[beliefs] charges of plagiarism in SRAM appear to be unfounded, or at least extremely weak

From: James J. Lippard ([email protected])
Date: Thu Sep 09 1999 - 21:04:03 MST

On Thu, 9 Sep 1999, Linda Rosa wrote:

> The whole thing was thoroughly aired in last issue of SRAM.
> -- Linda
> >Larry/Linda: In case you missed this request, here it is again.
> >
> >I've looked at the table of contents for the first issue of SRAM and the
> >list of members of the Council for Scientific Medicine (see
> >http://www.hcrc.org/sram/index.html and
> >http://www.hcrc.org/sram/contents.html), but I haven't found a list of
> >editorial board members. The three listed editors are Paul Kurtz, Wallace
> >Sampson, and Lewis Vaughn. The authors of articles in the first issue are
> >Wallace Sampson, Mahlon Wagner, Bela Scheiber, George Ulett, Saul Green,
> >Victor Stenger, John Renner.
> >
> >Which article by which of these authors contains plagiarism, and from what
> >source(s)? If you're going to make such a charge, you should certainly
> >back it up.

Thanks for the answer. I've obtained a copy of the exchange in question,
and the answer to my question is that your husband, Larry Sarner, accused
Bela Scheiber of plagiarizing from an unpublished annotated bibliography
of Therapeutic Touch studies which he (Sarner) says he was the sole author

Scheiber maintains, on the contrary, that what was excerpted in his
article was a group effort by the Rocky Mountain Skeptics, published
originally in the March/April 1993 issue of the Rocky Mountain Skeptic
with no byline (indicating a group effort); that excerpts from that
article were published again in a new article he authored in the Skeptical
Inquirer (Spring 1993, pp. 327-330), and then again in the SRAM article.
In his favor is that these publications are all a matter of public record.

Scheiber's position is also apparently supported by at least three other
members of the Rocky Mountain Skeptics who worked on the Therapeutic Touch
project, Bill Aldorfer, Randy Bancroft, and Carla Selby, as well as by an
article in _Skeptic_ magazine (vol. 3, no. 1, p. 46, first two columns)
authored by Linda Rosa. (I find curious that Larry Sarner's contribution
to that effort is not mentioned in the Rosa article, and Scheiber claims
that Sarner complained about being acknowledged in the Skeptical Inquirer
piece.) The _Skeptic_ article's wording is also a matter of public
record; the claim about Sarner's complaint rests on Scheiber's testimony;
the support of Scheiber by the other skeptics is established in a letter
written to SRAM which was not published, I suspect they are willing to
provide further testimony if called upon to do so.

It seems undisputed that Larry Sarner contributed to the Rocky Mountain
Skeptics' effort, but there is dispute about his claim that he was sole
author of the material that was allegedly plagiarized. It also appears to
me that the dispute could perhaps be settled by establishing the priority
and provenance of the 17-page memorandum that Sarner claims to have
authored, and comparing its content to what was actually published in the
RMS and Scheiber articles. Establishment of that priority and provenance
would require some supporting testimony, of course--a mere document would
not be sufficient at this point in the game.

In my opinion, the charge of "plagiarism" is simply not supported by the
public record, and Sarner and Rosa are in error to make that charge until
they can supply the requisite evidence.

By comparison, see my report on excessive copying in the work of a
particular SI author which I cited earlier
(http://www.discord.org/~lippard/Bakerreport.txt). It seems to me that
with charges of this magnitude, it is best to try to avoid emotionally
laden language and simply present the factual evidence.

Jim Lippard [email protected] http://www.discord.org/
Unsolicited bulk email charge: $500/message. Don't send me any.
PGP Fingerprint: 0C1F FE18 D311 1792 5EA8 43C8 7AD2 B485 DE75 841C

>From SRAM Vol 3 No. 1 Spring/Summer 1999:


The Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine is a noble and difficult
undertaking. There is an indisputable need for exactly the kind of
enterprise suggested by the title of the publication. You are to be
congratulated for the undertaking.

Recognizing how fragile such efforts can be in the beginning, it is
doubly hard to bring to public attention a failing which appeared in
your first issue. Nevertheless, I need to point out that one of the
articles, "Therapeutic Touch: Evaluating the 'Growing Body of
Evidence' Claim" (Fall/Winter 1997), by a member of your Editorial
Board, Bela Scheiber, consisted principally of a report on extant
research about Therapeutic Touch (TT), but the substance of that
report was not the work of the paper's author but of me. That fact
was neither reported nor acknowledged therein.

The original source of Mr. Scheiber's evaluation was a 17-page
memorandum done solely by me, dated December 5, 1992, and delivered to
the leader of Rocky Mountain Skeptics' special interest group on TT.
It was used by that group in the following year during its efforts to
influence the Colorado State Board of Nursing, the Colorado State
Senate, and the University of Colorado Board of Regents. It was also
used as the basis for the much more comprehensive "Survey of
Therapeutic Touch 'Research'" prepared by the Front Range Skeptics and
initially presented in 1994 to the Claman Committee investigating TT
at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver. That
committee found the "Survey" helpful in reaching their conclusion that
"...there is not a sufficient body of data, both in quality and
quantity, to establish TT as a unique and efficacious healing
modality." At no time during this period (or since, for that matter)
did Mr. Scheiber contribute anything of substance to my findings or

My analysis has been published before. The first time was without
acknowledgement, but with my permission, in Rocky Mountain Skeptic
(RMS) newsletter in 1993, and again that same year by Mr. Scheiber
with "special thanks" to me (but not stating for what), in Skeptical
Inquirer (SI) It also was updated (with refined data) and published
again by the Front Range Skeptics as an annex to a 1996 revision to
the TT "Survey."

