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Theft by Peer Review

A researcher whose work was plagiarized by a peer reviewer responds in a letter, Retraction Watch reports.

Tufts Medical Center's Michael Dansinger submitted a paper to the Annals of Internal Medicine based on work he conducted during his fellowship. While the manuscript was rejected, it later appeared in a different journal with different co-authors — and one of those co-authors had been a peer reviewer of Dansinger's paper, according to Retraction Watch's Alison McCook.

She notes that though her site has only recorded a few such instance of theft by peer reviewer, "it's a fear of many authors." The plagiarized paper has been retracted, she adds.

In a letter addressed to the peer reviewer appearing in the Annals of Internal Medicine, Dansinger writes that the manuscript represented years of work to design the project, get funding, and recruit participants before even collecting and analyzing data. "When you published our work as your own, you were falsely claiming credit for all of this work and for the expertise gained by doing it," Dansinger writes. He adds that he doesn't understand why the unnamed reviewer did it.

In an accompanying editorial, Annals of Internal Medicine Editor-in-Chief Christine Laine says that she and her colleagues find "it deeply disturbing that someone whom we selected to review a manuscript entrusted to us would commit such heinous intellectual theft." She adds that, in addition to harming Dansinger, the reviewer also undermined "the reputation of the plagiarizer's institution; faith in the peer-review process; and, importantly, the public's trust in medical research."

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