgin Aygun and his wife Melis Aygun,
were my students.
They failed in my course.
They were very unqualified.
I lectured them when they were junior (3rd year ; 2nd semester)
students of comu phys. dept.
Till then more than %50 of their courses were empty.
They were unaware about what most of the courses in their transcripts were about.
This is the general view of comu and lots
of universities in Turkey.
and were trying to have the right to be primary school teachers.
They were accepted to msc then phd, and as assistants
due to their political, mystical, and beneficial relations.
and in lots of universities in Turkey.
The results are appearent.
You see what is taught and valueable in comu.

An assistant of comu physics dept. caught lots of phys. dept. students when cheating in the exam. What happened : comu punished the assistant, tried to end his job appointment, more than 1 year blocked him to start phd in other universities.

——————————————

amused,

“The thing that would be maddening to me is that the Turkish system is apparently set up to reward those who publish lots of papers containing shallow and uninteresting results, rather than those who have the skill and put in the time and effort to produce interesting results (which takes longer and results in a lower number of publications).”

There is one rule of the Turkish university system :
– there is no rule !
Junta order.
Juristocracy cover.
A partizan without any qualification, without any publication
promoted always.
In most of the Turkish universities a scientist having very high qualifications regarded world-wide has no chance against a
partizan.
As expected there are lots of unqualified partizans.

These all occur in front of students and public.
Students learn that to obey the despots is valuable,
and honor, ethics, knowledge, human are worthless.

A few years ago, as a part of joining EU, Ethics law accepted for
who work for the state.
This law has exceptions : acadocracy, juristocracy, and miitary.

15 plagiarists announced by arxiv are not individual plagiarists or small plagiarist rings.
They are the mirror of Turkish university system.

In the explanations of 15 Turkish plagiarists’ which are travelling in the internet, they are saying that the main target of who blame them for plagiarism is all Turkish physicists and all Turkish academia.

——————————————————

A few years ago a president of a university blamed for illegalities and sent to jail first time in Turkish history.
YOK (higher education council, or higer despotic council) president
with presidents of universities went to Ministry of Justice and threated the Minister, went to court and threated the juristocrats.
That time presiden of YOK was a law (constitution, organic law) professor.
YOK president said that
“to blame a president of a university for illegalities is to blame
republic, is to threat republic,
to defend that president is to defend the republic”.
What happened :
– juristocrat who blamed that president fired,
all of his rights to work using his law diploma in Turkey were banned.
– juristocrats who sent that president to jail were sent to courts far away from that city.
– when in jail that president was still the president of that university.
– new juristocrats left that president.

————————————————-

Partizan plagiarists’ strategy is similar.
Partizans’ strategies are always the same.

10. amused says:

Peter,

The value of a paper, and the credit the authors get for it in the eyes of their peers, is determined primarily by original research results it contains. So I insist that plagiarism of results or ideas is much more serious than plagiarism of background material (and yes there is a clear distinction between them). Maybe we will just have to agree to disagree about this.

Anyway what can be done about this lifting of background material? In the future these authors will probably do the same but change the wordings by a small but sufficient amount to beat the plagiarism detectors. Somehow I just don’t think this is a big deal in the general scheme of things. Physics research isn’t about writing eloquent introductions etc, the point is to produce interesting new results.

“Recall that this all broke when someone noticed that Salti, a grad student who, at his oral exam, didn’t seem to understand what he was talking about,…”

So what. Some people just don’t perform well in those type of situations, get muddled, forget stuff etc. Physicists should be judged first and foremost on the original research results they produce. (It could be that Salti’s role on the papers was just cut and paste, but his co-authors should be able to say what his contributions were.)

“I just don’t see why people want to defend the indefensible, other than in a misguided attempt to prop up a collapsed refereeing system.”

I’m not defending anything, just describing the situation as I see it. The system is semi-collapsed for papers addressing obscure issues (since few people can be bothered to properly referee them), but still seems to be working fine for papers addressing central physics issues.

11. Peter Woit says:

amused,

Yes, you are defending the indefensible, e.g. your excuses for Salti, and your defense of the idea that there’s nothing wrong with publishing heavily plagiarized papers as long as there’s something original in them somewhere.

It’s somewhat of a separate issue, but I also strongly disagree with your defense of the the current journal system as “working fine for papers addressing central physics issues.” A central physics issue is the testability of string theory, and there’s a flood of anthropic pseudo-science on the topic being published, if not in your darling PRL, then in JHEP, which is arguably the most prominent and respected place to publish HEP papers that are not letters. Even at the best journals, the quality of what is published is always going to depend upon what referees see as the current standards of what is good HEP research, and I fear that’s a monotonically decreasing standard. This standard may have gotten so low that even conventionally completely out of bounds behavior, like plagiarism, is now being defended as a legitimate part of scientific research.

12. Ali says:

Hi Peter,
I think (and all senior faculty at top tier instituions would agree with me) that the citations determine the fate of any paper so you can go ahead and produce 200 clone (i.e.plagiarised) papers in chinese physics letters that do not contain any new piece of physics in them. Needless to say, nobody will ever cite them and they will be lost in journal pages so the question is who cares? Nobody judges any scientist with his publication list these days for any academic job. It is your citations(or h-number) that count. If you have 200 garbage papers each of which has 3 citations you have 600 citations altogether and that is nothing. Therefore, your arguments do not hold. Those lengthy publication lists only impress people outside academia. It is a well-known fact that publications coming from third world countries garner very few citations so they do not contain any substance thus the long term impact is mimimal. Coauthor responsibility is a far more serious issue than plagiarism. In a 15 author Nature paper, what did the 9th author do for that paper really? Does his name really deserve to be there for instance?
Also the arguments made by some sources that the plagiarist students did not perform well during their undergrad years and in their qualifiers is also ridiculuous. From my experiences as a scientist, there is very little correlation between people’s performances in their qualifiers and their research performances. They may have been nervous etc. Again the central question is “Did these plagiarists produce substantial amount of new physics that was unknown before”? If the answer is yes, I think the papers are worth staying in the literature. I think this issue is that simple.

