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Dr. David Agus accused of plagiarism, prompting book recall

Dr. David Agus was accused of plagiarizing portions of "The Book of Animal Secrets," prompting him to ask publisher Simon & Schuster to recall the book a day before its scheduled release. A subsequent report found similar problems in Agus' three previously published books, and his co-author said she took responsibility.

Agus, a prominent oncologist and biomedical researcher based in Los Angeles, is also a longtime CBS News medical contributor.

The Los Angeles Times reported on March 6 it found "at least" 95 passages in "The Book of Animal Secrets" that were not credited but resembled text that first appeared elsewhere. It said that, at times, the passages were word for word. 

"The passages in question range in length from a sentence or two to several continuous paragraphs," the Times reported. "The sources borrowed from without attribution include publications such as the New York Times and National Geographic, scientific journals, Wikipedia and the websites of academic institutions."

"The book also leans heavily on uncredited material from smaller and lesser-known outlets," it said.

The Los Angeles Times then reviewed Agus' previous three books — "The End of Illness," "A Short Guide to a Long Life" and "The Lucky Years" — and reported on March 17 that it had found "more than 120 passages that are virtually identical to the language and structure of previously published material. Sources include newspaper and magazine stories, scientific journal articles, popular science books, Wikipedia and blogs."

"Some of the passages go on for multiple pages. Scores of paragraphs are near-exact copies of other people's work," the paper reported.

Writer Kristin Loberg, who co-authored all four books, took responsibility In a statement to the L.A. Times and said Agus was not to blame. "I accept complete responsibility for any errors my work may have contained," she said. "I apologize from the bottom of my heart to the authors, publishers, creators of works that were not appropriately credited, and those interested in the important public health issues addressed by these books."

"I am grateful that my collaborator has confirmed that I did not contribute to, nor was I aware of, any of the plagiarized or non-attributed passages in my books, and that she has accepted full responsibility for her actions involving me and the other authors she has worked with," Agus said in a statement provided to CBS News. 

"This has been a painful but valuable learning experience for me and I want to reiterate my deepest regrets for my own lack of rigor in supervising my collaborator in our process of finalizing the manuscripts. After learning of the problems with my previous books, I immediately posted corrections on my website, and those books will be reissued. I have asked my publisher not to publish The Book of Animal Secrets, my new book, until complete corrections are made, which are in progress. In the meantime, thank you to all who have supported me throughout these difficult days."

He accused Loberg, who has co-written numerous books with other authors, of misleading him about the manuscript. "I followed standard protocols and my attorney and I received several verbal and written assurances from this highly respected individual that she had run the book through multiple software checks to ensure proper attributions," Agus said. 

Publisher Simon & Schuster (a subsidiary of CBS News' parent company, Paramount Global) said in a statement that Agus conducted a review of his earlier books after the issues with "The Book of Animal Secrets" came to light. It said Agus "discovered multiple passages that were either unsourced or that used other authors' language." He "immediately alerted Simon & Schuster to these issues, posted new sourcing notes for these books to his website, and will work with the publisher to revise the relevant passages so that new editions may be issued," the company said.

It adds, "Dr. Agus' collaborator has accepted full responsibility for these errors: we regret their inclusion in the books."

After the L.A. Times' initial report came out on March 6, Agus said he asked Simon & Schuster to halt publication and distribution of the latest book. He said he planned to rewrite the passages in question, provide "proper and full attribution" and release a revised edition in the future. A release date for the updated book has not yet been announced.

"I want to sincerely apologize to the scientists and writers whose work or words were used or not fully attributed," Agus said. "Writers should always be credited for their work, and I deeply regret these mistakes and the lack of rigor in finalizing the book."

Simon & Schuster said Agus decided — with its full support — to recall that book at his own expense "until a fully revised and corrected edition can be released." The company has ceased distribution and advised its retail and distribution partners to return copies.

"We take these matters seriously, as does the author, and regret that these errors were included in the initial editions of the book," the company said.

Agus became a CBS News contributor in 2013 and has reported on a broad range of medical topics for CBS News' broadcasts. 

"We are reviewing the situation with Dr. Agus' book," a CBS News spokesperson said in a statement on March 6. "As a news organization, we take accusations of plagiarism seriously. Dr. Agus is not currently scheduled to make any upcoming appearances on our air."  

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