March 11, 2008

Plagiarism Accusation About Turkish Physicists

Turkiye Klinikleri J Med Ethics
Year: 2008 Volume: 16 Issue:1 

In an article published in Nature dated Sept 6, 2007, it was stated that nearly 70 articles of 15 scientists from 18 Mart, Dicle and Mersin universities have been removed from a popular preprint server by allegation of plagiarism.[1]
Some points in the article such as value-laden statements, generalizations, and that not taking into consideration of a system which urges academicians publishing with an orientalistic point of view in another language that they have not been educated appropriately, generated the thought of writing to the editor of Nature. I would like to share this letter, which was rejected by Nature, with our academic community, and sending your journal by hoping it to be ac cepted for publishing.

Certain issues raised by Mr. Brumfiel’s article (“Turkish physicists face accusations of plagiarism” Nature 449, 8, 2007) must be addressed. It mustn’t be over looked that as yet there isn’t enough information to assess the situation thoroughly, and this essentially precludes the ability to make an ethical analysis of the situation. Although they contain some fallacies such as ad populum and non sequitor, some of the arguments made in their own defense by the accused academicians deserve to be considered seriously. For instance, they have publicly declared that some of the articles they have been accused of plagiarising were published after their work. Therefore language such as “allegedly” or “seem to be involved” is correct, not politically but factually. However, the sentence, “There are some cultures in which plagiarism is not even regarded as deplorable” is a counter-example. I’m not aware of any sociological research concerning this premise, perhaps it’s true; nevertheless, its inclusion makes the language value-laden. Since culture includes moral values which have been shaped and changed by various factors, it’s a mistake to discuss the moral atmosphere surrounding a certain scientific community without considering the factors which have shaped it, such as English barriers, as Mr. Smith mentioned (“Need to speak English puts burden on Asian scientists” Nature 445, 256, 2007), and local factors, such as those in Mr. Sarioglu’s formula: “They’re isolated, their English is bad, and they need to publish”. What Mr. Sarioglu didn’t include is ‘their work should interest Western editors’. If scientific work is assessed regarding editors’ interests per se, not the needs of a particular society, then publishing transforms to some kind of a price to pay, and end transforms to means.”

[1]. Brumfiel, G. Turkish physicists face accusations of plagiarism. Nature, 2007. 449(7158):8.


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