13. Peter Woit says:

Ali,

Obviously I don’t believe these plagiarized publications are going to get the people involved positions at top-tier research institutions in the US or Europe. The problem is that they have been used to get them positions in Turkey, over other, more competent and more honest physicists.

As for h-indices, from what one commenter says, Salti has a relatively high one of 10. I don’t understand why you and amused think it’s worthwhile to make up excuses for him, while assuming the faculty members who examined him and realized there was a problem were some kind of idiots. Obviously they have examined many, many students before, and this was a case they found unusual.

I happen to strongly disagree with you, amused and the editors of GRG about the whole idea of ignoring huge amounts of plagiarism in papers if you can find original ideas in the paper. There are very good reasons why plagiarism is considered anathema by most academics in all fields, and the amount of defense of plagiarism I’m seeing from theoretical physicists I find shocking. In any case, as far as I can tell the papers under discussion contain minimal, not “substantial” amounts of new physics. If the world’s greatest genius chose to submit a paper to a journal with a completely plagiarized introduction followed by revolutionary new results that won him a Nobel prize, I don’t see why he shouldn’t be told that such a thing could not be published, that he had to rewrite it in his own words.

14. Ali says:

Hi Peter,
I am originally from Turkey but my advanced degrees are not from there. Those two students involved in this pagiarism scandal are not going to get positions anywhere in turkish system. I can assure you that much. System may be broken but not that much. I am more concerned about the remaining senior folks whose names appear in the articles. Were they really aware of what had been going on and if so what is the level of their involvement? In what kind of university grad students can publish papers on their own without any supervisor’s approval? I mean this is not a gas station obviously.

15. Coriolis says:

It is hard to understand some of the commentators arguments. Some people have no idea of what they are talking about. Let me just point out a couple of simple facts .

1) Ali thinks that these people will not get jobs. He can check the following link and see that some of these people are professors already ( and one of them is a dean! )

http://arxiv.org/new/withdrawals.aug.07.html

2) One claimed that h-index of Salti is 10. Well, spend 2 more seconds to get a number that makes sense. His h-index less than
1 ( ONE) if you remove his self-citations. In fact, do a careful count, you will observe that, removing the citations that he got from the other plagiarizers from Turkey ( including his collaborators), his h-index becomes about 0.7.
Well, some might argue that even this number is good for a grad student. If so, let us continue our analysis and ask from which papers he got these citations ( 16 in total after, 7 withdrawn’ papers are removed ). If you look carefully, these citations come from the papers whose authors were heavily cited by these guys.
Just do a count of Xulus citations, for example.

Some commentators argue the following
1)OK Try to fish out some novel results in these papers, maybe there is some. ( My answer, dont be funny, 90% of the paper is plagiarized, whose job is it to fish for novelty out of this garbage ?)

2) OK they did get published, so what, they wont get jobs.
(My answer: you know nothing about this issue, dont waste your time thinking about it)

Anyway, Phys Rev D, JHEP and Astrophysics and Space Science seem to have corrected their terrible mistake by withdrawing these articles. GRG, on the other hand, has lost real credibility.

16. Coriolis says:

Correction: My comment about the h-index is wrong. I meant the average citation per paper is less than 1. Sorry about that.

17. Ali,

“Those two students involved in this pagiarism scandal are not going to get positions anywhere in turkish system.”

On the contrary to the laws they are stiil assistants in turkish system.

Moreover nothing happened to members of the other plagiarism
rings.
Even, comu’s plagiarist dean is still dean.

Turkish system has and had throughout its history lots of examples of this kind of trashes.
Some of them are internationally very famous cases like that of the empire of Turkish university system (a 50+ year-old case), like that of Alemdaroglu, the ex- president of Istanbul Uni..
These trashes include lots of university presidents, deans,
law professors, members of highest courts, deputies.

comu plagiarism rings choose their equippes from partizans
Honest qualified people has no chance against them.
Then leaders of this rings teach and conduct how to plagiarize.
“Were they really aware of what had been going on and if so what is the level of their involvement?”

comu plagiarism rings plagiarize not only journal and conference papers, but msc and phd theses. Even completely, without adding their one own word.
I have enough examples of plagiarized comu msc theses in my archieve.
I informed comu and YOK (higher education/despotism council)
several times about a completely plagiarized msc thesis approved by arxiv’s plagiarist Husnu Baysal and Servet Senyucel.
At last they had an symbolic investigation about it and covered the subject. Investigator of that case was Mehmet Emin Ozel,
the head of comu’s grad school for natural sciences, who was, for some years in 80’s, also a member of METU physics dept.
Regardless of the relation of Mehmet Emin Ozel with comu plagiarism rings, he obeyed what ordered to him.
Otherwise he would have been attacted by others.

If partizan academicians attacks, threatens, tortures someone,
if he apply justice for these,
partizan juristocrats continue to increase the pressure on the contrary to the laws, instead of applying laws.

18. Ali says:

Coriolis, I meant the two grad students involved in this issue. Read my comment more carefully. I am aware that the other people were professors in Podunk State University. I raised my concern about their involvement as well. Tansu, I am aware that these students stayed as assistants but I don’t think you can do much about it legally in a country like Turkey because TA appointments at state universities are lifetime jobs for some stupid bureucratic reason and I don’t think there is any sanction like sacking these students from their appointments for plagiarism that is why they must be still TA’s BUT the university keeps the right not to graduate them (I mean ever) so I am curious to see whether they will be awarded a Ph.D. degree after all this mess.

