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Astrophysical Journal Paper Retracted for Plagiarism

Tuesday, November 24, 2015 - 15:58

Prompted by an inquiry sent to us on 14 November 2015, The Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) has conducted an editorial review of the publication of “Axisymmetric, Nonstationary Black Hole Magnetospheres: Revisited” by Yoo Geun Song & Seok Jae Park, 2015 October 10, ApJ, Vol. 812, No. 1, Art. 8. Ethan Vishniac, the ApJ Editor-in-Chief, supervised Dr. Park’s dissertation research at the University of Texas in the 1980s, so Dr. Vishniac recused himself. This statement includes the review's findings and recommendations.

Song & Park (2015) draws extensively from an earlier publication by Dr. Park, “Stationary Versus Nonstationary Force-Free Black Hole Magnetospheres," in Black Hole Astrophysics 2002: Proceedings of the Sixth APCTP Winter School (World Scientific Publishing Co., 2002). In fact, the differences are modest, mostly confined to an alternate formulation of the analytic results, and could raise the question of copyright violation. Park (2002) is not part of the peer-reviewed literature, and scientists frequently use a conference proceeding as the rough draft of a subsequent submission to a professional peer-reviewed journal. However, in this case the overlap between the 2002 book chapter and 2015 paper is exceptionally large.

The 2015 paper failed to include a citation to the 2002 publication. This had a significant effect on the peer-review process. In any case, it is incumbent on authors to cite the relevant literature, especially if that literature is sparse. In this particular case Park (2002) was the single most relevant paper, despite its lack of peer review.

In view of these findings, the reviewers have recommended that the Editor-in-Chief issue a retraction of Song & Park (2015) and that the retraction notice include a re-statement of the relevant section of the ethics guidelines for the AAS journals, i.e., the ApJ and The Astronomical Journal (AJ):

2. Plagiarism and Republication

Plagiarism is the act of reproducing text or other materials from other papers without properly crediting the source. Such material is regarded as being plagiarized regardless of whether it is cited literally or has been modified or paraphrased. Plagiarism represents a serious ethical breach, and may constitute legal breach of copyright if the reproduced material has been previously published. This includes repeating text from previously published papers by the author or authors (i.e., “self-plagiarism”). Authors who wish to quote directly from other published work must fully cite the original reference, and include any cited text in quotation marks. AJ and ApJ authors are discouraged from including such direct quotations in papers, apart from rare instances when such a quotation is appropriate for historical reasons. Figures may only be reproduced with permission and must be fully cited in the figure caption, following guidelines that are posted on the ApJ and AJ websites.

The retraction notice will appear in the next available issue of The Astrophysical Journal.

Ethan T. Vishniac
The Astrophysical Journal
W. Butler Burton
Associate Editor-in-Chief
The Astrophysical Journal
Ethan T. Vishniac
Research Professor
Johns Hopkins University
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