Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Multiple publication and plagiarism in economics journals

An unusual insight into the culture of academic publication comes in a recently published letter from David Autor, the editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives to a famous economist who published an article there that was substantively identical to papers he had published elsewhere.

David Autor writes:
"...There is a very substantial overlap between these articles and your JEP publication. Indeed, to my eye, they are substantively identical. Based on discussions with the editors of these journals, we have confirmed that the JEBO article was in press and the R&S article under review while your article was under revision for JEP. At the time we accepted your paper for JEP, we could not readily have learned of these two overlapping articles since they were at the time unpublished. Further obscuring the links among these articles is the fact that none of your four articles cites any of the other three. Had you chosen to inform us of the JEBO and R&S articles prior to the publication of your JEP article, we would of course have no grounds for complaint. In that case, however, we would not have published your article.

"We view your publication of this substantive material in multiple journals simultaneously as a violation of the spirit of the editorial agreement with American Economic Association that you signed in the winter of 2010, which states "The Author(s) warrant(s) that the above-named manuscript is his or her own original work of authorship and has not been published previously." The AEA does not intend to pursue legal action against you for violation of copyright. However, we find your conduct in this matter ethically dubious and disrespectful to the American Economic Association, the Journal of Economic Perspectives and the JEP's readers..."

The letter from Autor is followed by a letter of apology from the senior author of the papers in question, Zurich's Professor Bruno Frey.
"...It was a grave mistake on our part for which we deeply apologize..."

RePEc maintains a plagiarism page on which it includes links to offending authors and some of the case material, including the present case.


Randy Picker said...

This case makes clear that we need to have good terms for different behavior. I think of plagiarism as uncredited borrowing from others, with the key being others. I wouldn't think that I could plagiarize myself. This could be a copyright violation, depending on what was done exactly and whether copyright was assigned by the author to the original publisher. But it wouldn’t be a copyright violation if the author retained copyright each time. So what should we call this multiple publishing? Pubfraud?

Anonymous said...

The Titanic case was apparently not an isolated incident. Please take notice of the following list of self-plagiarism cases involving Bruno Frey and people who work at Columbia and Harvard:

Anonymous said...

By the way, is Felix Oberholzer-Gee a close colleague of you Al?

Anonymous said...

A new article by Storbeck which documents additional cases of self-plagiarism by Frey in JPE and AER:

Anonymous said...

It's unbelievable all the many cases of Frey publishing the same research several times with many coauthors and in dozens of journals are clearly documented at and still only two journals rebuked him, thereby admitted own reviewing failure, and only he and two coauthors were put on the repec list of plagiarists.
Others continue supervising PhD students at places like Harvard or Columbia. Repec even refuses to investigate in the other cases as long add they are filed anonymously - and no economists are willing to give their name for it.
What does that say about out discipline?