Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

A plagiarism loop: Authors copied from papers that had copied from others

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2Note to self: If you’re going to duplicate your own work, don’t copy from papers that plagiarize others’ research.

Just such a mistake has cost a PhD candidate three papers — although his co-author argues that a company is in part to blame.

Hossein Jafarzadeh, who is studying mechanical engineering at the University of Tehran, apparently asked a company to complete photomicroscopy for his work. Instead of doing to the work, the company provided him with an image taken from another paper, according to Karen Abrinia, his co-author, who is based at the same institution.

That’s the explanation that Abrinia gave when we asked about three retractions that the pair share, at least.

What the notices tell us is a little more convoluted. Plagiarized material from two different papers ended up in two different papers by the pair. Then, the researchers copied from their own papers in a third paper. (We’re unclear if Abrinia attributes every step of the mess to a company or not. Confused yet?) 

We’ve also discovered three other retractions for Jafarzadeh, also for plagiarism and duplication, bringing his total to six.

Let’s start with the three papers Jafarzadeh co-authored with Abrinia. “Numerical and experimental analyses of repetitive tube expansion and shrinking processed AZ91 magnesium alloy tubes,” was published in February 2015, and retracted in July, 2015. (Predictably given the time frame, it has been cited only once, by the retraction notice, according to Thomson Reuters Web of Science.)

Here’s the retraction notice:

The Editors of Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology have decided to retract the paper referenced above, because the article contains substantial duplication of text and figures from two previously-retracted papers from the same authors:

RETRACTED: Repetitive tube expansion and shrinking (RTES) as a novel SPD method for fabrication of nanostructured tubes Materials Science and Engineering: A, Vol. 596, 194-199, 2014, H. Jafarzadeh, K. Abrinia, A. Babaei http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921509313014111

And

RETRACTED: Applicability of repetitive tube expansion and shrinking (RTES) as a novel SPD method for fabricating UFGed pure copper tubes Mater. Sci. Eng. A 609, 65–71, 2014, H. Jafarzadeh, K. Abrinia, A. Babaei http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921509314005607

These two articles had themselves been retracted for plagiarism of the following two papers, respectively:

Microstructure and mechanical properties of AZ91D magnesium alloy prepared by compound extrusion Qiang Chen, Zhixiang Zhao, Dayu Shu, Zude Zhao Mater. Sci. Eng. A, 528 (2011) 3930-3934 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921509311000360

And

Microstructure, texture and mechanical properties of pure copper processed by ECAP and subsequent cold rolling Sh. Ranjbar Bahadori, K. Dehghani, F. Bakhshandeh Mater. Sci. Eng. A 583 (2013) 36–42, 10.1016/j.msea.2013.06.061 http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0921509313007211

The retraction notices for the two Materials Science and Engineering: A papers mentioned and linked to above were both published in 2015, and are almost identical, except for the papers that they plagiarize from:

The authors have plagiarized part of a paper that had already appeared in [Materials Science and Engineering: A]. One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere. Re-use of any data should be appropriately cited. As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.

In October 2015, the journal updated the notices as follows:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editors.

The authors have plagiarized part of a paper that had already appeared in [Materials Science and Engineering: A]. An investigation by the College of Engineering, University of Tehran has concluded that the co-author K. Abrinia (the PhD supervisor of the corresponding author) was not aware of the fact that the figures were reused from the above-mentioned article. One of the conditions of submission of a paper for publication is that authors declare explicitly that their work is original and has not appeared in a publication elsewhere. Re-use of any data should be appropriately cited. As such this article represents a severe abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.

(This isn’t the first time that a journal has published work that plagiarizes from its own pages. We recently reported on a case in another Elsevier journal, Desalination. A spokesperson for the publisher told us in March that the software journals use to check papers, CrossCheck, “albeit very useful, does not give absolute answers about the presence or absence of plagiarism.”)

Abrinia, a co-author on the three retracted papers, told us that the plagiarized material came from a company:

What I could tell you about these papers is that the problem was that Mr. Jafarzadeh used a photograph which was used In another previously published paper without giving reference to it, otherwise his research was original and the result of his own work. This came about because he gave his samples to somebody (company) to obtain a microscopic image. Instead of doing the photo microscopy, this person had provided a photograph from another paper which has been for the same material. I believe that the research work done by Mr. Jafarzadeh is original and it could be proven by examining the papers in details. However the photographs taken from other papers are not justified and that is the reason the papers have been retracted.

