Posts Tagged ‘Plagiarism’

Swedish researcher faces disciplinary proceedings for plagiarism

August 20, 2014

Back in March this year, Jesper Johansson, a senior lecturer at Linnaeus University had a 2012 article in the Nordic Journal of Migration Research retracted for plagiarism as reported by Retraction Watch. The University mounted an investigation and the University Vice-Chancellor Stephen Hwang  has now announced that the plagiarism is confirmed and that the University’s Personnel Committee will meet in September to consider disciplinary actions to be taken. Dr. Johansson is currently on leave. It is reported that he has acknowledged his plagiarism. There is also a report that it was a case of self-plagiarism but as Retraction Watch reported some of the material was copied from at least one other author:

The article, Swedish Employers and Trade Unions, Varieties of Capitalism and Labour Migration Policies,” was written by Jesper Johansson, of Linnaeus University in Växjö. It’s available as a PDF here, but not on the website of the publisher, De Gruyter — nor is it listed on Johnansson’s own site.

We chose a sentence a random from the abstract:

Employers are also thought to support policies incentive-compatible with the prevailing mode of capitalism.

And found it in this 2007 preprint of an article, “Varieties of Capitalism and Labor Migration Policy,” by another in researcher Sweden, Gregg Bucken-Knapp, of University West.

We’re guessing this wouldn’t be the only successful fishing expedition — and we wonder why the editors didn’t bother to use plagiarism detection software.

Had they done so, they would have been able to avoid having to issue this retraction notice:

This article has been withdrawn by the editors-in-chief, because it has been found to plagiarise already published work.

Johansson reports 21 publications on his site but does not include the retracted paper.

Johansson Linnaeus

Johansson Linnaeus

Johansson generally takes left-wing positions in his writings. Some extreme, racist parties in Sweden are rubbing their hands with glee.

Is PwC plagiarising Andreff’s Sochi Olympic result predictions?

February 7, 2014

In November last year I posted about this paper which used economic factors to develop a model for Olympics medal results and then used the model to predict medals won at the Sochi Winter Olympics starting today. Today Price Waterhouse Coopers (PwC) have with great fanfare made their predictions for the winter Olympics. In their press release they make no mention of this earlier paper

W AndreffEconomic development as major determinant of Olympic medal wins: predicting performances of Russian and Chinese teams at Sochi Games, in Int. J. Economic Policy in Emerging Economies, 2013, 6, 314-340.

The PwC predictions are slightly different but remarkably similar to the results published by Andreff. They claim to have looked at the same factors as Andreff did. They make the same prediction of home advantage for Russia as Andreff did. I don’t have access to their full report but their press release makes absolutely no reference to the earlier paper and seeks to take credit for the analysis. If their report makes no acknowledgement of the work by Andreff then it does look very much like plagiarism by PwC. Even if their “econometric” model has been developed independently, it is still a plagiarism of ideas if an acknowledgement of Andreff’s analysis has not been made.

Andreff Result Predictions:

Medal predictions Sochi 2014 - M Andreff

Medal predictions Sochi 2014 – M Andreff

PWC Medal Predictions

PWC sochi predictions

PWC sochi predictions

Press Release via ConsultantNews:

London, 31 Jan 2014As with the Summer Olympics, home advantage could play a key part in how the Winter Olympics medals are shared out next month – with hosts Russia looking set to capture a record haul.

But the hosts – along with close rivals Germany, Canada, Austria and Norway – will have their work cut out to catch the US team. Further down the table, after their London 2012 Olympics success, the GB team may have to settle for just a couple of medals. And unfortunately the cool Jamaican bobsled team don’t even make it into the running. 

Once again, economists at PwC have used their skills to project the likely medal tally – this time for the Olympic Winter Games at Sochi starting on 7 February. Their analysis is based on econometric modelling, testing the historic correlation between a range of socio-economic metrics and historic medal success.

The modelling results show that the size of the economy is significant in determining success, with total GDP appearing as a significant variable. However, a large economy is not sufficient on its own for a strong performance. Climate is an important factor, with snow coverage and the number of ski resorts per head having a significant and positive impact on medal shares.

