Journal Retracts Harvard Professor's Paper Flagged by Copycat-Search Tool

January 30, 2008

After two researchers warned last week that many examples of plagiarism may mar biomedical journals, a paper flagged by their search process has been retracted.

The Boston Globe reported yesterday that the journal Best Practice & Research Clinical Rheumatology had retracted a 2004 paper by Lee S. Simon, an associate clinical professor of medicine at Harvard University, because it contained overlapping text with a 2003 article in the journal Expert Opinion on Drug Safety.

The researchers who sounded the warning bell last week had found the paper through a search that turned up 70,000 copycat abstracts of biomedical papers. Dr. Simon’s abstract was one of more than 70 possible plagiarism cases they identified when they studied 2,600 abstracts individually. The researchers, who are at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, notified the journals and authors in several of those cases. The retraction appears to be the first result of their sleuthing.

The Texas researchers discovered that Dr. Simon’s paper, a review of arthritis treatments, contained entire pages of text that matched those of the earlier paper, which was by Roy Fleischmann, also of Texas Southwestern. Dr. Simon’s article did not cite the earlier paper. —Lila Guterman