However, even if the authors inadvertently plagiarized others’ work, that doesn’t explain why they proceeded to duplicate from their own work. And Abrinia’s explanation does not account for the fact that two papers contained material plagiarized from different sources.

Abrinia did not respond to our requests for the name of the company.

Alireza Babaei, also at the University of Tehran, is a co-author on one of the Materials Science and Engineering: A papers. This isn’t the only publishing headache Jafarzadeh and Babaei have faced recently.

In August, they lost a paper titled “Accumulative radial-forward extrusion (ARFE) processing as a novel severe plastic deformation technique.” (This paper lists Jafarzadeh’s affiliation as Azad University in Iran; given that he has the same general geographical location, co-author, and field we have strong reason to think this is the same Hossein Jafarzadeh.)

Here’s the notice:

The Editors of the Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology have decided to retract this paper, because it contains a copied and manipulated figure from the following publication:

Mehdi Eizadjou, Habib Danesh Manesh and Kamal Janghorban Microstructure and mechanical properties of ultra-fine grains (UFGs) aluminum strips produced by ARB process Journal of Alloys and Compounds, 474 (2009) 406–415

Fig. 1 in the Journal of Alloys and Compounds was intentionally modified to conceal plagiarism and is presented as Fig. 5 in the JMST article. Although the figure is not essential to the results in this paper, the misconduct is serious enough to warrant a retraction. The Editors of JMST offer apologies to readers of the journal for not detecting this misconduct during the assessment process.

We have reached out to the journal to ask if a third party company might have been involved in this case.

Earlier this year, the pair lost another from Materials Science and Engineering: A, for duplicating and manipulating an image from a paper on which Jafarzadeh is an author.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Tube cyclic extrusion–compression (TCEC) as a novel severe plastic deformation method for cylindrical tubes:”

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief.

The authors have manipulated an image that had already appeared in Mater. Des., 35 (2012) 251–258, 10.1016/j.matdes.2011.09.057. Image manipulation violates the principle of ethical publishing and is not acceptable. As such this article represents an abuse of the scientific publishing system. The scientific community takes a very strong view on this matter and apologies are offered to readers of the journal that this was not detected during the submission process.

The 2014 paper has been cited five times.

And in 2014, Jafarzadeh lost another paper for plagiarism. Here’s the retraction notice:

We, the Editor and Publishers of Materials and Manufacturing Processes, are retracting the following article:

G. Faraji and H. Jafarzadeh, “Accumulative Torsion Back (ATB) Processing as a New Plastic Deformation Technique,” Materials and Manufacturing Processes 27.5 (2012): 507–511 http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/10426914.2011.593235

We are now cognizant that experimental data from the following prior-published work was used in this paper without proper citation:

N. Pardis and R. Ebrahimi, “Deformation Behavior in Simple Shear Extrusion (SSE) as a New Severe Plastic Deformation Technique,” Materials Science and Engineering Part A 527.1-2 (2009) http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.msea.2009.08.051

These actions constitute a breach of warranties made by the authors with respect to originality. We note that we received, peer-reviewed, accepted, and published the article in good faith based on these warranties, and censure this action.

The retracted article will remain online to maintain the scholarly record, but it will be digitally watermarked on each page as RETRACTED.

The 2012 paper has been cited 10 times.

We have reached out to Jafarzadeh, Babaei, the University of Tehran, and the editors of Materials Science and Engineering: A and the Journal of Mechanical Science and Technology for more information. We will update this post with anything else we learn.

And in case you’re wondering, we’ve seen this sort of thing before.

Update 1/30/17 1:15 p.m. eastern: We’ve updated the story to include the updated retraction notices for the Materials Science and Engineering: A papers, which we weren’t aware of at the time of publication.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen

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Comments
  • Shecky R September 5, 2016 at 5:39 pm

    It’s really too bad you’ve reported on this… you’ve robbed The Onion of some potentially great material here.

  • Ken September 5, 2016 at 5:58 pm

    It seems to be a bit dubious describe in a paper that some part of the experimental work was performed without saying that it was actually performed by someone else, and then to claim that it was the fault of an outside agency. It should be standard procedure for any scientific work that is performed to be either mentioned in the paper or to appear in the acknowledgements.

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