A Middle Eastern author submitted four papers on different subjects at around the same time (two single author, two with other authors). During in-house assessment, it was noted that two of the papers were very similar to previously published papers. Fuller inspection of the complete papers indicated unequivocally that plagiarism had taken place—in one of the papers even the figures have been copied from the published paper. Software was not used. The key was the fact that the plagiarised papers were quite recent and so appeared prominently on Pubmed.
We contacted the author asking him to confirm that the submitted papers do indeed represent original research but received no reply. The papers are now on hold as we contact the head of the institution in question.
The editor of the journal confirmed at the committee meeting that no reply has been received from the author and that the paper is no longer on hold as the journal has decided not to publish. The editor is pursuing the head of the institution in question. The committee commented that the correct course is being pursued, in accordance with COPE’s flowchart on “Suspected plagiarism in a submitted manuscript”.
The editor wrote to the prospective Middle Eastern author (who submitted two papers which had been copied from papers published previously by other authors) and to the head of his institution, without reply.
One might have hoped that the individual in question would have realised that detection was inevitable, but it appears not. After the author had been contacted by the editor by email, one of the plagiarised papers was published in a peer reviewed pathology journal (although not one indexed in Pubmed).
We propose to contact the editors of the journal in question—there is a European editor based in the UK—alerting them to the situation and asking them to investigate.
The Forum agreed with the editor’s course of action to contact the editors of the journal. The Forum also supported contacting the author, as well as the wronged authors whose work was plagiarised and the wronged journal where their paper was published.
Update (December 2007)
We contacted the authors of the published manuscript that had been plagiarised, and they agreed that there had been flagrant misbehaviour. The author in question is on the editorial board of the journal in which the bona fide paper was published.
We then contacted the editor and European editor of the pathology journal (the former apparently a Brigadier by day), who responded with shock and regret. The offending (plagiarised) paper has been removed from their website, and a note is going to be published in a forthcoming printed copy of the journal to explain the situation. We have drawn the COPE website to the editors’ attention for future reference.
Update (February 2008)
The editor considers the case now closed.