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The Poehlman case: understanding and indexing ethical problems in scientific journals

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Ethical problems in scientific publishing lead to complex issues for indexers. It is important for indexers of both scientific journals and literature databases to understand ethical problems and the 'cascade' of publications that can result. Common problems involve authorship issues, duplicate publication (also called 'self-plagiarism' or 'redundant publication'), plagiarism and scientific misconduct. These can lead to corrections (in minor cases), expressions of concern (while an investigation is under way) and eventually retraction ('unpublishing' the article). An example is provided of an article containing falsified and fabricated data, published in Annals of Internal Medicine in 1995. The discovery of data fabrication led to several linked publications, including a retraction, a letter from the author, an editor's note, an editorial and letters to the editor. The MEDLINE indexing of these publications is provided, showing how they were linked to each other. In such complex cases involving many publications over several years, finding all associated publications and making a diagram can help in indexing all items comprehensively, making clear their interrelationship.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 1, 2011

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  • The Indexer is published by the Society of Indexers on behalf of all the indexing societies, seeks to cover the full range of subjects, from articles at the cutting edge of new techniques to contributions discussing in a practical way the new tools available to indexers at all points in the technical spectrum or exploring the history of indexing. Its extensive reviews section covers both printed and electronic material, including websites and hardware and software of interest to the indexer, while 'Indexes Reviewed' highlights some of the best (and worst) examples of indexing in action. And, in 'Around the World', it keeps readers up to date with what is going on across the international indexing community. First published in 1958 on a twice-yearly basis, it moved in 2008 to a quarterly publication.
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