Plagiarism in Indian Journal of Dermatology earns Tunisian authors a 5-year submission ban

The Indian Journal of Dermatology has banned a group of Tunisian researchers from publishing in the journal after the authors were found to have plagiarized. According to a retraction notice that ran on the journal’s site in May: 

The paper titled “Dermatology Life Quality Index scores in vitiligo: Reliability and validity of the Tunisian version”, authored by Jalel A, Soumaya GS, Hamdaoui MH, published in Indian Journal of Dermatology 2009; 54 (4): 330–333, was found to be plagiarized. The article has been retracted and the authors are barred from submitting their manuscript(s) to IJD for the next 5 years.

The notice doesn’t say what study was plagiarized. We’ve tried to contact corresponding author Akrem Jalel, of the Ecole Supérieure des Sciences et Techniques de la Santé de Tunis, as well as the journal’s editor. We’ll update with anything we hear back.

The Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) doesn’t recommend such bans, but we’ve seen at least one in the recent past, a 10-year sanction against serial image manipulator Naoki Mori.

20 thoughts on “Plagiarism in Indian Journal of Dermatology earns Tunisian authors a 5-year submission ban”

  1. Banning people from specific journals seems fairly pointless. Unless it’s Nature or Science, there will always be plenty of others you can go for instead. I guess it ‘sends a message’, but so does retraction.

  2. The ban is a light response to a heineous crime.
    Unfortunately there are different shades of plagiarism ranging from failing to acknowledge a sentence by another author to what I call manuscript theft. In this the ‘plagiarist’ lifts someone else’s publication and changes the author(s).
    This is unmitigated theft. It should fetch a life-ban.

  3. LOL! Funny one this:
    “Using a standard “forward-backward” translation procedure, the English language version of the questionnaire was translated into Persian (the Iranian official language) by two bilinguals. Seventy patients with vitiligo attending the Department of Dermatology, Regional Hospital, Medenine, Tunisia, were enrolled in this study.”

    “The final draft of the Persian version was administered to a sample of patients with vitiligo that referred to Department of Dermatology, Regional hospital, Medenine, Tunisia.”

    Hmmmm….this was not even noticed during the peer review? What the heck were Iranian patients doing in Tunesia

    My guess: the original paper was from an Iranian group and the plagiarising authors had such poor understanding of the English language that they did not even realise the internal contradictions.

  4. Ah! Ivan, look careful when you go to the retracted article you linked to. On the right there is a box with related articles. Very first hit:

    With the exception of a few cases where they referred to Tunisia, it truly is a literal copy. Not a translation, not huge swaps of copied text, no, almost complete copy-paste!

      1. Plagiarism hardly ever comes alone. But please note, Annie, that your links will not work, as they go through the proxy of your university library. I needed to extract the direct link manually.

        Note in the introduction that they have altered “localized patients” with “experimental mice”…just not everywhere. Their intro ends with
        “We investigated the role of antioxidant systems by measuring the levels of CAT, superoxide dismutase (SOD), and the plasma levels of malondialdehyde (MDA) in vitiligo patients with active localized disease, and in healthy controls.”

        But they did more than just copy significant parts of the introduction and the discussion. Compare the tables 1 of the two articles. The results are identical, apart from the number of individuals in the groups and exchanging “patients” with “mice” (but they forgot to exchange that in the header of the table).

        To be quite honest, their copy-paste has been so sloppy, I really am surprised no reviewer noticed this. It was worse in this retracted paper (why use Persian in Tunesia?? C’mon, reviewers, this is so odd!)

      2. Please note that I informed the Editor if Indian J Dermatol of this second obviously plagiarized paper. No need for others to do so.

  5. Another one by Jalel that is highly suspect.

    Profile of vitiligo in the south of Tunisia.
    Jalel Akrem, Aicha Baroudi, Taher Aichi, Fethi Houch and Mohamed Hédi Hamdaoui Int J Dermatol 47(7):670-4 (2008) PMID 18613871

    This article is very very similar (copied word-for-word in numerous places throughout) with the following article:

    N. Al-Mutairi and A. Sharma, “Profile of vitiligo in Farwaniya region in Kuwait,
    ” Kuwait Medical Journal, vol. 38, no. 2, pp. 128–131, 2006

    In addition, the data from Jalel, although n is about 1/10 of Al-Mutairi, is reported in almost exactly the same manner. It’s almost as if Jalel took Al-Mutari’s numbers and divided by 10 throughout. Looks too good to be true.

  6. To ban or not to ban the authors?

    Retractions are now following the interests of social engineering rather than interests of science. Those who are writing the retractions and the rules for retractions are happy to promote their own social and political views, and so the objectivity needed in science is either lost or perverted. These experts turn their political views into the journal policies. As I previously documented, the experts, in their zeal, can go to falsify the facts and fabricate ridiculous “justifications” for the wrong judgements. The question that remains is whether they also receive monetary gains from these manipulations; this has never been proved, but some practices with the drug companies indicate that this can well be the case in the modern science. This business has turned into the hell of a nightmare, because the zealots operate without any basis in law, just freely fancying their next “ethical” rule in the field of “misconduct”.

    Yet, someone who is producing a fraud, working in a public (or private) institution and publishing it in a scientific journal, must be held criminally responsible. The retraction of this product of fraud in a journal must clearly state all corrections needed by science, and related to every aspect of science (data, authorship, etc.), but this now became a matter of “ethics”, i. e. subject to social and political manipulations!

    An example of a discussion of the “ethical” choices in the retraction business can be seen here: “How to Handle Plagiarism Without Destroying the Author” at

    It really doesn’t matter if you call it “misconduct” (that also includes fraud), but the “ethics” business must go.

  7. I think that oublication bans are great- if one cannot be trusted to write accurately, one also cannot be trusted to work accurately. I am rateful to Retraction Watch for making this information public. Could there also be an archive by author’s name so that reviewers of papers could check whether the author is on the retraction list? then bans from any journal would have a widespread effect.
    Elaine Newman

    1. Perhaps the one of the reasons COPE doesn’t recommend bans or black-lists like you suggest is that it could be interpreted as disincentive for coauthors to whistleblow on one another.

      If a set of coauthors only discovers that wrong/inappropriate/incorrect/irreproducible things were published after publication, then do the right thing and report/retract – should they be on a black-list too? I realize that you might say coauthors in that situation should have caught problem earlier. It just doesn’t always work that way, as regular readers of this blog have probably figured out.

      For example, these two cases:

    1. shame on them, as a tunisian researcher i recommend a worldwide publication retraction for these authors.
      also, the tunisian gouvernement should punish these people. thez are not tunisian researcher no more, shame on them

  8. The issue concerned is of quite serious nature and ban on such authors are justified….But what about “editors and reviewers”? did not they FAIL ?? Should not they take their job more seriously?

    Its bit off the track….But i would like to share my experience here…. I have submitted an article to a journal in 2008… I got an automated reply confirming submission… then nothing on this…. i just got some more automated mails on this…I emailed to editor stating i do not want to proceed with this article and want to withdraw. Then i sent the same article to another journal and got it published there. Now in 2011, they send me a mail asking me to confirm the proof of the same article. the very next day i get a mail from editor accusing me of “duplication of the article” and i got banned from the journal. Now i bring the attention of editor to my mail regarding withdrawal of the article, but i do not get any reply from him. Should not he apologize? All such things highlight another dimension of the problem in hand- “responsibility of editor and reviewers”.

    Now the last thing, i have seen a case, diagnosed it and planned to report. i am almost done with the manuscript. Meanwhile, patient attends another institution and researchers from there report his case and got published. Now what should i do? should i go ahead with the manuscript? Or drop the plan? what if i am not sure if its the same patient??

  9. Reply of professor Hamdaoui as a co-author of the article

    Dear Mr. Editor of Indian Journal of Dermatology (IJD).

