September 17, 2007

A Case of Plagiarism in the Physics Preprint Server arXiv.

Alex Bienkowski

One of the more interesting developments in web-based scientific publishing has been the growth of arXiv, a “preprint” server originally launched by Paul Ginsparg at Los Alamos and now hosted at Cornell. The system was first called xxx, and the domain was high-energy physics. Later on, the subject focus was broadened to include most of the rest of physics, math, statistics and quantitative biology. Physicists post their drafts on arXiv to have the community review them and suggest improvements. There was some fear at first that physics journals were headed for the bone yard, but that does not seem to have happened, since many authors go on to work up their preprints for publication in the accustomed style. arXiv has become a very interesting and important example of how internet publication can work, since physicists worldwide use it constantly. Maybe some of them use it a little too much, since Nature reported an outbreak of plagiarism based in four Turkish universities. A couple of degree candidates had some impressive publication lists, in a rather outre area of Relativity theory, but they seemed to be having some trouble with Newtonian mechanics. Somebody smelled a rat, and did some digging on arXiv. It turns out that there had been quite a bit of “creative recycling”from one author to another. There was an investigation and in all some 70 publications by 15 authors were removed from the system>>>

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