19. Coriolis says:

Ali,
These two grad students ( and the other ones cited in the arXiv note )
are harboured by the plagiarizing professors in the “Podunk State Universities”. No doubt they will get positions there. There is more in this story than meets the eye. One has to follow the names, the affiliations, the advisors and so on. It has been about a year since I heard of this story and no real punishment seems to have been given to the professors. Salti seems to have left to one of these universities to continue his PhD under the supervision of one of the plagiarizing professors ( again cited in the arxiv note). Obviously they cant get a job in an established, known university but they seem to bosonize in certain univerties without much effort and with much comfort. Again, to gain a real insight of what is going on, one needs to do a tedious check of names, places etc.

20. Ali,

that’s not the case. Assistantships are the easiest to fire position in Turkish uni.s .
Moreover, according to the laws punishment of academicians for plagiarism is to fire, to get back academic titles, to invalidate diplomas, etc.
This is valid for all academic positions and titles.
YOK (higher education/despotic council) applied this in the last year in a very controversial case just for political and partizanship reasons.
But YOK did not apply this in hundreds of very obvious case, and covered those cases.
For now YOK followed its tradition for arxiv plagiarists.

Traditionally nothing happens to partizan plagiarists,
but most of the time who make plagiarists publicly known
are punished worstly.

It seems it’s almost impossible for those 2 plagiarist grad students
to have a phd diploma from METU. But it will not be surprising that if they have phd diplomas from their partizan uni.s .

21. Ali ,

I don’t remember the rest of 15 plagiarists, but 3 plagiarists of comu ring are grad students. Nothing happened to them. comu will give phd diplomas to them as it did before to lots of plagiarists. Then comu will promote them to assistant professorships.

22. amused says:

Peter,

“Yes, you are defending the indefensible, e.g. your excuses for Salti, and your defense of the idea that there’s nothing wrong with publishing heavily plagiarized papers as long as there’s something original in them somewhere.”

Please stop misrepresenting what I write. Re. Salti I just made the point that physicists should be judged primarily on the results of their research. Is that controversial? Why do you characterize it as an “excuse”? (Btw, this isn’t implying that the results of Salti & co’s research are any good — I suspect they probably aren’t.)
About papers containing plagiarism, I never said that it is ok “as long as there’s something original in them somewhere.” If the paper plagiarises some research result or idea then that is a very serious offence regardless of whether or not the paper contains other original material. On the other hand, plagiarism of background material, while still wrong, is much less serious imo.

I try to be careful not to misrepresent what you write, can you do the same for me?

“I also strongly disagree with your defense of the the current journal system as “working fine for papers addressing central physics issues.” ”

Well that will teach me not to sacrifice precision for brevity in discussions with you. In previous comments I repeatedly spelt this out more precisely as “working fine for papers addressing issues of central importance to a subcommunity of serious researchers”. Interesting that you ignored that but then seized on it on the one ocassion when I tried to be more brief. (As for the anthropic string landscape stuff, my attitude is that if smart people want to try that then good luck to them, but I won’t believe that they can get anything significant out of it until I see them publishing in PRL 😉 )

As for whether JHEP is “arguably the most prominent and respected place to publish HEP papers that are not letters”, I think that depends. People working on strings, branes and other more speculative stuff prefer JHEP, while it seems that those working on topics more directly connected to “real physics” prefer PRD these days. For example, PRD is generally the first choice journal in lattice gauge theory (except for some continental Europeans who can’t stand the thought of publishing in an American journal).

I disagree with you about there being a possible correlation between the occurance of plagiarisms like in the present scandal and the appearance of “anthropic pseudo-science” in the literature. My own experience of plagiarism lite which I mentioned in a previous comment was from 10 years ago, well before the anthropic landscape stuff got going. I expect that it has been going on for a long time (although Salti & co seem to have taken it to new heights).

23. amused says:

Coriolis,

“Some commentators argue the following
1)OK Try to fish out some novel results in these papers, maybe there is some. ( My answer, dont be funny, 90% of the paper is plagiarized, whose job is it to fish for novelty out of this garbage ?)”

In case it is me you were referring to, that is not what I was actually arguing. My thinking on this is as follows: If the referees of these papers correctly assessed the results and found them deserving of publication then the most important issue here is whether they were published on a fraudulent basis, i.e. whether the results, or some of them, were plagiarised. So I simply ask if anyone can point to any result in any of these papers which was presented as new but which was in fact plagiarised. Is that unreasonable?
Answering this question doesn’t mean “try to fish out some novel results in these papers”, it means find what the authors say are their new results and check if they really are new.
(Whether the results are interesting and really deserving of publication is a seperate issue. Of course, it is far from certain that the referees actually did assess the results of these papers correctly and competently. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they have failed in this.)

24. collaps says:

Notice! arXiv:0706.1294v1 “Reply on Brane-World Black Holes and Energy-Momentum Vector” by Gamal G.L. Nashed:
“We show that the energy distribution of the brane-world black holes given by Salti et al. in the context of teleparallel theory is not right. We give the correct formula of energy of those black holes”

I hope that somebody else would like to check the results in all papers containing plagiarism.

25. Coriolis says:

amused,

The issue is extremely simple. Let me go through it with an example. Consider the JHEP paper. It was submitted to the journal, the referee or the referees accepted it and it got published. (At this point, we have no idea yet of how good a job the refs did.) Then, as the story unfolds a little, JHEP defends the publication of this paper by saying that ” OK bad papers sometimes get published.” and when the story really unfolds JHEP apologizes for publishing the paper and withdraws citing ‘plagiarism”. That means for the first time around the refs did a terrible job, the second time around JHEP spent more time on the paper and understood what went wrong. Do you think it is easy for JHEP to be humiliated like that ? When JHEP publishes a paper, you think that it has some novel results because the refs. must have observed that, but when the same JHEP withdraws the paper
you are stuck to their first, wrong opinion. Why is that ? ( you dont need to answer .)
This much said, let me be more concrete with you.

