Reaching out across the Web .. ...分享 Zuojun Yu, physical oceanographer, freelance English editor


Plagiarism (剽窃): One is considered innocent until proven guilty

已有 3618 次阅读 2010-9-16 08:11 |个人分类:Thoughts of Mine|系统分类:海外观察| 剽窃, Plagiarism, innocent, guilty

Plagiarism (剽窃) is a very serious accusation against a scientist. I have read and heard much these days. Here, I would like to share a thing or two in my field, physical oceanography, as a researcher (for more than 15 years), as a reviewer (for both proposals and manuscripts since I was a student), and as an English editor (for more than three years).
I have to say that I am very lucky to see less than 1% possible plagiarism in my field. This 1% case happened more than 10 years ago when I was asked to review two manuscripts by some Australian colleague, Part I and Part II of his work.
Here is what I wrote:
   Part II is very interesting, but I couldn't help to notice that some of the results about the equatorial undercurrent are very similar to Yu and Schopf (1997, JPO).  There is also a paper just published in JPO (March 1999) by Large and Gent on a similar subject.  My take on Part II is that it has some very useful results, but could use fewer (numerical) experiments.  
Finally, I would like the editor to consider if this paper would be more appropriate for JPO, since it deals with some fundamental issues of ocean modeling. ”
What I didn’t say in my review was my initial reaction to Part II: This is exactly what I did a few years ago. I started this 3-year struggle, when I took my first job in late 1992. It was a painfully slow process, but it ended well. Let me just say briefly, what we came up with was a very neat scheme that reveals the underline dynamics clearly. To me, this author had to go through what I went through, which was a lot. I felt it’s not possible for someone to have come up with such an unusual idea (reducing complex equations to step functions), but I decided to give the author the benefit of the doubt.
As you can see, never once I accused the author of any wrong doing, except to hint that he was not up to date with publication in the field. I also wish to note that our 1997 paper was not cited by the author, and the editor probably didn’t know our paper. So, how did the editor “found” me? My guess was that a potential reviewer didn’t want review it and told the editor to contact me.
Six months later, I was asked to review this manuscript again. My recollection is that all that stuff similar to our 1997 paper was removed from the revised manuscript, which was the major content of Part II. This time, I wrote:
“I have exhausted myself over this manuscript.  I don't think I will ever be happy with the author's writing, and therefore wish never to see this manuscript again.”
Well, that was not the end of my encounter with this author. He submitted this manuscript to another journal, and once again I was asked to review it. I wrote to the editor that I reviewed it twice for another journal, and wished NOT to see it again. What this little addition says is: It’s a small world! The author should have told the second journal that he submitted his work to another journal earlier and now wanted to submit to this journal…
Finally, I want to say that I have edited more than 100 manuscripts for my clients in meteorology and oceanography; most of these clients are Chinese. I have never once felt that someone was plagiarizing. So, if you are tired of people plagiarizing in your field, consider switching to meteorology and oceanography

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