While Mr. Scheiber made an oblique acknowledgement to my work once in
1993 (SI), it was dropped altogether with the 1997 publication in
SRAM. He apparently relies upon his reference to the SI appearance
for his disclosure of the necessary acknowledgements, and he makes no
reference at all to the RMS appearance or the 1996 "Survey".

I cannot know Mr. Scheiber's motivations in reporting my work again in
SRAM under his sole name. The prefatory and concluding text
notwithstanding, both the title and the body of his paper reveal that
it is primarily a report of (my) 1992 analysis, and not an update of
that material (For example, none of the numbers were changed, though
the 1996 updated showed many differences.) I think it significant
also that none of the results of a 1993 Medline search, was
Mr. Scheiber's either, though at least in that case he acknowledged by
name the responsible individual.

If by his repeated use of the word "we" in relating my findings in his
paper, Mr. Scheiber intended to convey the impression of corporate
authorship by the Rocky Mountain Skeptics, that impression was not
only false, but was ineffectual as well. In your next issue, he is
cited by another SRAM author as the source. "At the time of a recent
review by Scheiber, TT research was minimal and most writings were
commentary and speculation" (Glickman and Graceley, Spring/Summer
1998, emphasis supplied).

Thank you and SRAM for the opportunity to set the record straight.

Larry Sarner
Chair, National Therapeutic Touch Study Group
Loveland, CO



My Sarner's claim to authorship of the subject article is demonstrably
pretextual and unjustified. The SRAM article to which he refers is an
update, with new material of two previously published articles. The
first of these appeared, without by line, in the March/April 1993
issue of the Rocky Mountain Skeptic newsletter. The absence of a
byline in that publication always indicates that the information it
contains was the product of one or more individuals but that the
article itself was composed by the editor. Furthermore, any article
in that newsletter can be reproduced in its entirety anywhere provided
that credit is given to the RMS newsletter, and the author if a byline
is present.

Although Mr. Sarner was but one of the several individuals actively
involved at the time of that publication, he never expressed any sense
of ownership or concern over the lack of specific attributions for
over five years. A more comprehensive article bylined by me in the
April 1993 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (SI) credited RMS and those
members who were actively involved, including Mr. Sarner. As the
wording of all three articles clearly and consistently conveys the
project that resulted in the evaluation and categorization of Janet
Quinn's reading list was a group effort by members of RMS.

It is true that Mr. Sarner devoted significant time and effort to a
review of Quinn's reading list, but he did this knowingly under the
auspices of RMS. Furthermore, other members of RMS also received
Quinn's list and in a series of perhaps a half dozen meetings and
conference calls over a period of several months, these RMS members
pooled their individual efforts and ideas that ultimately resulted in
the previously mentioned article within the Rocky Mountain Skeptic.

Contrary to Mr. Sarner's assertion that I added nothing to the
original material, I personally made substantial contributions to the
production of a bar chart presenting the results.

The fact that the evaluation and chart of Quinn's list was an RMS
group project is reflected in a published description of events
written by Mr. Sarner's wife, Linda Rosa, in which she wrote, "We were
supposed to be impressed by the magnitude of it, but the skeptical
recipients had the bad form to actually analyze the list. We even
went so far as to produce a bar chart showing much much "fluff" the
list contained ..." (Skeptic Magazine, 1993: 3[1]:46] In that article
Ms. Rosa never credits, or mentions, RMS or her husband, Mr. Sarner.
In fact, her repeated use of "we" demonstrably indicates that she is
aware of a group effort.

Upon completion of our evaluation, I decided that the results
warranted publication. I first approached Mr. Sarner and suggested
that he be the one to write an article for submission to SI, but he
declined. Subsequently, with the approval of all involved, I wrote
and published my own description of the RMS project in our group's
1993 newsletter and with greater elaboration composed an article for
publication in SI and again for publication in SRAM.

To the best of my knowledge, the first time Mr. Sarner published a
categorization of Janet Quinn's reading list was in 1996, three years
after my original publication. As the president of RMS I was
responsible, and thus de facto chair of all ad hoc committees, which
included the TT project. While others had specific leadership roles I
had the specific responsibility of bringing information together so
that decisions could be made by the ad hoc committee. The data
subsequently published by the couple in 1996 has been modified from
that which I published in 1993, and they have added some original
commentary which is substantively dissimilar to that in the articles
that I authored.

Whereas Mr. Sarner now claims there has been no attribution for his
personal contribution to the categorization of Quinn's reading list,
either in SRAM or "elsewhere," my article in SI specifically thanked
those who contributed as follows: "Many thanks to members of the Rocky
Mountain Skeptics who helped with this report: Linda Rojas [Rosa],
Bill Aldorfer, Carla Selby, and Margin Tobias, and with special thanks
to Larry Sarner."

At the time, to my surprise, Mr. Sarner actually expressed displeasure
at having been identified in the credits for that article. My SRAM
article clearly references all relevant publications including
Ms. Rosa's and the SI article that does give attribution to
Mr. Sarner. Since much of my SRAM article contains material not
published elsewhere, and the rest being modifications and
clarification of the categorization of the early work, the
attributions were omitted. One can argue that everyone involved with
the original TT project should be explicitly thanked in any and all
articles that make use of the information that resulted, but surely
proper references to previous articles containing these should satisfy
reasonable readers.

Bela Scheiber
Consulting Editor of SRAM and Skeptical Inquirer
Member of Executive Council of CSICOP
President of the Rocky Mountain Skeptics

Editor's note: Despite these contending claims about authorship and
acknowledgement of contributors, the editors recognize that the
article published in SRAM was - and still is - a prime example of
good, analytical detective work that unmasks the emptiness of bloated
claims, in this case those made in support of a dubious and unproved

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