It’s been a long time coming, but there has now been an official finding in at least one of the complaints concerning the dubious scholarship of GMU professors Edward Wegman and Yasmin Said. According to Dan Vergano of USA Today, the journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis (CSDA) has officially confirmed that Said, Wegman et al 2008, a follow up to the infamous Wegman et al report to Congress, will finally be retracted following complaints of plagiarism and inadequate peer review.
The CSDA paper, Social Networks of Author–Coauthor Relationships, was a follow up to the 2006 report to congress by Wegman, Said and Rice University professor David Scott. Both the Wegman report and Said et al claimed that the “entrepreunerial” style of co-authorship in paleoclimatology demonstrated lax peer review in the field, while the “mentor” style of an established professor collaborating with former students would be less problematic. All three of Wegman’s 2008 co-authors – Said, Walid Sharabati and John Rigsby – were former or current students
I first discovered apparent plagiarism in the Wegman report in December 2009. I later documented massive cut-and-paste in the social network analysis background sections of both the report and the CSDA paper in April 2010. At the time, I pointed out that both Wegman and Said had acknowledged federal funding from research offices associated with the Department of Defence and the National Institute of Health.
And I also noted that the paper had sailed through from submission to acceptance in a mere six days, suggesting that it had not been properly peer reviewed at all. That astonishing fact and the deeply flawed analysis belied the paper’s central premise; indeed, as John Mashey has noted, this is a prime example of self-refuting paper.
Wegman and Said claim to have done nothing wrong, according to Vergano’s report.
“Neither Dr. Wegman nor Dr. Said has ever engaged in plagiarism,” says their attorney, Milton Johns, by e-mail. In a March 16 e-mail to the journal, Wegman blamed a student who “had basically copied and pasted” from others’ work into the 2006 congressional report, and said the text was lifted without acknowledgment and used in the journal study. “We would never knowingly publish plagiarized material” wrote Wegman, a former CSDA journal editor.
The original SNA background section in the Wegman report was about five pages and was reduced by about half for the CSDA paper. So even this bizarre explanation admits that the CSDA section was appropriated without credit or attribution. It is also telling that none of the authors were sufficiently well-versed in SNA to produce a background section on the techniques employed.
And I recently showed similar cut-and-paste scholarship in the WIREs Computational Statistics article, Color Theory and Design (see part 1 and part 2). Not only was this article written by Wegman and Said alone, they also are editors of the journal (along with the afore-mentioned David Scott), raising once again the issue of lack of peer review of the pair’s scholarship.
There will now be even more pressure on George Mason University to finally resolve the myriad misconduct complaints launched against Wegman and his team. Not to mention increased calls for the retraction of all the other examples of the pair’s dubious scholarship – including the Wegman et al report to Congress itself.