Russian gerontologists unfairly borrowed guidelines from Austrian colleagues

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The editors of MedPortal found that in the text of the Russian methodological recommendations “Gait disorders in old and senile age” there are many coincidences with the clinical guidelines prepared by Austrian specialists. For a number of signs, domestic authors allowed unfair borrowing of someone else’s text.

The document was released “Russian Gerontological Research and Clinical Center” in 2019. Scientists from the Institute for Neuroimmunological and Neurodegenerative Conditions in Vienna and the Medical University of Vienna published their materials in 2016 in Viennese clinical weekly… His English translation posted on PubMed.

Possible examples of borrowing

A quick comparison of the texts of the two recommendations, which was carried out by the editors of the MedPortal, practically did not reveal any differences between the texts.

It will be easy for the reader to check the first lines of documents. “Walking is a common daily activity, and at the same time is a difficult process …”, the Russian recommendations begin. “Walking is a common activity of daily living and at the same time a very complex one” is the first sentence of the text by Austrian experts.

The number of sections differs in the documents: in the Russian version there are fewer of them due to the merger. For example, in the text of the Russian Gerontological Research and Clinical Center, the story about the influence of cognitive functions is not highlighted as a separate section, as in the original, it was absorbed by the part “Physiological foundations of gait”. But the texts of these parts themselves unambiguously suggest the idea of ​​borrowing.

In some fragments, Russian authors use introductory sentences that are not in the text of the Austrian gerontologists. An example of such a “unique text”: “The history of falls is an important clinical component of the clinical assessment of a patient with gait disorders.” Further, the texts of the documents again become very similar.

There are no specialists in falsification of scientific texts in the editorial office of MedPortal. We emphasize that our comparison is not an expert opinion.

We asked the experts whether Russian gerontologists really just used the translation of someone else’s text, and what follows from this.

It really looks like bad faith

Even without a page-by-page comparison of these two texts, the complete coincidence of the bibliography and the order of illustrations, without a reference to the article in which they appear, immediately arouses caution. Natalia Shok, member of the MedPortal ethics council Association of Scientific Editors and Publishers (ANRI), Doctor of Historical Sciences. In her opinion, it really looks like a bad use of the text. She added that the English-language resource indicated that open access to this review was provided with the support of the Medical University of Vienna, where the Austrian authors thank their colleagues for their help in preparing the illustrations. There are no similar acknowledgments and references in the Russian document.

Natalia Shock / Photo: Facebook

“It is very difficult for a team of authors or a publication to detect unfair borrowing of text in such guidelines, since such documents often do not appear publicly, they circulate only in a professional environment and often do not have unique digital book identifiers, and are not registered with the Book Chamber. All this significantly complicates the identification of borrowings, ”said Natalia Shok.

What will happen now?

How the problem of unfair borrowing should be resolved in this case is not yet clear.

“If we were talking about a scientific article, it would have to be withdrawn, and then the information on unfair behavior should be added to the authors’ profiles. This stealing of recommendations is the first experience, at the moment we do not have an algorithm of actions in this case. Of course, this is a reason to check other materials of these authors. Usually we see that there is no small evil, ”she said in a comment to MedPortal Anna Kuleshova, member of the RAS Commission on Counteracting Falsification of Scientific Research, candidate of sociological sciences.

Anna Kuleshova
Anna Kuleshova / Photo: Facebook

Kuleshova expressed bewilderment about the authors’ motivation:

“In this case, it is poorly understood what kept the authors of the recommendations from fully linking to the original document. Wanting to mislead readers about your competencies? Ignorance of the norms of academic honesty? ”

She added that any unfair borrowing does not characterize people in the best way. In her opinion, it doesn’t matter what is stolen: an idea, a quote, or a useful recommendation.

The ANRI Ethics Council hopes that the proper references will appear and the document will be corrected.

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