Larger, developed countries with the right climate dominate the top of the projected medals table; but Austria and Norway demonstrate that a smaller economy is not a barrier to success, with a greater estimated medal haul than countries such as China and France.

William Zimmern, PwC economist, said: “While this is a light-hearted analysis, it makes an important point of how organisations can use economic techniques to help make better business decisions. The purpose of our model is not to forecast medal totals with complete accuracy, but rather to increase the predictive power of medal projections over and above using historic medal results alone.

The model allows us to make better, more confident and more informed forecasts. Businesses can use similar techniques to do the same.”

Home advantage – PwC

We used regression analysis to produce the results in Table 1, employing a Tobit model to estimate medal share for the 28 countries which have won at least one medal in the last three Winter Olympics. The variables used were total GDP, ski resorts per head, level of snow coverage, medal shares in the previous two Winter Olympics, and dummies for countries with a “tradition” of winter sports and for host countries.

I have worked with PwC many times during my career. They are very effective but they are not slow in trying to take credit wherever they can – even if it is undeserved. And their ethics are generally as lacking as is endemic in their industry (audit/consultancy).  A little bit of plagiarism by PwC – and not for the first time – would not be a great surprise.

A quick fix for plagiarism

November 8, 2013

It doesn’t seem right. In fact it sounds like an abdication of responsibilities and like covering up a crime if and when the crime is discovered.

But it also sounds a simple fix. A stroke of genius – somewhat crooked but very clever. Just eliminate the plagiarism by punctuation!

If accused of plagiarism, just put the impugned text within quotation marks!

Retraction Watch has the story:

PNAS has a curious correction in a recent issue. A group from Toronto and Mount Sinai in New York, it seems, had been rather too liberal in their use of text from a previously published paper by another researcher — what we might call plagiarism, in a less charitable mood.

To paraphrase Beyoncé: If you like it, better put some quotation marks around it. But we’re pretty sure she meant before, not after, the fact.

The article, “Structural basis for substrate specificity and catalysis of human histone acetyltransferase 1,” had appeared in May 2012, in other words, some 17 months ago. It has been cited twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.


Parthun is Mark Parthun, a professor at Ohio State University. It was he who brought the misused text to PNAS’s attention. He tells us:

I read this paper with great interest because my lab also studies the Hat1 enzyme.  While reading this, a number of the passages in the Introduction and Discussion sections started to sound very familiar.  These passages were familiar because they were plagiarized from a review article I had published earlier (Parthun, M.R. Oncogene 26:5319–5328, 2007).  I also found some sentences that were plagiarized from another manuscript from another lab (Campos, et al, NSMB 2010).  I brought this plagiarism to the attention of the editors at PNAS and suggested that this manuscript be retracted.  After more than a year, PNAS published a correction (  This correction lists all of the passages that were plagiarized and simply says that they should have had quotation marks around them.  This seems like a woefully inadequate response.  PNAS has essentially made plagiarism irrelevant because if you are caught, all you have to do is retroactively say that you should have used quotations.  Is this a common practice with journals.  I hope not because I think this represents a serious step in the erosion of scientific ethics.


We asked Daniel Salisbury, a PNAS editor, why the journal opted to correct rather than retract the paper. This was his reply:

In light of recent concerns from the author of the plagiarized text, we are following up with the PNAS authors’ institution.

Parthun, who said he received a similar message, was not impressed:

My problem with his response [is] that they are simply passing the buck.  I would have thought that PNAS had the ultimate responsibility for the manuscripts that it publishes.  I don’t understand why they need Mount Sinai to tell them when something is improper.

To which we say, we agree.

We’ve emailed Plotnikov for comment and will update this post if we hear from him. Meanwhile, although we think there might be room in science publishing for correcting improperly attributed text, an instance of multiple examples of frank plagiarism such as this probably isn’t the test case.

No acknowledgement or apology for plagiarism from Rawnsley

September 1, 2013

A few weeks ago the Observer’s political correspondent Andrew Rawnsley was apparently caught plagiarising an article in the Economist by Jeremy Cliffe:

The revelations about Rawnsley came 2 weeks ago from Guido Fawkes on his blog (run by Paul Staines and is probably the most read right-of-centre political blog in the UK):

Rawnsley’s column went missing for a few weeks but I see that he has returned today. His absence could have been vacation or a spot of “gardening leave” as a slap on the wrist for his “cut and paste” activities. But I can find no reference or acknowledgement or apology for his apparently quite blatant plagiarism.

