Powerpoint slides from Nature and others do not give full credit to the sources of images

Well, I browsed around the Nature web site and did some searches for terms like “Reprinted with permission” and then looked at how they handled Figures that were reprinted from other places. I found some additional examples where the Figure image did not seem to do a complete job of crediting the source of the material. But without a doubt the most disturbing thing I found is that you can download powerpoint slides of the figures and all the ones I looked at only had “Copyright Nature” or something like that and no information crediting the actual source of the material. This is basically because they do not include the Figure legends on the ppt slides. I am not sure if technically they are allowed to do this in some cases (my gut feeling is there is something wrong with what they are doing) but it could not be that hard to include the Figure legend on the ppt slides, even in small font. They certainly are able to inlcude their “Copyright Nature” in large font. But even if technically they are allowed to do this, they should not.

Some examples:

  • Download the powerpoint slide of Figure 1 or Figure 4 from a paper on Listeria in Nature Reviews Microbiology if you have access to it here.
  • Or look at Figure 1 of a paper in Nature Reviews Genetics here.

I guess I could load up here on other examples, but it might be more interesting for people to find their own.

Here is how I found these.

  1. Go to the Nature Advanced Search page here
  2. Search for terms like “Reproduced with permission” — I used the “The exact phrase” option.
  3. Browse away

I assume that this is not a purposeful thing they do, but it certainly seems pervasive there.
Unfortunately, it seems common in other places. For example, PNAS provides powerpoint slides but does not include Figure legends with them either. Look here. So – not trying to single out Nature here but that was where I looked first. It seems that many publishers are trying to hard to provide material (e.g., powerpoint slides) without being careful enough attributing the original sources.

Nature Journal Misappropriates Copyright of Open Access Material – though see comments …

Recently, Nature (a science journal) ran a so-called news article presenting their analysis of the finances of one of their competitors. Already I am sure one can imagine some conflicts of interest that might lead them to be really careful with such a publication. But apparently they are not as it seems to contain many flaws (see here).

Nature in this instance appears more desperate than objective, since the competitor they are criticizing is a start up society that published “Open Access” journals. Open Access means many things but one of them is that the articles are free to all. This is bad for journals like Nature that make a killing by charging people to read the results of research funded primarily by the government.

Interestingly, a little browsing around Nature’s web sites shows that not only are they apparently in a tizzy about Open Access publications, but they even have the gall to try and pretend that material published by others was generated by them.

For example, we recently published a paper on analysis of the genomes of some interesting bacteria. We published this in a PLoS Journal here.

Now take a look at this figure from the paper here.

Nature then published an article in Nature Reviews Microbiology (see here). The article is fine and even includes the figure linked above taken directly from our paper. This is OK in the world of Open Access if they attribute the origin of the figure correctly. In the article they sort of attribute it but do not do a robust job. And even more deceptively, they put “Copyright Nature” onto the Figure even though this is completely invalid. I have downloaded the figure and provide it here for those who do not have access to Nature.


I do this with no fear of the copyright gods since after all, they do not in fact have Copyrights to it.

Even worse, I saw that one can download a powerpoint slide of this figure. I did this and found that they kept the Copyright Nature part but left out the attribution so it looks like the figure is from Nature.

To me, this is plagiarism, plain and simple. And lame too.

Open Access Journals Allow one to Publish Complete Scientific Stories

I am positing here some of my opinions about Open Access journals.

One reason to publish in Open Access journals is that they generally allow one to publish complete scientific stories, rather than restricting the length of articles simply to make the publishers more money. For example, here are some comments I made in a online discussion about a lame article in the journal Nature that basically invented problems occurring with some Open Access journals:

As a follow up to Deltef’s comments. PLoS journals and many other Open Access journals allow you to publish complete stories because most do not have arbitrary restrictions on the lengths of papers. I have been involved in dozens of publications associated with genome sequences, many in Nature and Science and now many in PLoS journals. For papers in Nature or Science we almost always had to make the stories incomplete because of page restrictions. For PLoS journals, we could tell the whole story. Note – PLoS does not encourage run on papers – they just allow one to include the material that is scientifically relevant.
Compare and contrast our genome papers in PLoS journals:
Sharpshooter symbionts
Life in hot carbon monoxide
Wolbachia
With those published in Science or Nature (I only publish in Open Access journals if I have a choice but for these I was a middle middle author):
Dehalococcoides
Geobacter
Silicibacter
Based on this difference alone I prefer to publish in PLoS journals every time. Note that this may in fact make it more expensive for PLoS to publish those papers and thus I am more than willing to pay for that cost.

PLoS One

Well, PLoS (The Public Library of Science) has announced a new publishing venture called PLoS One.

For those who do not know, PLoS was started a few years ago by a group of scientists (incuding my brother) with the goal of opening up access to scientific literature. For non scientists it may be surprising to find out that scientific and medical research is usually published in journals which are very expensive to purchase. Thus though the research is supposed to be for the benefit of humaninty, it turns out that one of the primary benefits goes to a few companies and societies that publish the journals. Amazingly, even though the journals frequently do little other than repackage papers written by scientists, they not only make enormous amounts of money off of this, they somehow get the copyright to the papers. In general, these journals are a massive roadblock to scientific and medical discovery.

PLoS started a few journals a few years ago to try and provide alternatives to the standard model. These journals are “Open Access” and thus much better for the world. What PLoS has done better than others attempting to make scientific literature open acces is to show that one can publish a very high quality journal that is still free to all (e.g., PLoS Biology).

Now PLoS has announced a completely new way to publish scientific literature. Called PLoS One this seems like a strong attemp to bring scientific publishing into the 21st century. Among the “features” they say will be there are much more rapid publication, publication of all science (with the only criteria being that it is validated by peer review – no restrictions will be made to force the publication to be radically novel) and development of an online community around the publications.

Stay tuned — we will have to see how it works out but the initial impression I have is that it sounds quite nice.