The Space Review

 
illustration
Several space history articles written by one author and published in venues like Ars Technica appear to be plagiarized from other sources.

Plagiarism in several space history articles


Bookmark and Share

On October 4, the website Ars Technica, a division of Condé Nast Publications, removed a May 15 article written by Amy Shira Teitel called “The secret laser-toting Soviet satellite that almost was,” which used, without attribution, conjectures, argument development, information, phrases, and entire sentences from a January 2010 article, “Soviet Star Wars”, written by Dwayne Day and Robert Kennedy and published in Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine. Also on October 4, the website DVICE.com removed a September 2012 article written by Ms. Teitel titled “Remembering the Moon’s earliest robotic explorers,” that also used, without attribution, information, phrases, and sentences from a March 2004 Air & Space/Smithsonian article written by Andy Chaikin, “The Other Moon Landings.” (Note: because the articles have been removed, the direct links to them no longer work.)

They clearly demonstrate a pattern whereby Ms. Teitel uses the work of numerous other space historians without permission or attribution and sells these articles to commercial websites. We are writing this article to notify other space historians that their works may also have been appropriated without permission.

Ars Technica's editors removed their article after being informed by us on October 3 that Ms. Teitel had used significant parts of our article without attribution or permission. (The copyright on our article is still held by Air & Space/Smithsonian.) Although we did not directly notify the editors at DVICE.com, we had mentioned the similarities between Ms. Teitel's article and Mr. Chaikin's article and we believe that Ars Technica’s editors contacted DVICE, which promptly removed Ms. Teitel's article as well.

We received an email from Ars Technica associate editor Lee Hutchinson informing us of the removal:

“We are in receipt of your e-mails regarding the May 15 article by Amy Teitel. Please note that we have removed the article from Ars Technica pending the completion of our review of this matter. Sincerely, Lee Hutchinson (cc Ken Fisher, EIC)”

As a professional courtesy, we withheld going public in order to allow Ars Technica to conduct their review, assuming that they would check the other articles that they had published for similar problems. However, after several weeks we had not received any response from them. On October 30, we contacted Mr. Hutchinson again asking for a comment and received a reply from Ars Technica editor in chief Ken Fisher, who admitted that the issue had “dropped off my radar” and said that he would respond by the end of the week, which he did:

“As you recall, we did pull the article after our initial contact with you. We are going to leave the article down, and thank you for bringing the matter to our attention. At this time, I do not have an additional comments [sic] to add.”

On October 31, we contacted Ms. Teitel asking for a comment. On November 1, she replied:

“Dear Mr. Kennedy,

I've spoken with my editors at Ars Technica; I understand they have pulled the article in question while they consider the matter.

I would like if we could settle this, but you haven’t clarified what it is that you want.”

Ms. Teitel also removed reference to her article on Polyus-Skif from her blog after we contacted her for a statement, although the link to the article had been dead for nearly a month.

In addition to the two articles with extensive copying, we also discovered two more examples of Ms. Teitel using source material and text from other authors. Both of those articles also appear on Ars Technica. Although we have not documented them as extensively as the other two cases, they clearly demonstrate a pattern whereby Ms. Teitel uses the work of numerous other space historians without permission or attribution and sells these articles to commercial websites. We are writing this article to notify other space historians that their works may also have been appropriated without permission.

These four examples demonstrate a pattern. In the cases involving our article and Mr. Chaikin’s article, it is obvious that Ms. Teitel copied multiple paragraphs from the original articles and rewrote them, usually changing a few words, but keeping the overall story arc, development of arguments, and even the sequential order from the original material. In all three of the Ars Technica cases, and in the one DVICE.com case we investigated, no reference was made to the previous articles, nor were hyperlinks to those articles included in Ms. Teitel’s articles. Because of the extent of the copying, and the complete lack of any reference to the original source material, it is obvious that this was not an oversight, but a modus operandi, and reference to the source material was deliberately omitted.

Although the Ars Technica and DVICE.com articles have been removed from the internet, the latter is still referenced on Ms. Teitel’s blog, and copies exist in internet caches. We have saved screencaps of the Ars Technica article here and here, and the DVICE article here.

page 2: similarities between the May 2013 Ars Technica and January 2010 Air & Space article >>

Subscribe

Enter your email address below to be notified when new articles are published: