USC professor’s book recalled after multiple plagiarism reports

David Agus speaking
Agus is the director of the Lawrence Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine and the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine. He has written three books, all of which are New York Times and international bestsellers. (Courtesy Thatcher Cook | PopTech)

Simon & Schuster suspended sales of USC oncologist David Agus’ upcoming book after the Los Angeles Times reported finding 95 instances of plagiarism in the book Monday.

In “The Book of Animal Secrets: Nature’s Lessons for a Long and Happy Life,” the L.A. Times found 95 separate passages that were lifted from uncredited sources. Agus and Simon & Schuster announced that sales would be suspended until a revised and corrected edition can be released.

The book borrowed unattributed content, sometimes word for word, from publications including the New York Times, Wikipedia, National Geographic and various academic institutions’ websites and scientific journals. The plagiarized content in question ranged from sentences to “several continuous paragraphs,” according to the article.

The book contained sentences from other scientists and presented them as Agus’ own. In addition to content from academic sources, the book contained uncredited material from smaller media outlets and blogs.

In interviews the L.A. Times conducted with experts in scientific integrity and forensic plagiarism, the experts noted that the plagiarism seemed like particularly “low-tech” cut and paste jobs, which is unusual given the recent innovations in artificial intelligence programs such as ChatGPT.

The Book of Animal Secrets was originally scheduled for release Tuesday. About a week before its release, the book hit number one on Amazon’s bestseller list for books about animals.

“I take any claims of plagiarism seriously,” Agus said in an apology statement.

In a statement to the Daily Trojan Monday, the Keck School of Medicine wrote that the University “takes allegations of plagiarism very seriously and has processes in place to review such matters,” but that it could not comment further “given the confidential nature of personnel matters.”

Agus is the director of the Lawrence Ellison Institute for Transformative Medicine and the USC Center for Applied Molecular Medicine, and a professor of medicine and biomedical engineering. He also serves in leadership roles at the World Economic Forum and Global Health Security Consortium and has received acclaim for his innovations in medicine, including an Ellis Island Medal of Honor in 2017.

Agus is a contributor to CBS News and the author of “The End of Illness,” “A Short Guide to a Long Life” and “The Lucky Years: How to Thrive in the Brave New World of Health.” A CBS News spokesperson told the L.A. Times that Agus currently has no appearances planned as the network looks into the matter.