I spent a couple of hours looking on that JHEP paper trying to see what novelty it might have. Well that depends by what you understand from novelty: the parts of the paper that might potentially have some novelty are obtainable from another paper in just a couple of minutes. I wont go into detail, since you can actually do it on your own : just find the relevant uncolored equations and compare them with equations of a relevant paper they actually cite. Well, I told you, you need to spend a little time.

This is a really simple case for those who understand what plagiarism means. People who “sell“ what they have created
cannot hide what they have created in a pile of what they have stolen. A reader of a paper assumes that all the sentences and ideas belong to the author unless proper citation and quotation is made. For example, even in this simple comment, what I have written above belongs to me, as you correctly assumed while reading. Otherwise an honest dialogue is not possible.

A guy stills a car and changes its mirrors, now is that his car ?
( Well in fact, in this case, he steals the mirror from another car : )
Can he sell the car ? If he manages to sell it, and gets caught, can he argue that he actually wanted to sell the mirror and the rest of the car was `attached’ to the car so that the mirror sells good ? 🙂

I rest my case.

26. Marty Tysanner says:

“amused,” Ali, and others with similar viewpoints about different levels of plagiarism,

Defending some kinds of plagiarism as acceptable as long as the primary content of the paper is original can run into problems and inconsistencies. For example:

1. The introductory material sets the tone for an article, and is an expression of its authors.

One of the broader purposes of writing papers is to teach a wider community about one’s findings, and thereby advance human knowledge. There is more to writing than just staking a claim of priority (in industry, patents serve the role of claiming priority). To someone who takes pride in their ability to teach, clear yet concise writing can be an end in itself, and can require creativity and insight into the minds of the readers. Introductory material can take significant effort to craft, and to plagiarize it is an affront to its author, not at all unlike a novelist copying passages from another (“the plot is different, so what’s the big deal?”), or an artist copying the style of another (“the subject of the painting is different, so who cares?”).

This issue is independent of the primary research findings in a paper. If introductory material is well written, a reader is more likely to continue reading the paper and make the effort to understand its primary purpose. They have become engaged. To plagiarize another author can turn what should remain a unique expression into something generic.

2. Writing introductory material requires a knowledge of the larger context of the research.

It can take significant effort to understand the broader context of a research finding. It takes a lot of reading to understand the existing literature on a subject, and it takes an organized mind to see how a new paper will fit in. The introduction presents this context to a reader: if it is well done and reasonably complete, the reader will probably attach more credibility to the rest of the article. That is because, through the introduction, the author has already demonstrated a certain mastery of the subject and has anticipated some of the reader’s possible concerns. For one author to cheaply steal this credibility from another is not just unethical — it can dishonestly lead readers of a paper to believe its author is more knowledgeable about the validity and meaning of the “key findings” of the paper than he/she really is. In effect, successfully copying introductory material dishonestly insulates the author from an important reality check that knowledgeable readers could otherwise perform.

3. By plagiarizing introductory material, an author has unambiguously demonstrated that he/she is willing to steal the work of others. Having proven this, it is merely a question of where the author will stop.

It is very much like lying. A person who lies to avoid personal embarrassment has demonstrated that he is willing to directly deceive others for personal benefit. Now it is just a question of where the person will draw the line: he could limit himself to “little” lies, or the lying could be much more systematic and deep. If an author plagiarizes “something little, like introductory material” there is no reason to trust that the author hasn’t gone further and stolen other, more important ideas (possibly unpublished) as well. That makes defending “a little plagiarism” tricky and possibly naive, unless possibly one personally knows the author and his/her ethics. (Still, it is hard to believe an ethical person would resort to plagiarism at all, although allowances for very limited self-plagiarism could probably be made.)

That explains why I disagree with this comment by “amused” :

If the paper plagiarises some research result or idea then that is a very serious offence regardless of whether or not the paper contains other original material. On the other hand, plagiarism of background material, while still wrong, is much less serious imo.

Once an author has conclusively demonstrated a willingness to plagiarize, why should anyone assume that the same author hasn’t also plagiarized research results or ideas to some degree? If such an assumption is unsafe, why make a distinction between plagiarism of support material and plagiarism of the main idea?

In overlooking or defending any plagiarism of the work of others, one gives up the ethical high ground and reduces the issue to pragmatism and power politics. There should be some segments of society which strive to keep noble human pursuits noble, which consider individual intellectual and artistic contributions to be valuable ends in themselves. The arts and the academy are two such segments.

Of course, there can be, and often are, substantial differences between what “should be” and what “is.” But those are failures of individuals or groups, not more generally of the segments of society which honor noble pursuits for their own sake.

27. Re: “Once an author has conclusively demonstrated a willingness to plagiarize, why should anyone assume that the same author hasn’t also plagiarized research results or ideas to some degree?” — the underlying legal concept has been quite clear for ~ 2 x 10^3 years.

To cite from wikipedia
[List of Latin phrases (F–O)]:

falsus in uno, falsus in omnibus

“false in one thing, false in everything”

“A Roman legal principle indicating that a witness who willfully falsifies one matter is not credible on any matter. The underlying motive for attorneys to impeach opposing witnesses in court: the principle discredits the rest of their testimony if it is without corroboration.”

Coincidently, I just used this in a sonnet… but that’s rather a different kind of literature. How authors of prose, drama, and poetry use citations and react to their abusers, is off-topic.

