A Springer Nature journal decided not to withdraw an article it was investigating for plagiarism since it received allegations in January 2021. The decision came a year and a half after the editor apparently agreed that the item was to be removed, and only days after we reported on the matter.
Systems engineer Paola Di Maio informed Springer Nature in January 2021 that the article “Robotic Standard Development Life Cycle in Action”, published in the Journal of Intelligent and Robotic Systems, described a methodology she had developed without crediting her work. As we wrote in our Friday August 5th post:
In subsequent email exchanges we obtained, an editorial assistant told Di Maio in March 2021 that the newspaper’s editor agreed with her that the article be taken down. But a year later, when Di Maio followed up, the staffer said the authors of the article made claims in response that the newspaper needed to examine. The document has not been removed or marked with an expression of concern. A spokesperson for the publisher said the investigation was “nearing its conclusion” and those involved would know the outcome “shortly”.
The following Monday, August 8, the editorial assistant wrote to Di Maio “on behalf of Springer and the editor, Professor Kimon Valavanis”, informing him of the decision:
Please accept my apologies for the delay in responding to you. Springer and the Editor wish to inform you that we have concluded our investigation and at this stage we see no reason to take editorial action.
We have investigated the matter in accordance with COPE guidelines. Although there may be similarities between the ideas you presented earlier and some of the concepts in the article, and although you noted that you were part of a working group which also involved some of the authors, it It has not been possible to determine where the ideas and concepts described in this article originated. We were unable to determine that there is a clear overlap between the material you provided and the content of the article. The editor, unfortunately, is unable to determine who was the first to come up with a specific idea or concept, and again we note that the overlap with the concepts in the article does not appear to be identical to the concepts of your work.
This case also emerges as a potential conflict over authorship, as you have stated that you contributed to the working group that ultimately led to the publication of this manuscript and as such, whether or not you deserve the co-authorship . However, the journal cannot adjudicate on authorship disputes, and these must be reviewed by the institution from which the relevant research originated.
We, Springer and the editor, understand that this is not the outcome you were hoping for. I would also like to apologize for the time this process has taken and for the confusion we have caused by originally notifying you that we will be removing the article. These remarks were premature and made before the end of the investigation. However, as our investigation is now complete, we must conclude that at this stage we see no reason to take further action.
The article’s corresponding author, Joanna Isabelle Olszewska of the University of West Scotland in Paisley, just outside Glasgow, did not respond to our request for comment.
A Springer Nature spokesperson told us:
Unfortunately the initial response was given prematurely – we apologize for the confusion this has caused. After carefully reviewing the case, in accordance with COPE best practice guidelines, we have concluded that retraction is not the appropriate course of action to take.
Di Maio responded to the editorial assistant to protest the decision and learned she could take the case with COPE. She called the amended decision not to withdraw the document “indefensible”:
Technically, there is no doubt that the article in question plagiarizes all the steps of my method published ten years earlier, to which I contributed to the group during documented email exchanges, presentations and calls during my participation in the IEEE [Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers] Standard. These exchanges were provided as hard evidence and the outcome of the complaint was clear: the paper was going to be retracted.
Editor’s change of decision not to remove plagiarized article is indefensible
The claim that they cannot determine whether the article they published is plagiarized or not is simply false and unsubstantiated. The decision is contrary to the evidence and contrary to the communication sent to me by the editor until RW publishes an article on the delay in the execution of the decision.
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