Analysis And Comment Professional regulation

Role of systematic reviews in detecting plagiarism: case of Asim Kurjak

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.38968.611296.F7 (Published 14 September 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:594
  1. Iain Chalmers (ichalmers@jameslindlibrary.org), editor1
  1. 1 James Lind Library, Oxford OX2 7LG
  • Accepted 26 June 2006

Plagiarism is difficult to detect, especially if it occurs in journals with a small readership. Systematic reviews can help to identify cases, but as this case shows, unless perpetrators face greater sanctions the problem is unlikely to go away

An editorial published in Nature two years ago noted that journals and universities do not always respond appropriately to plagiarism.1 The case study reported here shows how these institutional failings can lead to recurrent plagiarism and how institutions and journals can help to reduce it.

Detection

During a search for studies that might be eligible for inclusion in a systematic review of controlled trials of epidural analgesia in labour in the late 1980s,2 I identified a paper by Asim Kurjak and John Beazley published in Acta Medica Iugoslavica.3 Well over half of the text and some of the data in this paper were identical to material in an unacknowledged paper published three years earlier by other authors in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology of the British Commonwealth.4 In correspondence, I learnt that these authors had not been contacted by Professors Kurjak or Beazley.

Professors Kurjak and Beazley had both worked at Queen Charlotte's Hospital in London, but the paper purported to be a report of a clinical trial done in Croatia. I first wrote to the British author, Professor Beazley. In a letter sent to me on 25 February 1991 Professor Beazley expressed his surprise and dismay because he had never seen the paper bearing his name. He requested an explanation from Professor Kurjak, now professor of obstetrics at the University of Zagreb, who wrote to me on 26 February 1991 confirming that Professor Beazley had not been involved in the paper. Professor Kurjak's letter to me made no comment on his obviously plagiarised text. …

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