    It is with great unfortunate surprise that I found yesterday (September 28, 2012) my name display on the website due to plagiarism of articles published by Akram Jalel in IJD. I inform you sir editor that I’m a scientist in biological Sciences field and not a doctor in medicine. My “Research Unit” works primarily on oxidative stress and metabolic diseases and I’m not a dermatologist. The field of dermatology does not interest me at all. I have no relationship with either dermatology or with vitiligo. Mr. Jalel Akrem is a late student of medicine, worked in my lab in 2008 only to assess oxidative stress in mice and he leaves in December 2008. Since this date, I don’t see him. He published these articles in your Journal in 2009 without consulting me, I’ve never seen these items, I did not read these articles and I didn’t given my agreement on these items, not signed their copyright and I’m not at all aware of the publication of these articles. I saw only titles out on the Internet in field of dermatology that I was not interested. Normally, all authors must sign the copyright of all manuscripts prior to submission, for me, I have not signed and you can check through the copyright because I don’t read and seen these manuscripts. It is only him who wanted to add my name and other co-authors including Pr Soumaya GS without telling us or giving our consent. Since it is only Jalel Akrem is the responsible who had signed the copyright. Therefore, I and the co-authors assume no liability for the consequences of this Plagiarism. I send you letter Monday that approved by our hierarchy authority “the Director of the “Ecole Supérieure des Sciences et Techniques de la Santé de Tunis” who confirms that he wasn’t previously aware of these items and he assumes no responsibility.
    Dear Editor, I am a senior university Professor, advanced in age and I work in the field of research for many years in addition to supervision of student’s thesis for more than 20 years. It’s not in my nature to cheat, I am very loyal to my job and I never thought this kind of behavior, I’m totally innocent as well as co-authors. This page of Plagiarism has seriously damaged my dignity, credibility of my research unit, our School University and our country “ Tunisia”, therefore, I kindly ask you to condemn only the responsible author Jalel akrem and remove my name and co-authors from the page Plagiarism in Indian Journal of Dermatology earns Tunisian authors a 5-year submission ban.
    Thank you for your comprehension.

    Pr Hamdaoui MH
    Research Unit.
    Ecole Supérieure des Sciences et Techniques de la Santé de Tunis

  10. Clarification of Pr Hamdaoui MH

    I have sent a clarification letter to the Editor and Editor board of the Indian Journal of Dermatology in which I clearly explained with all supporting arguments that I have no relationship with the plagiarism of the paper titled “Dermatology Life Quality Index scores in vitiligo: Reliability and validity of the Tunisian version”, authored by Jalel A, Soumaya GS, Hamdaoui MH, published in Indian Journal of Dermatology 2009; 54 (4): 330–333. The corresponding author Mr Jalel Akrem had citing my name and others as co-authors in this paper. However, the plagiarized paper was published after leaving my Unit (2009) without notifying us or consulting or giving our opinion, not read or sign the copyright. So, that himself is solely responsible for the plagiarism because he is the corresponding author. I explained again that the plagiarized paper concerned human model has been published in 2009 after he leaves my “Research Unit”. We have never worked in the man in the field of vitiligo and dermatology is not our field of research. We are scientist biological sciences not a medicine dermatologist doctor. The editor of IJD explained the retraction reason by the fact that the authors had not given sufficient clarification (please see below in the retraction notices “In the background of serial academic dishonesty, the authors were initially served with a show-cause notice and on receipt of their clarification (deemed inadequate), based on unanimous decision of the Editorial Board, a complete restriction on the part of the journal on all future articles in which they are assigned/mentioned as an author/ coauthor was imposed and the corresponding author was communicated accordingly. Now the second article is also being formally retracted from the online and offline version of the journal. IJD® maintains a strict principle of absolute zero tolerance in matters like these.- Editor, IJD®”
    However, me Pr Hamdaoui, I never receive any e-mail or correspondence from the editor about this subject from the IJD. Therefore the editor board is free to provide any documents which can contradict this fact. Additionally, I have received from the author Jalel Akrem an E-mail in French language “See below” which confirms that I not have any responsibility in the publication of these papers and he is the only responsible of all work assessed on vitiligo research. Accordingly, I decline any responsibility for me, my “research unit” and my institution “ESSTST.”
    E-mail of Jalel Akram
    AKREM Jalel
    1 oct. (Il y a 8 jours)

    à moi

    bonjour Professeur,

    Je n’étais jamais ingrat et je le serai jamais.Je suis totalement reconnaissant à tout ce que vous aviez fait et vous faites pour moi.que le bon dieu soit le témoin sur mes paroles.
    soyez rassuré que je ne reconnais à votre égard que le respect et l’estime.
    Pour l’article dont dont il existe un conflit,j’ai envoyé une lettre explicative à l’éditeur de l’IJD. Je lui ai expliqué que j’ai cité votre nom en tant que directeur de thèse mais que vous n’êtes en rien de tout ça; que je suis l’unique membre de l’unité qui travaille sur le vitiligo et que si jamais ils tiennent à pointer quelqu’un de plagiaire; c’est à moi qu’il faudrait le faire.
    Ils m’ont expliqué que la lettre dont ils envoyé à world press me concerne moi seulement et strictement et qu’à la citation de votre nom sur le web aucune note ne s’affichait à votre égard. Je redemanderai aux responsables de l’IJD de vous faire épargner de cet affaire et je vous mettrai en copie.
    Je vous répète, encore, le témoignage de ma profonde reconnaissance et mon total respect.

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