The article today is a rather topical piece about Cameron and his lost vote in the House of Commons. This only happened 3 days ago so the article is probably mostly his own work. He expounds on the thesis that Cameron’s loss was his own and not a loss for the country!

But the basis for his thesis is odd and seems to be fundamentally unsound.

Why on earth would a political commentator in the “democracy” that is the UK  think that a vote taken in a duly elected Parliament could ever be a loss for the country? Unless he believes that Parliament’s normal role is just to rubber stamp all decisions made by the sitting Government.

Observer’s political correspondent caught plagiarising

August 14, 2013

Picture of Andrew Rawnsley

Andrew Nicholas James Rawnsley (born 5 January 1962, Leeds), according to his Guardian profileis the Observer’s award-winning chief political commentator. He is also a critically acclaimed broadcaster and author.

But – and in the best tradition of Johann Hari’s  techniques and ethics – he is not above lifting a few paragraphs of text from others when it suits his purpose.

The revelations about Rawnsley came 2 weeks ago from Guido Fawkes on his blog (run by Paul Staines and is probably the most read right-of-centre political blog in the UK):

Catching up with Andrew Rawnsley’s “award winning” column yesterday, Guido could not help think he had read the same points being made, with all the same examples and the same anecdotes, somewhere before. Rawnsley tackles the great North/South divide debate with a remarkable similarity to Jeremy Cliffe, the Economist’s UK politics correspondent, who wrote extensively on the issue in April. Cliffe’s two pieces are online here and here.

Guido first smelt a rat at the mention of Alastair Campbell, who Rawnsley writes “secured his two, even more whopping landslides in 1997 and 2001 by winning for Labour in places that had been previously thought unreachable. On the night of his first victory, he thought his staff were pulling his leg when they reported that Labour had won St Albans.”Something Economist readers would know from April, minus the insider anecdote.

“Alastair Campbell, Mr Blair’s spin doctor, recalls the party’s astonishment at the results: “seats were falling that we would never have imagined standing a hope in hell of winning.” The greatest swing was in the south-east and eastern regions, where Labour won 44 constituencies, including such leafy, middle-class suburbs as St Albans (now comfortably Tory once more).”

A coincidence, surely? So Guido started compare the rest of Rawnsley’s column to the Economist pieces, and it does not look good. See if you can spot the differences here:


“Of the 158 seats that make up the three northern English regions, only 43 are Conservative […] Of the 197 MPs representing the English south beyond the capital, just ten are now Labour. The Tories hold only two seats in the north-east and one in Scotland.”


“Of the 158 seats in the three northern English regions, only 43 have a Conservative MP. The Tories hold just two seats in the north-east and have only one MP in the whole of Scotland. […] Under a line drawn from the Wash to the Bristol Channel, there are 197 seats outside London. Just 10 of those seats are represented by a Labour MP.”

Lifting statistics from the Economist is one thing, but what about whole chunks of analysis?


“well-off people in the north are more likely to vote Labour than the poor are in the south […] northerners from the highest social class are more likely to vote Labour than are southerners from the lowest social class.”


“Well-heeled parts of the north are these days much more likely to vote Labour than their counterparts in the south. […] Affluent northerners (the As and Bs of pollsters’ jargon) are more likely to vote Labour than poorer southerners (the Ds and the Es).” 

The Guide Fawkes post contains many more examples of the filching of text/ideas

Somebody else filled in for Rawnsley last week and Guido reports that he is still away and may be replaced for next week’s column as well.

Perhaps he is on extended gardening leave!

Plagiarism and fake certification fell top French Rabbi

April 11, 2013

I suppose this counts as a case of academic misconduct in the world of Man and one of “bearing false witness” in higher circles.

Picture of Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim

Chief Rabbi Gilles Bernheim (wikipedia)

Rabbi Gilles Bernheim  is considered a leading Jewish intellectual who has clearly been lifted high on the shoulders of giants who came before him. He has blamed one of his assistants who helped write his book for him for the plagiarism. The fake certification he had claimed was from the Sorbonne.

