SUBJECT: The sordid side of Nature
17 September 2007
Dr. Andrew Marshall Editor
345 Park Avenue South
New York NY 10010-1707
Dear Dr. Marshall,
I am writing about the publication 'GM soybeans and health safety - a controversy reexamined' Marshall, A. Nature Biotechnology 25, 981 - 987 (2007) http://www.nature.com/nbt/journal/v25/n9/abs/nbt0907-981.html I was recently informed about disturbing revelations concerning the manner in which the authorship of the article was attributed and how one contributor, Dr.Irina Ermakova , was solicited to participate on an article as author then, without her knowledge or permission, had her contribution added to the final article authored by you, Dr. Marshall
My understanding of the sequence of events as lined out by Dr. Brian John is as follows: On 20 August 2007 the Senior Production Editor of Nature Biotechnology sent Dr. Ermakova a "dummy proof" in PDF format, with the title "GM Soybeans and health safety - a controversy reexamined" and with Irina V Ermakova listed beneath the title as author. Eight of the original 12 references had been deleted. In the introductory paragraph (presumably written by the Editor) were the words
"Nature Biotechnology approached Dr. Ermakova to ask for a detailed account of her work in her own words. Her answers are presented below together with comments solicited from a group of researchers working in the field." The comments from the group of researchers were NOT included in the dummy proof, which was referred to as a "publication proof."
On 12th September, without any further reference to DrErmakova , the article was published on the Nature Biotechnology web site. It was now a totally different article, with Andrew Marshall listed as author, with 20 new references (all chosen to bolster the case made by the critics), with photos and biographical notes on Val Giddings, Bruce Chassy, Alan McHughen and Vivian Moses, and with lengthy critiques by the group inserted after every one of the answers provided by Dr. Ermakova to the questions provided to her by you, Dr. Marshall.
On the day of publication, Dr. Ermakova asked for a copy of the published article, and it was sent to her in PDF format . This was the first time she had seen it in its final form, and the first time she had seen the comments from the "group of four." She was surprised to see that her name had been replaced by that of Andrew Marshall as author. On the same day the Editor sent an Email to Dr. Ermakova to explain the rationale behind the change of attribution at the head of the article
You wrote: ......."it was decided to present the article from a neutral point of view of an editor, with both your viewpoints and those of the other authors presented together."
I wish to point out first, Dr. Ermakova had no opportunity to respond to the criticism of your panel of 'researchers working in the field'. The lack of an opportunity to face those hostile comments lacks any sense of fundamental justice. Next, your researchers working in the field had not published animal feeding studies and their fields, like yours, were primarily public relations on behalf of the biotechnology industry. Furthermore, you have no 'neutral point of view' and should have sought
a neutral person to put together an article should Dr. Ermakova have agreed to the takeover and change of authorship of the article authored by her as agreed in a publication proof!
Plagiarism (from the Latin ,/ plagiare/ "to kidnap") is the practice of claiming, or implying, original authorship of (or incorporating material from) someone else's written or creative work, in whole or in part, into one's own without adequate acknowledgement according to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plagiarism ). Dr. Marshall, you seem to have plagiarized Dr. Ermakova's article by incorporating it into your article without first obtaining permission from Dr. Ermakova. You may be surprised to know that editors have no right to scoop up others articles and incorporate them into their own or others articles , without first obtaining agreement from the authors. If Nature is planning to promote plagiarism by editors as a general practice they should inform the scientific public that they have moved in that direction.
In conclusion, the world requires that you should provide Dr. Ermakova a publication platform to reply to the critics of her work. Furthermore, I wish to urge you to take time off, go back to the Microbiology laboratory and re-educate yourself in the practice of full and truthfull scientific reporting.
Sincerely, Professor Emeritus Joe Cummins. University of Western Ontario