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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Eight papers by anti-terrorism professor retracted for plagiarism

with 6 comments

Nasrullah Memon

Nasrullah Memon, via University of Southern Denmark

An anti-terrorism researcher at the University of Southern Denmark has had a number of papers in conference proceedings retracted for plagiarism.

Debora Weber-Wulff, who has researched plagiarism for a decade, reports on her blog Copy, Shake, and Paste that eight papers by Nasrullah Memon have been retracted after the Vroniplag website revealed similarities between his work and that of other authors.

According to a university website, Memon is

an expert in the fight against terror networks on the internet and is one of the main forces behind the new ‘Counterterrorism Research Lab’ at the University of Southern Denmark. Together with Professor Uffe Kock Wiil, he and their other colleagues from the research group join the fight against terrorism in several fields.

It turns out that the “new trends” in “Detecting New Trends in Terrorist Networks,” which appeared in the Proceedings of the 2010 International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining (ASONAM), may not have been so new, according to the retraction notice:

After careful and considered review of the content and authorship of this paper by a duly constituted expert committee, this paper has been found to be in violation of IEEE’s Publication Principles.

This paper has copied portions of text from the sources cited below. The lead author, Nasrullah Memon, was found to be solely responsible for the violation. The original text was copied without attribution (including appropriate references to the original author(s) and/or paper title) and without permission.

“Social Network Analysis and Information Fusion for AntiTerrorism”
by Pontus Svenson, Per Svensson, and Hugo Tullberg
in the Proceedings of the 2006 Conference on Civil and Military Readiness (CIMI), May 2006

and

Data Mining: Concepts and Techniques (second edition),
by Jiawei Han and Micheline Kamber
Morgan Kaufmann, Elsevier, 2006

Another paper, “Detecting High-Value Individuals in Covert Networks: 7/7 London Bombing Case Study,” in the Proceedings of the IEEE/ACS International Conference on Computer Systems and Applications, 2008, plagiarized from a whopping 16 papers, according to the notice.

Here are the others, whose notices say the same thing and also list the plagiarized papers:

None of Memon’s papers has been cited more than a handful of times, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

The Vroniplag analysis began with Memon’s 2007 PhD thesis at the University of Aalborg, which was also found to have included large swaths of plagiarized text. Earlier this year, Memon told the Danish press that someone had tampered with the published thesis.

We’ve tried to contact Memon for comment, and will update with anything we hear back.

Update, 9:45 a.m. Eastern, 1/15/13: Memon tells us by email that he is dealing with a family illness, and will send us more comment next week, but said:

I would like to inform you that I totally disagree and have serious reservation about the retractions.

Update, 9:45 p.m. Eastern, 1/28/13: Memon elaborated on his reservations:

I would like to clarify that all of my publications are of scientific nature and all of them has a literature review section that is sometimes named as State of the Art. The papers which are retracted are considered by IEEE as containing some amount of copied text. It should also be noted that the copied text in this case appears in form of some common definitions in “Introduction” and the “Literature Review” sections of the article (s). Generally, both of the sections are used to describe the relevant theories that exist in the field and are not regarded as the scientific contribution of the authors. I am of the view that for a few lines of common definitions in the literature review should not be found enough to void the overall impact of the paper and that does not essentially mean that whatever is proposed is meaningless. The same is actually understanding of the scientific plagiarism research community, for example, consider the following:

I think that plagiarism needs to be defined differently for science and engineering compared to the arts. In the arts, words are used to convey feelings or particular interest in the arrangement of words; science and engineering use words to describe products or processes. It is difficult to achieve clear and adequate descriptions of products or processes without using the same words as previously used. The value of these words lies in rational interpretation rather than irrational emotion. Therefore, I would want to see lines from a poem included in quotation marks and given an acknowledgement of their source, but I would want neither quotation marks nor source attribution for the description of a hemostat.” [Source: IEEE Engineering in Medicine and Biology Magazine vol. 29(2)]

However, It seems that IEEE does not agree with my point of view or the point of view of the scientific plagiarism research community. In fact, I also want to describe a second problem in the IEEE’s adopted process, considering one (retracted) paper “Novel Algorithms for Sub-group Detection in Terrorist Networks” was retracted with a retraction note that guides the potential referrers to follow  the links to offended articles. In this case, anyone who wants to refer to the algorithms proposed by us will be misguided to use the articles which do not contain the same algorithms and makes the retraction note misleading. I have raised these concerns in the form of appeal to IEEE, but unfortunately, I am yet unanswered.

Hat tip: Gerhard Hindemith

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Written by Ivan Oransky

January 16, 2013 at 8:05 am

6 Responses

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  1. Looks like this counter-terror expert’s career has bombed.

  2. “Earlier this year, Memon told the Danish press that someone had tampered with the published thesis.”
    Probably al-Qaeda.

    chirality

    January 16, 2013 at 9:12 am

  3. Or the CIA…

    Bill

    January 16, 2013 at 9:18 am

  4. Couldn’t resist:
    “De Nile ain’t just a river in Egypt.”

    puzzled monkey

    January 16, 2013 at 10:53 am

    • Vroniplag has shown that Memon copied and pasted many parts of his papers. Yes authors can use similar words but not copy and paste as if the words were their own without mentioning the sources as Memon did. According to Memon’s argument it will be easy to write papers since all state of the art sections of the papers will be identical. Finally is not only the papers that were plagiarized but also his phd thesis, to which all the plagiarized papers referenced!!

      Amazingly (or better cynically) in spite of all the evidence he argued that “somebody tampered his thesis”????

      Memon cites ONE comment sent to the editor of a magazaine as ” the point of view of the scientific plagiarism research community” but he conviniently does not mention what the author of the same latter writes later on

      “Identical strings of two, three, or more words are not at all rare in descriptive writings. Identical strings of 100 words would clearly indicate plagiarism.”

      Well according to Vroniplag and this definition in the letter mentioned by Mr. Memon his papers are clearly plagiarized.

      amazed

      February 11, 2013 at 4:05 am

      • According to a Danish newspaper, Aalborg University gave N. Memon a new chance to turn in a new manuscript of his PhD thesis, given that clearly the first one was plagiarized in 65% according to vronipag.

        According to the newspaper, amazingly or better bizarrely, the new thesis that N. Memon turned in WAS ALSO PLAGIARIZED!!

        Aalborg university has submmited the latest (plagiarized) N. Memon’s PhD thesis to the danish council of academic honesty.

        bizarrely

        July 5, 2013 at 1:06 pm


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