Does it count as as plagiarism if he didn’t even write his own book?

But it was surely all done in good faith.

 Yahoo NewsFrance’s top rabbi is taking leave from his post after he acknowledged “borrowing” other people’s work and lying about his education, a top Jewish leader said Thursday.

Rabbi Gilles Bernheim asked for leave at an urgent meeting in Paris of leaders of the Central Consistory of France, which accepted the request, said Richard Prasquier, the president of France’s largest umbrella group of Jewish organizations.

Prasquier, speaking by mobile phone, said two other rabbis would temporarily fill the post of Grand Rabbi of France, which Bernheim will leave for at least six months. Talks about whether he might return at all will take place in the coming months, he said.

He said many people in France’s 500,000-strong Jewish community have been shaken over the case.

Bernheim faced accusations by a French academic who tracks suspected plagiarism that parts of his 2011 book “Forty Jewish Meditations” and part of a text he wrote about gay marriage, same-sex parenting and adoption were lifted from others. That text, written last fall, was cited in the Christmas address of Pope Benedict XVI last year.

Asked about the claims on Tuesday, Bernheim confirmed having carried out “borrowings … what others might call plagiarism” from others. “Not only do I deeply regret it, but I recognize it as a moral flaw,” he said of one instance.

Bernheim had also come under scrutiny for claiming nearly four decades ago to have received an “aggregation” — or high-level certification — in philosophy. On Radio Shalom, he acknowledged he did not actually have one, but had made the claim 37 years ago during an unspecified “tragic event.”

Dark and mysterious ways of Turkish academia

March 7, 2013

Professor Debora Weber-Wulff addresses some of the dark and mysterious ways of Turkish academia on her blog. Academic misconduct is apparently wide-spread, largely ignored and is condoned making for a culture with very dubious ethics which has become self-perpetuating . It does not paint a very pretty picture but it is noteworthy that the picture is coming to light only because of the work of a group of other academics. But to break out of the vicious circle will not be so easy.

The Dark Alleys of Turkish Academia

I published a short note in September 2012 about the work of a group of academics in Turkey. A. Murat Eren has now organized a translation of their work into English so that a wider group of scientists can take a peek into the very dark alleys of Turkish academia. …..

….. And then there is the list of academics in Turkey with the most retractions to their name — and their current occupation. Let me quote these here, because it is so shocking:

Only one of the authors with multiple retracted papers is not affiliated with academia. Anyone who knows how difficult it is to get a paper retracted will understand the depth of concern here. How can these people teach at university and mentor doctoral students when they themselves have multiple retractions to their names?

The same chapter also reports on the Sezen case, one that I blogged about in June 2012.

Eren’s conclusions:

  • Turkey’s bad academia is self-perpetuating.
  • People who have committed ethical violations in their dissertations and publications are allowed to become thesis supervisors. Students who are misguided by these create dissertations that equally violate ethics, publish insignificant or duplicated papers, and some of them become the new academic generation, in turn completing the cycle.
  • One of the major problems that perpetuates this cycle is the difficulty of access to dissertations. University libraries limit access with arbitrary reasons, and improvements in YÖK Thesis Archive are far from solving the problem in practice.
  • Even when a dissertation is accessed and plagiarism is seen, penalties are far from being deterrent, due to legal and executive roadblocks.
  • While advanced societies take science theft very seriously, actors of science theft in Turkey silently go on with their duties, thus deleteriously undermining the credibility of the field.
  • Even though today’s scientists in Turkey are not proactive, and they are mostly mute unless they have to defend themselves, I believe that self-criticism will become a way to reveal and eventually eradicate academical problems in Turkey in the future.

I am indebted to the Turkish scientists who have worked on this. I have corresponded with them and did some proofreading on the English version. I hope that this will shine a bright light down the dark alleys

German Education Minister to appeal against loss of her Doctorate

February 6, 2013
Bundesministerin Dr. Annette Schavan

Bundesministerin Dr. Annette Schavan (Photo credit: AndreasSchepers)

Update! 9th February

Annette Schavan has resigned.


