Researcher who stole manuscript during peer review earns second retraction

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The researcher whose brazen theft of a manuscript he had reviewed prompted a “Dear plagiarist” letter from the aggrieved author once the deceit was discovered has lost a second paper for plagiarism.

International Scholarly Research Notices, a Hindawi publication, has retracted a 2012 study by Carmine Finelli and colleagues, citing widespread misuse of text from two previously published articles. The removal was prompted by the curiosity of a scientist in England who, on reading about Finelli’s first retraction, made the logical assumption: once a plagiarist, often a plagiarist.

The review article was titled “Physical Activity: An Important Adaptative Mechanism for Body-Weight Control.” The journal is not indexed by Clarivate Analytics’ Web of Science, but the paper has been cited seven times, according to Google Scholar. According to the retraction notice:

The article was found to contain a substantial amount of material from the following published articles: “Tappy, L., Binnert, C. and Schneiter, P. (2003) ‘Energy expenditure, physical activity and body-weight control’, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 62(3), pp. 663–666. doi: 10.1079/PNS2003280,” and “James A. Levine: Nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT): environment and biology American Journal of Physiology – Endocrinology and Metabolism Published 1 May 2004 Vol. 286 no. 5, E675–E685 DOI: 10.1152/ajpendo.00562.2003.” The first author Carmine Finelli accepts responsibility for this and apologizes to Tappy et al. and Levine.

Finelli’s article does reference the Levine study, but not the Tappy paper — at least, not the one in the notice.

Finelli earned some infamy last December, when the Annals of Internal Medicine published a remarkable letter from a U.S. researcher, Michael Dansinger, of Tufts University. Dansinger accused an unnamed scientist of having pilfered his paper — after having reviewed it for the journal and recommending rejection. Finelli subsequently published a version of the article in EXCLI Journal, which has since retracted the paper. Although neither Dansinger’s letter nor an editorial accompanying the missive names Finelli, he took responsibility for the misconduct in the retraction notice and in an email exchange with us.

Tjibbe Donker, an expert in infectious diseases who holds at post at the University of Oxford, told us that he’d become curious about Fanelli last year after reading about the Italian researcher’s initial retraction. Speaking with a colleague, Donker said:

One of the questions we were left with was: Why would you think you could get away with almost literally copying a manuscript? And the obvious answer was: Because you got away with it before.

So I pulled a random paper from this author from Google Scholar, selected a random bit of text from the paper and put that back through Google again… And got a perfect hit with a paper by other authors on the first try.

After that, I informed the corresponding author of the original paper (Luc Tappy) and got in contact with the editors of the journal.

We’re guessing this retraction won’t be the last for Finelli. Commenters on PubPeer have raised concerns about at least 20 of his papers and book chapters.

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