A paper just published in Science has given rise to some astonishing headlines:
But is the media’s excitement justified, or are they barking up the wrong tree?
OMICS International is a large open access (OA) academic publishing group. Founded in 2007, OMICS has since grown rapidly and now boasts of having over 700 journals with over 50,000 editorial board members. However, the rise of OMICS has not been welcomed by everyone; the company has been branded a ‘predatory publisher‘, accused of spamming academics, and of organizing poor quality ‘academic conferences’.
Given this background, it was not so surprising when we learned, last week, that the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has decided to sue OMICS. The FTC say that OMICS “regularly deceive consumers”; for instance, while the company “claim that their journals follow rigorous peer-review practices”, in fact, “Many articles are published with little to no peer review”.
But how bad are the standards at OMICS, really? In this post, I will reveal that OMICS published a paper containing extensive plagiarism – a paper co-authored by none other than the publisher’s founder, CEO and Managing Director, Dr Srinubabu Gedela. Furthermore, I can reveal that I reported the problems with this article to OMICS repeatedly, but they did nothing.
The paper is called Rational Therapeutics of Cardiology in Elderly and it appeared in 2011 in the OMICS Journal of Clinical & Experimental Cardiology. It was authored by Swati Srabani Nayak, Sridevi Kadali, and Srinubabu Gedela.
Numerous passages from this article appear to have been copied verbatim from previous sources. According to Turnitin plagiarism detection software, the Nayak et al. paper shows 67% textual similarity overall:
The single biggest source (source #1, shown in red above) is Wikipedia. Take, for example, this paragraph from the paper:
Therapy (in Greek: Oepatteia), or treatment is the attempted remediation of a health problem usually following a diagnosis. In the medical field it is synonymous with the word “treatment”. Preventive therapy or prophylactic therapy is a treatment that is intended to prevent a medical condition from occurring. For example, many vaccines prevent infectious diseases. An abortive therapy is a treatment that is intended to stop a medical condition from progressing any further. A medication taken at the earliest signs of a disease, such as at the very symptoms of a migraine headache, is an abortive therapy. A supportive therapy is one that does not treat or improve the underlying condition, but instead increases the patient’s comfort. Supportive treatment may be used in palliative care.
Compare this to the Wikipedia entry for “therapy” from July 21st 2011, i.e. from before the OMICS paper was submitted:
Therapy (in Greek: θεραπεία), or treatment, is the attempted remediation of a health problem, usually following a diagnosis. In the medical field, it is synonymous with the word “treatment”. Among psychologists, the term may refer specifically to psychotherapy or “talk therapy”. Preventive therapy or prophylactic therapy is a treatment that is intended to prevent a medical condition from occurring. For example, many vaccines prevent infectious diseases. An abortive therapy is a treatment that is intended to stop a medical condition from progressing any further. A medication taken at the earliest signs of a disease, such as at the very symptoms of a migraine headache, is an abortive therapy. A supportive therapy is one that does not treat or improve the underlying condition, but instead increases the patient’s comfort. Supportive treatment may be used in palliative care.
Wikipedia isn’t cited anywhere in the paper. Note also that Nayak et al. have left a copy-paste “smoking gun” when they wrote that “therapy” comes from the Greek word “Oepatteia”, which is nonsense. This can only be a corruption of the Wikipedia page, which correctly gives the word’s origin as θεραπεία (“therapeia”). Nayak et al. must have copied the Greek and assumed that the Greek letters could simply be rewritten as Latin ones. In fact θ is not Greek for “o”, it’s Greek for “th”, and so on.
I reported this paper to OMICS twice, first on January 27th and again on April 29th this year (I emailed email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org, contact addresses given here and here). I included a copy of the Turnitin report. I never received any reply, and the paper is still available.
So does OMICS have an “open door” policy for plagiarism? Or is copy-pasting only tolerated when it comes to articles written by their CEO? Either way, I don’t think this reflects very well on the publisher, or the idea that they practice rigorous peer-review.
Link: this isn’t the first time Gedela has been accused of plagiarism.
A new paper in Brain tells the story of attempts to turn brain waves into music. The authors are Bart Lutters and Peter J. Koehler: Brainwaves in concert: the 20th century sonification of the electroencephalogram
Last month we learned that a problem in commonly used fMRI analysis tools was giving rise to elevated rates of false positives. Now, another issue has been discovered in an fMRI tool. The affected software is called GingerALE and the ‘implementation errors’ are revealed in a new paper by Simon B. Eickhoff et al., the developers of the package.
Do you ever feel like your brain is stuck in a rut? A new study from neuroscientists James M. Shine and colleagues reveals the existence of ‘temporal metastates’ in human brain activity. These metastates are modes or patterns of activity that can persist over days, weeks or even months at a time, and they seem to be related to fluctuations in energy levels and attention.
The authors made use of a unique fMRI dataset, namely the results of repeated scanning of neuroscientist Russ Poldrack‘s brain. Poldrack (who is also one of the authors) was scanned 84 times over a period of 532 days, an average of about one session each week for a year and a half. Shine et al. examined the functional connectivity of the brain during each session, and then applied a method called affinity propagation to define clusters from the connectivity patterns.
It’s not hard to see why: the piece criticizes the concept of data sharing in the context of clinical trials. Data sharing is the much-discussed idea that researchers should make their raw data available to anyone who wants to access it. While the NEJM piece is specifically framed as a rebuttal to this recent pro-data sharing NEJM article, the arguments advanced apply to science more generally.
Last month, I reviewed an advance copy of “Patient H.M.”, the new book by journalist Luke Dittrich that looks at the story of the amnesia patient Henry Molaison, perhaps the most famous case study in neuroscience. (“Patient H.M.” has now been published.) Shortly after posting my review I interviewed Dittrich and this post presents this interview.
In a fascinating new paper, Scott O. Lilienfeld and Steven Jay Lynn discuss 78 Surprising Authors of Psychological Publications. The paper is a list of celebrities and other notable figures who, at one time or another, have published an academic paper in psychology.