Publisher Ran Identical Articles in Multiple Journals Without Acknowledgment, Librarian Finds
By SCOTT CARLSON
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without acknowledgment, librarian finds
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A librarian at Cornell University has discovered that a major
scholarly-journal company, Emerald, has often published the same
article in multiple journals without noting that the material had
already appeared elsewhere.
"I found journals that were complete copies of one another,"
says Philip M. Davis, a life-sciences librarian at Cornell. He found
that Emerald, a British company that publishes journals on management
and information science, had republished 409 articles in 67 journals
from 1989 to 2003. Mr. Davis says that he contacted the authors of the
articles and found that, in some cases, Emerald had asked to republish
articles, while in other cases authors could not recall whether they
had been contacted.
Mr. Davis says that when libraries subscribe to journals, they
expect to get original content and that it is an industry and academic
"standard" to note original sources when reprinting material.
His research "was not a systematic study," he says. "I couldn't
search every article in every journal, and I believe I only got the tip
of the iceberg, which seems pretty significant."
Mr. Davis's study started with journals published in 1989 because
Emerald's online databases go back that far. "I got an e-mail from an
indexer of journals who spotted this back in early 1980 and contacted
the publisher," he says, "but obviously nothing happened."
Officials at Emerald do not entirely dispute Mr. Davis's
findings, and they say that the failure to note the republications was
a flaw in their production process -- a fault that has been fixed.
A statement from the company says that, from 1989 to 2000, when
Emerald operated under the name MCB University Press, articles of
"particular merit" were occasionally republished. Previously published
articles were also used to buttress journal titles that the company had
acquired from other publishers and that were behind in their publishing
schedules. Dual publication since 2001 has been rare and accidental,
the statement says.
The company changed its name to Emerald in June 2001.
"We're not trying to rubbish the work that Phil Davis has done,"
says Kathryn Toledano, the company's director of business development.
Republishing an article without acknowledgment "was something that we
did, but it wasn't a business practice."
"There were occasions, and they are very few, when an article
was republished," she says. "What we failed to do, but inconsistently,
was attribute where the article had been originally published."
However, Ms. Toledano insists that Emerald always got the
authors' permission to republish. "It was done with journals that had a
nil or negligible overlap of subscribers," she says. "So from the
author's perspective, the key golden thing that an author is looking
for ... is dissemination of their work."
Mr. Davis says he began his research in the spring after a
friend -- Chuck Hamaker, a librarian at the University of North
Carolina at Charlotte -- looked for his own name in an Emerald database
and was surprised to find his name cited in identical articles that
appeared in two separate journals.
Mr. Davis says he and Mr. Hamaker performed a cursory search
and found a few more examples of duplication. Mr. Davis says he
contacted Emerald and was told that republication had occasionally
happened long ago, but that the practice had stopped.
However, Mr. Davis continued searching and found hundreds of
examples of republished articles. "I found lots of articles where some
received copy editing and others didn't," he says.
Librarians and academics contacted by The Chronicle had varied responses to Mr. Davis's findings, but most viewed Emerald's explanations with skepticism.
Bernie Sloan, a senior library and information-systems
consultant for the University of Illinois system, was the author of one
of the republished articles. He recalls that Emerald contacted him for
permission to republish the article, which he granted.
"The interesting thing is that they stopped [republishing] at a
certain point," he says, "so to me that means that they thought that
there was something not quite kosher about it."
Margaret Landesman, the head of collection development at the
University of Utah's library, says that many librarians thought MCB
University Press charged too much for its journals. Mr. Davis's
research further harms the company's reputation among librarians, she
"It's absolutely unethical," she says. "If something like this
were to happen with a publisher that has had a sterling reputation,
then it is my belief that we are inclined to think that they had a
glitch and that it wouldn't happen again." But with Emerald, "it does
not seem out of character."
Other librarians are less critical of Emerald, but are
concerned by what Mr. Davis's study says about journal publishing as a
whole. "I get the impression that some of the comments from librarians
about Emerald reflect longstanding frustration," says Rick Anderson,
director of resource acquisition at the University of Nevada at Reno.
While Emerald's actions were wrong, he says, "that doesn't mean that we
need to surround them with pitchforks."
"We should delay outrage," he says, "and a lot of people on my side of the library equation are quick on the trigger."
However, Mr. Anderson thinks Mr. Davis's findings should lead
librarians and researchers to conduct broader studies of republication
among commercial journals. "The matter here is principle, and if a
hundred publishers are doing this, that's a different equation," he
says. "It would be useful to know if this is an aberration or a more
widespread practice than we thought."