self-plagiarism and JACS

April 25, 2012 at 7:52 am | | literature, science community, scientific integrity

Hi all! I’m back! Well, not exactly: I won’t be posting nearly as much as I did a few years ago, but I do hope to start posting more than once a year. Sorry for my absence. There’s no real excuse except my laziness, a new postdoc position, commuting, and a new baby. I suppose those are good excuses, really. Also, I’m sorry to say, that I’ve been cheating on you, posting on another blog. We love each other, and I won’t stop, but I want to keep you Everyday Scientist readers in my live, too. I’m just not going to pay as much attention to you as I used to. You’re cool with that, right?

Anyway, I thought I’d comment on the recent blogstorm regarding Ronald Breslow’s apparently self-plagiarized JACS paper. Read the full stories here (1, 2, 3, etc.).

I feel bad for Breslow, because I like him and I respect his work and I think his paper in JACS is valuable. However, I think he should retract his paper. Sorry, but if some no-name had been caught completely copying and pasting his or her previously published paper(s) and submitting that to JACS as an ostensibly novel manuscript, that paper would be retracted when found out. If he had just copied the intro paragraph, I’d be more forgiving, but the entire document is copied (except, that is, the name of the journal)!

That said, it might be possible to save the JACS paper, but the editors would have to label the article as an Editorial or Perspective or something, and explicitly state that the article is reprinted from previous sources. I know that might not be fair, to give Breslow special treatment, but life isn’t fair. Famous scientists might get away with more than peons. And, honestly, Breslow’s paper remaining in JACS might be good for future humanity, because JACS archive will probably be more accessible than other sources. That way, we’ll be able to look up what to do when space dinosaurs visit us!


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  1. [...] also been drawn into the Breslow #spacedino saga, that has been covered in a number of places around the web. The latest is a blog post from Nature News in which I am quoted. As I’ve said now on [...]

    Pingback by I’m still here | Chemical connections — April 25, 2012 #

  2. Sam, you are the genius behind TOC ROFL? I had no idea.

    I also feel sorry for Breslow, because I think this sort of stuff has taken place in the past without much scrutiny and probably all he wanted to do was to share his OoL idea with a broader chemical audience (no one reads Tet Lett). That said, what’s wrong is wrong, and this sort of self-plagiarism is wrong.

    Comment by Paul — April 25, 2012 #

  3. one of them. i started TOC ROFL with a few friends. i’m glad you like it. :) it’s pretty easy to run, because we get most of the post from reader submissions.

    Comment by sam — April 25, 2012 #

  4. [...] – Everyday Scientist – “self-plagiarism and JACS” – Sam returns to post thoughts on [...]

    Pingback by Link Collection: Space Dinosaur Paper | ChemBark — April 26, 2012 #

  5. I so wish I could submit some of the stuff that comes across my desk on TOC ROFL.

    Comment by Kendall — May 13, 2012 #

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