It has recently come to my attention that an article in Nature Biotechnology: doi:10.1038/nbt.2950 “Decoding long nanopore sequencing reads of natural DNA” plagiarizes from my blog, specifically Supplementary Material page 6 from Segmenting noisy signals from nanopores. Now, I don’t mind their using my work—I would not have published it in such a public form as posting to my blog if I were trying to keep it secret—but standard scholarly practice requires that sources be cited. Claiming someone else’s work as one’s own is the academic sin.
I don’t know which of the 13 authors of the Nature Biotechnology authors is the plagiarist, but I hold the head of the lab (Jens Gundlach) responsible for the plagiarism, since it seems clear that he did not bother to check that his students and co-workers were citing others’ work appropriately. It is the job of the head of a lab to create a culture of proper citation—failure to do so is indication of not doing one’s job as a scholar or as a professor.
I’m undecided about what to do about this plagiarism. The obvious thing to do would be to complain to the editors, but I have no idea whether that will do any good. The last time I had a serious plagiarism case like this was when I was in logic minimization, and parts of a paper of mine that had been rejected from the main (almost sole) journal in the field later appeared in a conference article with the editor who had rejected the paper as one of the co-authors. In that case, complaints to the journal were useless (they just sent the complaints to the editor who had plagiarized from me—thereby ensuring that I would never get any papers published in the field). I ended up leaving the field in disgust (as several other researchers had done—the field has been pretty stagnant since all new ideas were blocked by the powerful editor) and moving into bioinformatics instead, where rivalries were decided more on the quality of one’s solutions than on publication blocking and theft.
This case is different, though, because the plagiarist is not the editor of the journal, and so the editors may have some leverage to apply to the authors, in order to maintain the credibility of the journal.
The fix I’m looking for is pretty simple one: an apology from Jens Gundlach for not catching and correcting the plagiarism, and adding a citation to my blog to the published article. If they can’t bring themselves to cite me, they could at least cite another source (like Detection of Abrupt Changes: Theory and Application by Michèle Basseville and Igor V. Nikiforov, whom I cited as my inspiration, though Basseville and Nikiforov don’t describe the recursive algorithm I developed).
To complicate matters slightly, I’ve recently submitted a paper to PeerJ based on the same body of work (though including the improved parameterization developed in some of my later blog posts, and including some empirical evidence that the new algorithm works substantially better than filtered-derivative algorithms). I would not want someone finding Gundlach’s group’s paper and think I had plagiarized from them, rather than them from me.
I ask my readers—how diligently should I pursue this plagiarism case? Has anyone had any experience with Nature Biotechnology on such matters? Do they care about plagiarism? Or do they make life hell for anyone who brings up the subject?
Update 27 March 2105: I’ve heard from the lead author—see Followup on plagiarism.