28. amused says:

Coriolis,

I agree that the JHEP editors handled this very badly. They should have checked out the paper properly when the first accusation was made, decided what to do about it, and then stuck to their decision. I guess they were just choosing what they saw as the path of least humiliation by retracting the paper after it was retracted on the arxiv. They come out of this looking like spineless wimps.
I can’t help admiring the GRG editors though. It was a courageous decision of them not to retract the papers, considering the pressure they must have felt after the papers were retracted on the arxiv and the knee-jerk outrage they must have known would be directed at them.

No I’m not “stuck to the first decision” of JHEP — they never gave any proper explanation of how they arrived at it, or any indication that they had seriously looked into the situation (unlike the GRG editors). I simply asked the question whether the results of the paper (which provided the basis for publishing it) were plagiarised or not.

I’m glad you took the time to look into the JHEP paper. Your findings confirm what I suspected, that the “new results” there are shallow in the extreme. Considering how much of that paper was lifted from elsewhere, it would have been very surprising if the authors had managed to do anything nontrivial in the little space left over. (Not impossible though.) This is a striking example of how poor refereeing standards can be for the “more obscure” papers.

In response to the rest of what you wrote: When I look at a research paper on a topic of interest to me the only thing I really care about is whether it presents interesting new results. The introduction, background material etc that the results are embedded in don’t matter much at all. They are like wrapping paper. (Attractive wrapping paper is always nice, but it’s what’s inside that matters.) Is this a unique viewpoint? (I doubt it.)
Stealing is always wrong, but if someone steals wrapping paper to wrap a potentially valuable object should that be regarded as just as bad as stealing the object itself?

29. themanwithaplan says:

I agree, entirely, with “amused”. The point is a very simple one: papers with only intros etc. plaigarized are *orders* of magnitude less harmful than the ones where contents themselves are plaigarized — since the *only* contribution of a research paper is the new content, not the eloquent intros.

No one is defending any of the above two types. However, I couldnt care less about the first type of plaigarism, and I suspect that’s true of most of the researchers in any area. So yeah, one can legitamately complain about the first type of plaigarism, but that’s kinda like complaining that non-english researchers have bad grammer in their papers. Its a problem, but an insignificant one.

30. Peter Woit says:

amused,

Apologies for any misrepresentation of what you have to say, but I continue to find appalling and depressing your defense of plagiarism and characterization of GRG’s decision not to withdraw plagiarized papers as “courageous”. That the words appearing under someone’s name must be their own and not stolen from someone else is a principle of scholarship that I never thought I’d see anyone question. Several people have repeatedly explained here the obvious reasons why this is important, I’m not going to repeat them. Students get regularly kicked out of school and faculty members fired for this kind of behavior. The theoretical physics community will bring great discredit upon itself if it becomes known that many of its members, including journal editors, have quite different ideas about this than almost everyone else in academia.

31. amused says:

Coriolis,

From what you wrote it sounds like the “new results” in the JHEP paper might be effectively plagiarised (if they are just simple rewrites of equations in a previous paper). I will follow your example and check this for myself.

Marty,

I disagree with your analogies. E.g., the value of a novel is often determined at least as much by the quality of the writing as by the plot. This is not at all the case for research articles.

About your second point, you are right that when authors plagiarise introductory and background material it can result in readers being misled about their level of knowledge. This can trick readers into investing time in the paper when it isn’t worth it. It can also trick referees into thinking that the authors know what they are talking about, and unfortunately that is sometimes all it takes for them to recommend publication (especially when the paper addresses some obscure issue that the referee doesn’t care about). So this is a nontrivial problem. But imo it is nowhere near as serious as plagiarism of actual research results.

In reply to your 3rd point, I’ll just mention that authors who do this kind of thing will definitely pay for it with their credibility (assuming they have any to begin with). If I heard about anyone in my field doing this they would for sure go down in my estimation; I’d become suspicious about the quality of their actual research and less likely to invest time reading their papers. Well, if I already knew their work was good i’d still follow it of course, but I’ve never heard of any good researcher who liked to lift large chunks of background material from others papers. It always seems to be the crappy ones who do this.

32. Coriolis says:

amused

You declared JHEP editors spineless wimps and stopped short of handing a gold medal for GRG editors. OK How about PRD editors ?
PRD retracted a paper written by Yilmaz, who is the co-author of the two papers that appeared in GRG. Below is the note in PRD in case you cannot reach. So what is your opinion about PRD editors,
and the Author ( because he seems to accept his guilt ) ?

a) spinless wipms ?
b) bravehearts ?

Retraction: Domain wall solutions in the nonstatic and stationary Go¨del universes with a
cosmological constant
[Phys. Rev. D 71, 103503 (2005)]
Ihsan Yilmaz
(Received 8 November 2007; published 7 January 2008)
DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevD.77.029901 PACS numbers: 98.80.Cq, 99.10.Ln
The author withdraws this article from publication because it copies text, totaling more than half of the article, from the
articles listed below. The author apologizes to the authors of these papers and to the publishers whose copyright was
violated.
[1] M. Axenides and L. Perivolaropoulos, arXiv:hep-ph/9706226.
[2] J. D. Barrow and C. G. Tsagas, Classical Quantum Gravity 21, 1773 (2004).
[3] L. Campanelli, Phys. Rev. D 70, 116008 (2004).
[4] L. Campanelli, P. Cea, G. L. Fogli, and L. Tedesco, Int. J. Mod. Phys. D 14, 521 (2005).
[5] L. Campanelli, P. Cea, G. L. Fogli, and L. Tedesco, J. Cosmol. Astropart. Phys. 03 (2006) 005.
[6] K. S. Cheng and T. Harko, Phys. Rev. D 62, 083001 (2000).
[7] N. Drukker, Phys. Rev. D 70, 084031 (2004).
[8] K. Dunn, Gen. Relativ. Gravit. 21, 137 (1989).
[9] D. Gondek-Rosinska, E. Gourgoulhon, and P. Haensel, Astron. Astrophys. 412, 777 (2003).
[10] E. Kajari, R. Walser, W. P. Schleich, and A. Delgado, Gen. Relativ. Gravit. 36, 2289 (2004).
[11] S. Koppar and L. Patel, Nuovo Cimento B 102, 419 (1988).
[12] L. Patel and S. Koppar, Lett. Math. Phys. 18, 347 (1989).
[13] M. Reboucas and J. Tiomno, Phys. Rev. D 28, 1251 (1983).
[14] Mairi Sakellariadou, Nucl. Phys. B, Proc. Suppl. 148, 141 (2005).
[15] R. X. Xu, arXiv:astro-ph/0211348.
[16] R. X. Xu, Chin. J. Astron. Astrophys. 5S1, 353 (2005).
[17] I. Yavuz and H. Baysal, Int. J. Theor. Phys. 33, 2285 (1994).
PHYSICAL REVIEW D 77, 029901(E) (2008)
1550-

