Which came first? Plagiarism flap forces retraction of chicken nugget paper

food chem coverIt never pays to take a closer look at the inside of a chicken nugget.

The journal Food Chemistry has retracted a 2010 article by Iranian researchers who claimed to have used spectroscopy to examine the inner workings of breaded-fried chicken nuggets. Trouble was, someone else had already done the work.

Issues with the paper first surfaced in March, in the form of a correction that should have given the editors serious indigestion:

A. Yavari, A. Heshmati, M. Hamedi, S. Haghbin

RETRACTED: VIS/NIR hyper-spectroscopy technique for the measurement of moisture and fat contents of breaded-fried chicken nuggets

The name of A. Heshmati was included in the authorship group of this article in error, and A. Heshmati was assigned as corresponding author by A. Yavari without notification. The correct author line appears above. [The list as amended read: A. Yavari, M. Hamedi, S. Haghbin.]

Then came the retraction notice:

This article has been retracted: please see Elsevier Policy on Article Withdrawal (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/withdrawalpolicy). This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief. The authors have plagiarized significant parts of a thesis published online in 2005: Quality Evaluation of Frying Oil and Chicken Nuggets Using Visible/Nearinfrared Hyper-spectral Analysis by Samira Kazemi Sangdehi (http://webpages.mcgill.ca/staff/deptshare/FAES/066-Bioresource/Theses/theses/339SamiraKazemi2005/339SamiraKazemi2005.pdf). 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.

The paper has been cited twice, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge, including once by “Mathematical Modeling of Moisture Distribution and Kinetics in Cheese Drying.”

Sangdehi’s thesis, written for a degree from McGill University, is available on Google Books, where interested readers also can find a link to the well-regarded (not joking here) kids’ book Attack of the Chicken Nugget Man.

Frankly, we’re not sure why the editors didn’t retract the paper immediately, given that not only was Heshmati not the corresponding author, but wasn’t any other kind of author, either. Had they done so, they might have walked away from the mess without — wait for it — egg on their faces.

Update, 2:15 p.m. Eastern, 12/3/12: Meanwhile, the Iranian researchers must have thought they’d hit on a pretty slick way of getting more publications (they hadn’t), because we found another retraction involving the group.

This one comes from the Journal of the American Oil Chemists’ Society, for a 2009 paper titled “Investigation of Frying Oil Quality Using VIS/NIR Hyperspectral Analysis.”

According to the notice:

This article has been retracted at the request of the Editor-in-Chief as it constitutes complete plagiarism of the following article: “Evaluation of Frying Oil Quality Using VIS/NIR Hyperspectral Analysis”, by S. Kazemi, N. Wang, M. Ngadi, and S.O. Prasher. Agricultural Engineering International: The CIGR Ejournal, vol. VII, Manuscript FP05 001, September 2005.

14 thoughts on “Which came first? Plagiarism flap forces retraction of chicken nugget paper”

  1. My gut feeling is that Heshmati is a big fish in chicken nugget research and his name is added routinely to any chicken nugget paper coming out of his research group even if his own contribution consists of casting a shadow on people doing the actual research. He probably got wind of the plagiarism accusation and therefore preemptively removed his name from the list of authors to avoid any bad taste in his mouth. Yavari was probably the guy who committed the plagiarism, so he was re-assigned as the corresponding author of this lemon before it was retracted. Thankfully, because this is a case of plagiarism, and not data manipulation, it is probably safe to assume that the findings of the cheese paper stand.

    1. My gut feeling is that you may be wrong, considering that Hesmati comes from a different university than the three others. Thus, they are not his underlings.

      1. Don’t pay any attention to chirality, he is clueless when it comes to poultry culinary science. Besides, I have it on very good authority that Heshmati is a breast man.

        I never saw a chicken nugget the length and breadth of Iran when I was there – and that was before sanctions and Mossad targeted assassinations of leading scientists.

        1. littlegreyrabbit, I think you are unfairly maligning an insightful and helpful member of the Retraction Watch community. While most of his work is not directly poultry-related, Chirality has an extensive record relating to various species of possibly-edible animals and therefore his contributions to this topic are valuable.

          Here are just a few examples, you can easily find more:

          “Chirality of the sulphoxide metabolites of fenbendazole and albendazole in sheep.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2287028

          “The convoluted evolution of snail chirality.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16217668

          “Induction of epoxide hydrolase and glucuronosyl transferase by isothiocyanates and intact glucosinolates in precision-cut rat liver slices: importance of side-chain substituent and chirality.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21132492

          “Chemical communication: chirality in elephant pheromones.” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16371998

          For a more detailed discussion, see “Does chirality matter?” http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18480679

  2. Marco: Heshmati might be at a different place than the others but the story still does not add up. I know that “honorary authorship”, or whatever the current euphemism for taking undue credit is in vogue, is commonplace. However, you do not designate such people as corresponding authors unless they are your superiors and they muscle through their name to the pedestal. Now, as the corresponding author Heshmat must have been in communication with the editor of Food Chemistry when the manuscript was being processed. When he received a confirmation that the manuscript had been submitted, he did not realize that his name was on the manuscript in error. When he was informed that the manuscript had been accepted for publication, he did not realize that his name was on the manuscript in error. When he received the galley proofs for correction, he still did not realize that his name was on the manuscript in error. I assume he had a major epiphany after the editor had informed him that the paper had been a case of blatant plagiarism. In my opinion the Food Chemistry editor should have disregarded Heshmati’s attempt to distant himself from the paper. Otherwise, nothing prevents all authors of a to-be-retracted publication to preemptively abandon their authorship and assign it to somebody else, preferably a recent corpse.

    1. Chirality, I understand this well, but I really do not think Food Chemistry would have just let it go if there wasn’t an explanation for that. I would not be surprised if Heshmati never saw any of this stuff, since the e-mail address of the corresponding author for this paper is heshmati.umsha_at_gmail.com, while the few previous papers of Heshmati I could find have his e-mail adress as heshmaati_at_yahoo.com (as late as early 2009, half a year before this paper was submitted)

      Of course he could have changed e-mail address, but there’s another retraction from this same first author with the same claim of false corresponding authorship:
      “This article has been retracted due to a severe act of plagiarism by the submitting author A. Yavari. Mr. Yavari also added the other authors without their notification. Please take into account that this act of plagiarism is therefore not the fault of Ali Heshmati, who has been assigned by A. Yavari as corresponding author.”
      Two journals that accept this excuse without evidence of its truth?

      1. I wonder why journals accept email addresses from academics that are yahoo or gmail or other non-institutional emails. I feel that corresponding authors should use formal email addresses that are associated with their institutions. Am I missing something? Do universities that are outside of the USA not have institutional emails?

      2. I think many academics don’t want to use their institutional e-mail addresses, because of the possibility that they will not always have access to that e-mail address; for example, when they move to another university or a company, their account is closed.

        To take my own case: I have experienced 5 changes in e-mail address in the last 12 years with the first three addresses no longer accessible (ironically, only changing my workplace just once, 12 years ago). That means that every paper I wrote as corresponding author 3 years ago or more has an obsolete e-mail address!

  3. Well if there was one Persian who didn’t have a high opinion of retractions:

    The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
    Moves on: nor all your Piety nor Wit
    Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
    Nor all your Tears wash out a Word of it.

    Wise words that Mr Yavari et al would be minded to heed.

  4. I don’t get it. If they don’t usually cook chicken fritters or nuggets (especially the breast, heheh)… why are they studying the dern things? Do they have a contract with Kentucky Fried Chicken?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.