Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

Seven more retractions for anti-terrorism prof brings count to 15

with 8 comments

MemonAnti-terrorism researcher Nasrullah Memon has notched seven more retractions, bringing his total up to 15 — earning him a spot on our leaderboard.

We previously reported on eight pulled papers authored by Memon, based at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense. There was some confusion over whether his count then increased to nine — but, following a retracted retraction, his total was back to eight.

Now, it seems like the retracted retraction has been re-retracted, and six other of Memon’s publications have been pulled. Memon has also been found guilty of plagiarising his PhD thesis, and more of his work is being questioned online.

The retraction notices for the newly pulled material — all published by Springer — include the following statement:

This chapter contains a large amount of reused and uncited material that was not published within quotation marks.

In December 2014, an investigation into Memon’s PhD thesis by the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty found him to have been “scientifically dishonest” and guilty of plagiarism.

Memon’s thesis contained four types of plagiarism, according to the report:

  1. Almost direct copying of other texts without source references
  2. Paraphrasing of other texts without source references
  3. Paraphrasing of other texts with source references
  4. Wikipedia is given as a source

The report summarized the case as:

…a serious breach of good scientific practice and that the researcher had acted intentionally.  

More of Memon’s papers published between 2005 and 2011 are also being questioned on VroniPlag Wiki.

Here’s the book chapter that has been re-retracted after the previous retraction was modified into an erratum: “How Investigative Data Mining Can Help Intelligence Agencies to Discover Dependence of Nodes in Terrorist Networks,” from the book Advanced Data Mining and Applications. The chapter has been cited five times, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

The publisher of the book, Springer, told us in 2014:

I am afraid that the team who were instructed to upload an erratum, performed a retraction as well. To my knowledge, this is the first time that this has happened!

It appears as if the publisher has changed its mind once again, and has now turned that erratum back into a retraction. We’ve reached out to Springer asking why the erratum has been changed back to a retraction, and will update the post with anything else we learn.

Here’s the list of Memon’s other newly retracted book chapters:

Update 17/5/16 11:00am eastern: Following the ruling of the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty on Memon’s thesis, Aalborg University in Denmark, where Memon earned his PhD in 2009, has confirmed that they are conducting an internal investigation considering whether to revoke Memon’s PhD degree. A spokesperson from the University told us that a final decision is expected by the end of June 2016.

Hat tip: Gerhard Hindemith

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Written by Dalmeet Singh Chawla

May 9th, 2016 at 9:30 am

  • Dave Fernig May 9, 2016 at 9:52 am

    So a retracted retraction retracted. Does this count at one, two or three? I feel this might have been better expressed and explained by the late Dr Seuss

  • Miguel Roig May 9, 2016 at 10:04 am

    Item 3, ‘paraphrasing with source references’ caught my attention. The report states “Regarding the Complainant’s criticism about paraphrasing with source reference in the thesis, the Committee notes that proper paraphrasing with source references entails that the reader is left in no doubt about which passages have been paraphrased. In such a case, there will be no question of plagiarism”. True enough, however, it should be made clear that properly paraphrased material that is accompanied by a citation as to the source of that material is not plagiarism.

  • Marco May 9, 2016 at 12:14 pm

    This case raises some interesting questions for someone, like myself, working at a Danish University.

    Aalborg University, where Memon received his PhD, was still considering whether to retract his PhD degree as of 20th November 2015 in Danish
    apparently they still have not revoked his PhD more than 5 months later, and I really wonder why the decision to do so (or not) would have to take this long.

    SDU will not do anything until Aalborg University has taken a decision, which in my opinion is quite weird, since they could already do something because of the many retractions of his research papers (the original 8, these extra retractions don’t matter anymore). In essence they are communicating that a staff member will not be fired even in the case of repeated plagiarism! They will have to fire him if his PhD is taken, though, since having a PhD is a requirement for having an Associate Professor position.

    • Mac July 8, 2016 at 7:53 am

      This case is very strange indeed.
      Are not one resolution of the Danish dishonesty committee that confirmed that there was plagiarism in his phd thesis and 15 retractions from the 2 most important scientific publishing companies enough for SDU to act?
      What about the rest of the papers from Memon published in other non-well known publishers that Vroniplag has found contained also plagiarism. The total number of plariarized papers is 29 so far according to Vroniplag.
      How many plagiarized papers are needed for SDU to take action?
      The lack of action from SDU makes one wonder what kind of university is SDU?
      I imagine that taking away a phd degree is a legal issue that may take time and that may be the reason Aalbog University has not acted yet.

  • anonymous May 10, 2016 at 12:02 am

    “According to the Defendant, the Complainant has failed to demonstrate that there is a ban on using Wikipedia as a source in PhD theses. The Defendant states that text from Wikipedia is general knowledge and that therefore there is no requirement to cite sources. According to the Defendant, he did nevertheless cite the sources.”

    If you plan to cite something that is common knowledge and, I’d assume, referred to in similar papers, surely you could find a better source than wikipedia for a PhD thesis? That would require, perhaps, a few extra moments of your time. If you’re going to pick and choose references, is that really the one you want to stand by? Better yet, shouldn’t someone have noticed this issue before he was awarded the degree- a quick glance through the reference list?

  • Todd May 10, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    I’m not a member of the academic community, but I do like following these issues as someone who is interested in science. That said, do book chapters normally go through the same peer-review process as journal articles?

    • Barbara Piper May 11, 2016 at 9:33 am

      Academic publishers usually have book chapters peer reviewed. However, a reviewer normally reviews an entire manuscript, not just the one or two chapters relevant to his/her specialty, so in many cases the review is not as rigorous for some chapters. Most academic CVs separate the refereed articles and chapters from non-refereed articles and chapters.

  • Anonymous November 3, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    15 retractions and still a stable job at SDU’s The Maersk Mc-Kinney Moller Institute:

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