Dusseldorf University has not taken long after opening formal revocation proceedings to strip Annette Schavan – the German Minister for Education and Research- of her Doctorate for plagiarism.


The University of Duesseldorf’s philosophy faculty decided on Tuesday that she had carried out “a deliberate deception through plagiarism”.

The minister has denied the claims and said she will appeal.

An earlier plagiarism row brought an end to the political career of Germany’s defence minister in 2011.

Large parts of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s 2006 legal dissertations were found by Bayreuth University to have been copied and he stood down before it issued its damning verdict in May 2011.

Using the same words as Duesseldorf’s Heinrich Heine University, it concluded that he had “deliberately deceived”.

When Ms Schavan became the second minister in Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government to be accused of copying her doctorate, in this case by an anonymous blogger, she insisted she had never “knowingly falsely cited any sources” and promised to respond to the accusations.

But the faculty committee concluded that her work, which dealt with the formation of conscience, included a “substantial number of unaccredited direct quotes from other texts”.

In a statement declaring the doctorate invalid and withdrawing it from Ms Schavan, the faculty head Bruno Bleckmann said they had “decided by secret ballot, by 12 votes to two, with one abstention”. 

The minister herself, 57, was said to be on a five-day education and science co-operation trip to South Africa.. Education minister since 2005, she is described as a close colleague of Chancellor Merkel.

Her lawyers reportedly rejected the university’s ruling and said Ms Schavan would appeal.

When the university announced its inquiry, she said she had no intention of standing down.

But the investigation into one of Chancellor Merkel’s closest allies is seen as potentially awkward months before Germans vote in federal elections.

The popular German newspaper Bild said the news was a bitter blow to the chancellor, and wondered whether she would need to find a new education minister at the start of her election campaign.


Two years of self-imposed exile for zu Guttenberg

German Education and Research Minister’s dissertation in formal revocation proceedings

January 25, 2013

Yet another German politician’s dissertation is being questioned. But it is particularly ironic when the politician accused of plagiarism is the current German Minister for Education and Research and has been since 2005. Professor Debra Weber-Wulff reports:

Düsseldorf University to open formal revocation investigation

 After an almost six-hour-long meeting behind closed doors, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Düsseldorf voted to open formal revocation proceedings on the dissertation of Annette Schavan, the current German Minister of Education and Research, as noted in a press release issued this evening. Since so many people are interested in this topic world-wide, I am translating it to English here:

In May 2012 a public allegation was raised that the doctoral thesis of Prof. Dr. Schavan contained plagiarism.  If we as a faculty find substantial evidence of  scientific misconduct, we must pursue it vigorously —  regardless of the person involved or their social position. There is no legal statute of limitations on such cases. 
The Faculty of Arts and Humanities must then determine if the doctorate was correctly granted at the time it was granted. 
As part of the process, the doctoral committee of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities conducted a preliminary investigation. They examined Schavan’s written thesis and obtained a statement from her on the situation. 
Based on the recommendation of the doctoral committee, I [the dean, Bruno Bleckmann] presented the question to the Faculty Board at today’s meeting as to whether or not we should proceed with a formal revocation investigation. 
The Faculty Board discussed all of the issues raised during the preliminary investigation in detail today. They voted by secret ballot with 14 votes in favor and one abstention to open a formal revocation investigation.  
In the coming weeks, the members of the Faculty Board will intensively deal with the documents prepared by the doctoral committee and the statement from the person in question. The next meeting of the Faculty Board is set for February 5, at which time the continuation of the revocation investigation will be on the agenda.  
I want to emphasize that the process is still open-ended at this point.


Karachi University decides that plagiarism is not misconduct – drops charges

May 8, 2012

It does seem that plagiarism is not considered a very serious matter at Universities in Pakistan.

Karachi University has found a novel way to drop plagiarism charges against 4 academics against whom plagiarism charges were established by an independent committee. They charged the academics with misconduct, took up the matter formally at a Syndicate meeting and then dismissed their own charges since misconduct does not apparently include plagiarism under the University Act!

Karachi University was founded in 1951 and is considered one of the top 3 universities in Pakistan.


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