London. A well-known British Indian psychiatrist apparently has plagiarised the work of an American academic and published it off as his own in an article for a medical journal.
Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry appeared in February edition was written by Raj Persaud and went unnoticed outside the mental health community.
The articulate Persaud is one of the youngest doctors to become a consultant at the highly respected Maudsley teaching hospital in London, and has eight degrees. He is considered one of Britain's best-known psychiatrists and is seen often on television and radio.
Persaud writes on mental health matters in a string of publications and has presented the Radio 4 psychology programme "All In The Mind".
The alleged plagiarism came to light when Thomas Blass, professor of psychology at the University of Maryland, happened to read Persaud's article.
The piece, entitled "Why The Media Refuses To Obey", was about the social psychologist Stanley Milgram, famous for his 1963 "obedience" experiments, when people were encouraged to "electrocute" peers as punishment for a mistake.
Blass has written a book and numerous articles on Milgram. He said he was shocked by the similarity between Persaud's piece and his work.
"I am reading it [Persaud's piece] and all of my words are echoing back at me," he told The Guardian.
"He had taken paragraphs from my work, word for word. Over 50 percent of his piece was my work, which I have spent more than 10 years researching. I felt outrage, disbelief and incredulity this could happen, that a person who is himself a writer could do this. It's very disconcerting."
On reading Persaud's piece, Blass immediately contacted the editor of Progress in Neurology and Psychiatry, pointing out similarities and an internal investigation was made.
Persaud's explanation at the time was that he based the piece on an interview he conducted with Blass last November for his Radio 4 programme, "All In The Mind", and he admits on reflection the lack of reference to Blass was "perhaps an omission".
Consequently, the magazine's publisher, Wiley Interface Ltd, issued a formal retraction in the September edition of the journal, saying it sincerely regretted what had occurred.
When approached by the Guardian, Persaud said: "I am happy to apologise for the error, which occurred whereby when I cut and pasted the original copy, the references at the end were inadvertently omitted. We only became aware of the error after publication."
A spokesman for the South London and Maudsley NHS Trust, where Persaud is a consultant psychiatrist, said: "This is the first we've heard of it, so it's difficult to comment.
"All I can say is that we will reflect on the information presented to us and decide based on the evidence whether there is need for a internal review, in conjunction with the Institute of Psychiatry."
Since coming to prominence in 1994 on ITV's show "This Morning", Persaud has become Britain's most visible commentator on mental health. He has been criticised by some colleagues who suggest he spreads himself too thin - an allegation he rejects.
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