33. amused says:

Coriolis,

I don’t think there is any one obviously right approach for editors to take in this situation. The PRD editors decided that the amount of copied text was intolerable to them, and asked the author to withdraw the paper on that ground, which he agreed to do. The actions of the editors and author here are all perfectly reasonable and understandable.
On the other hand, the GRG editors decided that they would let the text copying pass in this instance (but with a warning not to do it again in future). In reaching this decision they took into consideration that (i) the copied text didn’t include what was supposed to be the new results of the paper, and (ii) the author had cited all the works that he copied from. I think that is also a perfectly defensible decision (and a brave one).

If I was a journal editor in this situation I would probably take a similar approach to the PRD one. But that doesn’t mean I think the GRG editors were “wrong”. Like i said, there isn’t an obviously right approach here.

34. Tumbledried says:

Pardon me to interject, but I thought I should mention that, provided that the material is cited appropriately, it does not seem at all wrong to me for the author of a paper to provide large amounts of background material in, say, a large paper such as a dissertation – since this helps clarify and motivate the component of their submission that is original. Particularly in highly technical areas, such as theoretical physics and mathematics, it is common for there not to be too much leeway in the rewriting of proofs of well known theorems/lemmas pertaining to a particular area. Surely, provided the author clearly mentions where these background results are coming from, it is not a crime to include them?

35. amused says:

An interesting thing abut all this is that it shows the dilemmas that arise when the desire to maximally facilitate progress in research comes into conflict with the desire to maintain scholarship standards re. things like copying of text. To highlight this even more, here’s a remarkable story I heard a few months ago from a scientist from a certain foreign developing country (while we were in a room together waiting to be interviewed by our funding agency.) I swear that the following is a true recount of what I was told.

A scientist from that guy’s home country (not a physicist, it was a chemist if I remember rightly) had done some work he thought was great and wanted to get it published in Science. But he knew that to have a chance the paper would have to be written in a “certain style”. Having no experience of this, and limited English skills, he didn’t think he could manage it. So he contacted a scientist he knew in USA who had published previously in Science and offered to pay that guy to write the paper for him. The US guy agreed, and the fee was US$8000. The paper was written, and after some back-and-forth with referees it was eventually accepted in Science. (The name of the US guy who wrote the paper, but who hadn’t contributed to the research, was not on the paper.) As a result of this publication, grant money flowed to the lab of the developing country scientist. His$8000 outlay proved to be a very good investment.

Well, this should be a fun one for the moralists out there. Should the scientists involved in this be condemned for unethical behaviour? The words appearing under the name of the developing country scientist on this paper are certainly not his own! On the other hand, wasn’t this all to the benefit of progress in science? The results of the developing country scientist’s research, which presumably formed the basis for accepting the paper, have now been recognised and disseminated in a way that wouldn’t have been possible if he had written the paper himself.
The approximate parallels with the Turkish text-copiers are obvious. (If we are going to be moralistic and focus on questions of principle then it isn’t relevant that the Turkish guys’ work was of more dubious quality.)

36. Peter Woit says:

Tumbledried and amused,

You’re both still engaged in a remarkable exercise of trying to defend something indefensible, now by positing quite different circumstances than what actually is at issue.

Tumbledried: these are not “large papers” such as dissertations, nor do they need lots of background material, of a sort that is always going to be roughly similar. They are short papers, large parts of which, not only in the introduction, are cut and pasted from other papers, ones which are sometimes credited, often not. In no case is the material put in quotes, and the reference to the paper the material was stolen from, if it is there, is not associated with the stolen text. This is a case of direct plagiarism on a large scale, not a case of someone using roughly similar background material, properly credited.

amused: I don’t see any problem with people getting others to improve the English in their papers, it’s actually a good idea for people whose English is not very good to do this. If the help on a paper went beyond improving the English, and someone hired someone else to do scientific research which they then published under their own name, that’s a problem, but a different one that has nothing to do with plagiarism.

Sorry, but I absolutely don’t understand the reaction of many commenters here of trying to defend plagiarism, again I find it really disturbing and depressing. We’re talking about behavior that would get pretty much anyone at my institution fired if they engaged in it, for good reason. Any students or young researchers reading this blog are going to get the idea that a large fraction of the theoretical physics community just doesn’t see anything very wrong with plaigiarism, and is willing to even go far out of its way to defend it. This is potentially a huge problem, as now any plagiarist who gets in trouble can point to the discussion here to show that they were not violating the academic norms of the physics community. Already, I’m sure this will be of huge help to the Turkish plagiarists, who can point to your support as they try and portray themselves as serious scholars wronged by the arXiv.

37. puzzled says:

This reminds me of a discussion where one side says that shoplifting must not be tolerated, and the other argues that it is not such a big deal and there are worse crimes. Both are right, I think.

