Publisher Stops Selling Two Books about Philosophers over Citation Problems


The University of Chicago Press (UCP) has ceased selling two books about philosophers because their authors did not properly cite sources.

Retraction Watch reports that  John Venn: A Life in Logic by Lukas M. Verburgt (Utrecht), published in 2022, was retracted by the press, owing to “numerous instances of insufficiently cited source material”.

How Slavoj Became Žižek: The Digital Making of a Public Intellectual by Eliran Bar-El (York), published in 2023, was withdrawn from sale because of “several insufficient, missing, or erroneous citations of source material upon which the author builds his argument”.

According to Retraction Watch, UCP has given Bar-El an opportunity to submit a revised version of the book for review and possible publication. As for Verburgt, they report:

On his website, Verburgt said he accepted the decision to pull his book. He explained that he made use “of a 2007 dissertation in several of the biographical chapters” and had not been “as careful as I should have been in ensuring accurate referencing at all places. I’m very sorry about this, especially to the author of the dissertation.”

You can read further comments from Verburgt on the matter here.

Source: Retraction Watch (via several readers)

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Junior Faculty4
4 months ago

Social scientists’ responsibility is to collect and clean hoards upon hoards upon data, and run complex statistical analysis. The only thing we humanists are responsible for is accurate citation (easy!). Any time there is a systematic failure to do this, especially for a major book project, it should not be treated as a “woopsie!” but rather as absolutely scandalous. Good on UCP.

HistorianOfPhilosophy
HistorianOfPhilosophy
4 months ago

We all make mistakes and overlook things in our citations and references. I’m sure I have done this. But I was curious about the fact that the statement on Dr. Verburgt’s website merely mentions ‘a 2007 dissertation’ without naming the author or giving the title. Perhaps there are good reasons for withholding this information. But, other things equal, it seems like naming the scholar and providing information about their work would be a good first step toward making things right.

Jimmy
Jimmy
Reply to  HistorianOfPhilosophy
4 months ago

Three examples, and there are probably many more:
1.
p. 42 from A Life in Logic (UCP):
Following his graduation in 1857, Venn prepared for Holy Orders and took several livings as an Evangelical curate. This was a short period in which he publicly followed the Venn family tradition. Nonetheless, he would later look back highly critically on the adequacy of his training for this role as well as on the personal example of the Evangelical clergymen under whom he served.

p. 66 from Clewlow’s 2007 dissertation: 
Following his graduation, Venn prepared for orders and took a succession of curacies. This was a period in which Venn publicly followed family tradition in taking orders and taking to a pulpit as an Evangelical. However, he was later to comment negatively upon the adequacy of his training for this role and on the personal example of two of the Evangelical clergymen under whom he served.

or 2:

p. 44 from A Life in Logic:
Like so many of his contemporaries, Venn had not accepted his junior fellowship with the view of making it a lifelong post; instead, he wished to take orders and to take to a country pulpit as an Evangelical curate.

p. 67 from Clewlow:
In common with many of his contemporaries Venn did not initially take his fellowship with the view of it being a lifelong post. He expected to take orders and then to take a living.

or 3:

p. 45 from a A Life in Logic:
…Venn’s formal theological education as an undergraduate had consisted merely of the previous examination or “Little-Go,” which included an examination on Paley’s Evidences on Christianity and on one of the Gospels or the Acts of the Apostles in Greek.” In lieu of university lecturers, a species that had yet to come into existence, the limited amount of theological teaching for the Little-Go was offered by college lecturers whose standards reminded Venn of “being distinctly set back towards school-boyhood.”

p. 67-8 of Clewlow:
Venn’s formal theological education as an undergraduate had largely consisted of the Previous examination which was obligatory for all undergraduates in the Lent term of the second year, and included a paper on Paley’s Evidences of Christianity and one of the Gospels or Acts of the Apostles in Greek. In the absence of University lecturers in the 1850s, theological teaching for the Previous was offered by College lecturers and the standard of the teaching available reminded Venn of being back at school.

Raph
Raph
Reply to  Jimmy
4 months ago

In the book’s acknowledgements, the author mentions a debt to “Michelle Clewlow and William K. Stockton, without whose pioneering PhD dissertations this book could not have been written (and on which it sometimes draws quite freely).” Curious.

Don
Don
4 months ago

Good on UCP in one respect, but one wonders whether it was not the press’s responsibility to check for plagiarism— which Jimmy’s comment implies it was, for the Venn book at least— and the like before the manuscript was sent to the printers?

praymont
praymont
4 months ago

What will university libraries do? I just found an online version of the John Venn book in my university’s library. It does not contain any notification about the retraction. I’ve notified the library via an online form, but I wonder if the University of Chicago Press will notify libraries directly.

praymont
praymont
Reply to  praymont
4 months ago

A librarian at the University of Toronto Library has already replied to my query, indicating that they get the content (of the John Venn book) from Scholars’ Portal, so the Library is notifying that provider about the publisher’s retraction. The librarian said they expect that Scholars’ Portal will take down the book. I hope that, instead, the book will still be available but with an appended notification giving proper credit to the original author, whose work was inadequately cited.