Plagarism and Medical Publishing

Plagiarism is a way of life in science and medical publishing. We are all familiar with the papers that are read in our medical conferences. The data is often fudged, more often plagiarized. I remember once attending the annual Indian Association of Cardiovascular Surgeons’ conference. There was a spate of papers from Calcutta reporting large numbers of valve replacements over the past year. One of the trade representatives told me that if you added the numbers of valve replacements reported during the conference, they would be more than three times the number of valves sold in Calcutta the previous year! I am told that the Indian Society of Anesthesiologists has taken note of the inconsistencies in the papers produced by a leading post graduate institution of Calcutta and later investigations showed that the data was manufactured in the canteen over a couple of days. The same holds true for many of the presentations in Indian conferences. So much for fudged data.
Now on to world of plagiarists. Some plagiarisms are so brazen that they really take the cake. There are two celebrated examples, one paper in the Korean Journal of Biological Sciences copied, word for word a previous publication in the Journal of Experimental Gerontology. The author however could not be traced, having left the university to which he was affiliated when he published the paper. The journal has also since ceased publication.
Another celebrated case was that of a review paper by Massoumeh Ebtekar, the former vice-president of Iran and an immunologist by profession. She published a paper in the Iranian Journal of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology which copied about 85% of its text from other published articles. However she did what is common in such circumstances; she blamed an unnamed student who had allegedly helped her in preparing the paper. However she did not mention why in that case the poor student’s name was not in the author’s list, as she was listed as the sole author of the paper.
For a very similar experience in India please see a blog written by one of my students .
However life has become more difficult for these people nowadays. Harold Garner, of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas has used a text matching software the E Blast to compare abstracts and papers in PUBMED. He has identified 181 papers which are definitely plagiarized. Of them the text is 85% similar on the average and some are even 100% similar. I sometimes wonder at the sheer nerve of these authors. How did they think they would get away with it?
You can check out the software here:
I checked it out, it is nifty.
If any of you were planning a quick copy and paste job, desist, you will definitely be caught out!!


akdcts said…
Saikat Sengupta
Anjan da, very very topical and important aspects for folks into publications. Plagiarism, I feel is easier to track and stop. However fudged data is the one that is more difficult to stop. What do you do once you feel for certain that this... is just not true. You may ask for the master charts, patient consent forms..? I fear even these can be fudged! What next? Do we as individuals or associations have the right to check or verify institutional data (eg OR records, BHT's..)? If they are sent for publication, then the editors, reviewers may have that right; but when it is for a presentation - then you listen and later laugh it away. No one is naive to believe the unbelievable these days. Everything is a google away!

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