As for what younger (and older) scientists should be doing the answer I think is pretty simple. Every time you use someones help — acknowledge it. If some background material is borrowed, or an idea is used–say where you learned it. If someone corrected your English or style, you should thank that person in the paper. If you made a mistake, correct it either as an erratum, or in a new arxiv version, or in a later paper.

What is here to argue about?

38. amused says:

“I don’t see any problem with people getting others to improve the English in their papers, it’s actually a good idea for people whose English is not very good to do this”

That has absolutely nothing to do with what I wrote.

“and someone hired someone else to do scientific research which they then published under their own name,…”

That has absolutely nothing to do with it either.

Let me try the kiddies summary of what happened:

Developing country scientist: Dude, here are my research results, now go write them up as a paper for Science under my name. I’ll pay you \$8000.
U.S. scientist: Ok, sure.

Your description of me as “defending plagiarism” is completely ridiculous.

“…huge help to the Turkish plagiarists, who can point to your support as they try and portray themselves as serious scholars wronged by the arXiv”

If they bother to actually read what I wrote they will see that lifting large chunks of background material from others’ papers will lead to them not being taken seriously. In case it wasn’t already clear, let me spell it out again: The default assumption about physicists who do this is that they must be crappy researchers. No one has ever heard of good researchers doing this, only crappy ones.

39. Peter Woit says:

puzzled,

Obviously your list of how people should behave is accurate, but it’s about different topics. The question here is what journal editors should do faced evidence that a paper they have published is heavily plagiarized, very specifically the papers for which marked-up copies are linked here to show (part of) the extent of the plagiarism. Historically, the conventional view in academia has been that such a paper should be retracted, and the arXiv took action according to that standard. Now it seems that many physicists disagree with this standard, to the extent of characterizing as “courageous” those editors who refuse to follow it. This seems to me a rather remarkable and not at all desirable change in standards of scholarship.

40. Peter Woit says:

amused,

Let me try the kiddie summary of what I wrote:

Your hypothetical has nothing at all to do with what is at issue here, bringing it up is a smokescreen to avoid defending your indefensible claim that it is “courageous” behavior by editors to refuse to withdraw heavily plagiarized papers that they have published in their journal. And yes, you are defending plagiarism, not as good science, but as something not outside of normal academic practice, just an indication, like many other possible ones, that the authors are lousy scientists.

41. Peter Woit says:

puzzled,

To clarify: the problem here is not that some people are pointing out that there are worse crimes than shoplifting, the question is, what do you do about this kind of shoplifting? The attitude of the GRG editors, and it seems of quite a few other physicists, is that it is not even necessary to make the shoplifter give up what he has stolen. The crime is so inconsequential that it’s fine with them if the thief keeps the stolen goods.

42. Ali says:

Peter, like I pointed out before, it is the meat in these papers that matters (i.e. scientific substance) not the introduction. If there was no substance(and there seems to be none as far as I gather. I am not an HEP person), these papers will not receive any citation and they will be lost in journal pages so the central question is whether that was original research or not. Tansu, you are complaining that these students wil lget faculty positions at Podunk State University. So what? Who cares? Why do you feel so bitter about it?

43. puzzled says:

Peter Woit,

I think there is no universal answer to “what journal editors should do faced evidence that a paper they have published is heavily plagiarize”. It all depends on the ethical standards in the relevant subfield of science, of which I have no inside knowledge. You do, so let me ask you this. Suppose that instead of “cuting and pasting” background material, the authors would change the wording slightly in each and every sentence. Would this be okay?

My guess is that many people borrow background material from other papers and the decision on providing references depends on whether the background is already “common knowledge”. If yes, many people do not bother to cite the place where they first learned it.

44. Peter Woit says:

Ali,

The plagiarism here is not just in the introduction. Look at the marked-up versions.

I just don’t agree that the central question is whether there are significant original research results here (although there don’t appear to be, the question of why journals are publishing such low quality stuff is a separate one). I’m repeating myself, but, again: there is no justification for the journals to not do what the arXiv did: retract the papers since they are heavily plagiarized. If the authors have original results, they are welcome to resubmit them to a journal in unplagiarized form.

puzzled,

I have never heard of any subfield of science (or scholarship in general) where the ethical standard is that publishing heavily plagiarized material is considered acceptable.

As for your hypothetical question, I just don’t think it’s relevant. Sure, there’s a continuum of degrees of plagiarism with plenty of gray areas. Although I appear to be a “moralist”, I’m not interested in spending my time debating hypothetical situations, without any specifics. The plagiarism at issue here is of a specific, documented variety, and the question is whether this, specific, documented plagiarism is such that the papers should be withdrawn. The arXiv, JHEP, PRD and Astrophysics and Space Science say yes, many journals seem to be ignoring the issue, GRG says no, and amused feels that this is courageous of them.

45. amused says:

Peter,

Considering all your previous pontificating about “tone” in blog discussions I find it absolutely hilarious that you accuse me of lying about that story (“your hypothetical”). So this is what happens when someone tries to have a good faith debate with you and persists in having a viewpoint different from yours..

In a previous comment you wrote:

“That the words appearing under someone’s name must be their own and not stolen from someone else is a principle of scholarship that I never thought I’d see anyone question. ”

Would you find it less distressing if the words were bought rather then stolen? Assuming not, then here’s a hypothetical for you:

Imagine that the Science editors find out about what happened in the case I mentioned. What should they do? Retract the paper? If the editors decided not to retract it, and justified their decision by saying that they were prioritizing progress in science (as represented by the genuine results of the paper) over retribution for authors whose words weren’t their own (while warning that this kind of thing wouldn’t be tolerated in future), would you slam them for that? I wouldn’t. And if they made their decision after a preprint version of the paper had already been withdrawn by the administrators of a prominent preprint server, and knowing that they were going to have a lot of knee-jerk outrage directed at them, I would go as far as to describe their decision as courageous.
Same for the GRG editors decision. The quality of the papers is very different but the principle is the same.
(Now you can hopefully see that my mentioning of that story wasn’t a “smokescreen”.)

46. Peter Woit says:

amused,

I did not in any sense accuse you of lying (by “hypothetical” I in no way meant to imply any questioning of the veracity of your story), I did accuse you of evading the issue, which you continue to do. As for tone, stop it with the “kiddie version” shit, I’m not a kiddie.

You persist in wanting to discuss something completely different than what is at issue here: the GRG decision to not withdraw two specific heavily plagiarized papers. Besides not being a kiddie, I’m not an idiot, and of course am aware that authors get help with their writing of various sorts and the usual academic standard that people’s words should be their own takes this into account. In such cases it would be a good idea if they acknowledge this in the paper. In some cases there would be real ethical issues raised by this, and when considering them, the question of how unacknowledged help affected scientific results would be a relevant one.

But, again, this is not what the GRG editors were deciding or what I was criticizing. I have been assured that they had those marked-up pdfs in their possession when they made their decision. If you want to discuss the specific cases at issue here, I’ll be glad to. If you want to keep on discussing other, different, cases, I’ll keep pointing out that you’re evading the issue and doing so to defend the indefensible.

47. A scientist owns only two things:

(1) Reputation;

(2) Intellectual Property.

He who steals my Intellectual Property — whether introductory text or results or equations — is an extential threat to me. The thief indirectly reduces my reputation (by dilution) and directly reduces my Intellectual Property.

Of course this is the equivalent of a capital crime — like falsification of laboratory data. Of course the thief loses his/her job, once the theft is proved under Due Process.

Cf. “bubble reputation” [Shakespeare, As You Like It, II.7]

If a nation condones plagiarism on a wholesale scale, it is akin to a Cause of War.

None of this is exaggeration. I am just (for now) talking about the Scientific Literature, not the parallel world of novel, story, screenplay, and song.

Anyone who does not understand this is more criminal than scientist, more fool than ignoramus. Peter Woit is entirely right to insist on clarity at the basis of the matter. Those who “praise with faint damn” are accessories after the act.

This is not about alternatives to Intellectual Property under the law, as in the Open Source Software movement. Scientific Literature is parallel, the goal being unfettered distribution of scientific results. The mixture of law and academic protocol and publishing protocol is a jumble of 2nd order effects.

The axioms of plagiarism are unambiguous.

48. metin says:

Ali says: “I am originally from Turkey but my advanced degrees are not from there. Those two students involved in this pagiarism scandal are not going to get positions anywhere in turkish system. I can assure you that much.”

I, too, am from Turkey, and I don’t see how you can be so confident about this. I know of previous cases where people with documented cases of plagiarism have not only obtained professorships, but have been appointed to academic positions with considerable power.

This is an extremely important issue for the Turkish academia, and the professors who have been fighting against plagiarism have been doing an extremely valuable service to the community. I don’t think slighting their efforts by uninformed comments is appropriate.

Turkish academia does not consist solely of a handful of “elite” institutions. There are honest, talented people fighting for positions in what you call “Podunk” state universities, and they have to compete against the plagiarists. There are cases where the plagiarists are well-connected politically, and honest people have been threatened to be fired after demonstrating the plagiarism of others.

I am not sure whether you think of these problems at “Podunk” etc. as non-issues, but they are very real for people honestly trying to live the under-paid life of an academician in Turkey. They are real for the students at those universities, too. And believe me, they are real for the quality of the education system in Turkey.

49. Coriolis says:

Peter,

It seems to me some people writing to your blog have not looked at these papers. After spending just 1/2 an hour on these papers would remove any doubt in anybody who has written any kind of paper (be it scientific or non-scientific) or who knows anything about plagiarism.

Some people defend the plagiarizers more than plagiarizers defend themselves: the guy admits that he had plagiarized, what else do you want ? You want to catch him while he is actually doing the plagiarizing ? 🙂 ( And perhaps broadcast it on Cops .)

About the action of Gen. Relativ. and Grav. Editors, they have lowered their standards so much that I might actually try publishing
in GRG simply plain garbage, just for the heck of it. I would like to write a paper in which I simply collect every sentence, every equation from different papers and I will make sure that my own contribution is absolutely zero. I am sure it will get published. It wont be worse than those two papers.

50. amused says:

Peter,

Well then, I’m a bit mystified by what you meant with the “hypothetical”. Nevermind. As for my “kiddie version” line, the reasons for the frustration that gave rise to it will be obvious to anyone who goes back and reads that comment.

“I’m […] of course am aware that authors get help with their writing of various sorts and the usual academic standard that people’s words should be their own takes this into account.”

How many times do I have to repeat: that is not what happened in that story. It has absolutely nothing to do with it. The only difference between that case and the Turkish cases is that the words were bought rather than stolen. Why do you continue trying to insinuate something different?

So you don’t think my previous comment addressed the GRG editors decision, whether it is justifiable or not? Well then I really am wasting my time here.

One reason I have so little sympathy with you on this is that the outrage could be so much better spent on other things. Those young Turkish grad students, are they really just intrinsically bad characters? Is academic physics really such a lucrative and prestigeous career in Turkey that they would choose it without actually caring about the subject? How did they end up in this situation? Those wonderful METU faculty members who caught the plagiarists, where were they while Salti & co were putting out 1-2 papers a month over 2 years? (They didn’t notice?) What kind of environment and values were they and their colleagues propagating? Perhaps you can consider directing some outrage at them Peter, if you have any left over after you are finished with the journal editors.

In the immortal words of Danny Lundsford: I’m done here.