Parasitology plagiarists get retraction — and a publishing ban

A1_10905_Cover page 1Are plagiarists parasites? And what if they work in the field of parasitism — like M. Shafiq Ansari and colleagues at Aligarh Muslim University in India?

The Journal of Insect Behavior is retracting a 2011 paper by Ansari’s group, “Foraging of host-habitat and superparasitism in Cotesia glomerata: A gregarious parasitoid of Pieris brassicae,” for its similarity to a 2003 article on the same species by other researchers. The insect in question is a form of wasp that, in a case of life imitating Alien, lays its eggs in living caterpillars, which the little buggers eat from the inside out. (Turnabout apparently is fair play in this grisly interaction.)

Here’s the retraction notice (it’s a PDF):

The Journal of Insect Behavior was notified in December 2012 of the possibility of plagiarism in “Foraging of host-habitat and superparasitism in Cotesia glomerata: A gregarious parasitoid of Pieris brassicae”; Fazil Hasan, M. Shafiq Ansari and Nadeem Ahmad, Journal of Insect Behavior, Vol. 24: 363–379. After careful review, the Co-Editors determined that article did include significant plagiarism of “Superparasitism in Cotesia glomerata: response of hosts and consequences for parasitoids,” Hainan Gu, Qun Wang and Silvia Dorn, Ecol. Entomol. 2003,Vol. 28: 422–431. Consequentially, the Journal of Insect Behavior retracts the article and will not consider for publication future submissions by the offending authors.

The paper has not been cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

Ansari and Hasan are co-authors of a 2012 textbook about C. glomerata. Here’s what the authors’ note has to say about them:

Mr. Fazil Hasan is pursuing his Ph.D under the able guidance of Dr. M. Shafiq Ansari. His major area of interest is agricultural entomology. Dr. Ansari is Assoc. Prof. of Entomology in Aligarh Muslim University, India. He has publications in reputed journals. He is leading entomologist sharing his knowledge in teaching and guiding Ph.D students.

We wonder if all of the material in that book is their own. If not, and a retraction is in order, it wouldn’t be the first such case we’ve covered involving suspect entomology.

0 thoughts on “Parasitology plagiarists get retraction — and a publishing ban”

  1. At least in this case the journal was quick to take action! There much too few retractions in Entomology, actually, but maybe this is beginning to change in this new era…

    1. It has been suggested that all researchers in different departments at Aligarh Muslim University be thoroughly investigated since it is alleged that many commit serious figure fraud/theft/copying and commit serious ad eggregious acts of plagiarism and even duplicate publication in difficult to trace books/journals, upgrading later with higher level journal papers. Who will volunteer to help investigate? We may have just uncovered our first “nest” here…

      1. I think there are many many institutions in the same situation and ethical caos. This is fashionable today. I really encourage every researcher to investigate a few studies from suspected or random groups within their field of knowledge. Do not rely on others to volunteer, or on catching a particular group — there is so much to be done.

  2. In agreement with Hibby February 13, 2013 at 7:58 pm

    “Do not rely on others to volunteer, or on catching a particular group — there is so much to be done.”

    As the departmental secretary at Harvard said; “look at all their papers”. Just look. Anything odd. Splicing. Repeated images. Things obscuring what you are meant to be looking at. Keep your eyes open. When it comes to graphs you will never know. Try to go through the papers reasonably quickly otherwise you will forget what you have seen. Write short notes (electronic) as you go. If you think you have already seem something you probably have. Go back and try to find it the first time. Go in a chronological order. People will reuse things within a few years. Pubmed is a good thing to use. Mostly chronological order, many free articles. Forget about the ones you have to buy. The behaviour will be the same in the free ones.

    Images repeated between publications are the surest things to make journals take action. Images used to represent different things are highly problematic, or deserve a Nobel prize.
    Once you find things which are not quite right keep following the line of authors.
    If there is nothing to find you will quickly realize this. Papers are meant to be looked at.

    Go with what you already think. For example, people whose work you think is not very good, especially if there is a lot of it.

    1. Ressci, what free tools are available for plagiarism checking. Google’s tools are too broad and cover too much non-science. I am not a pay-for-ethics iThenticate fan. Hibby and Fernando Pessoa, please provide a TEMPLATE LETTER that the community can use to direct an anonymous claim to a journal. I think many scientists want to take action, but don’t know where to start and what tools to use. The three of you seem to be the most vocal on this blog, so your assistance is required, or ask Adam or Ivan to provide such a list (if you have a direct link to them). I think if we can have a list of free plagiarism detectors where we can copy-paste chunks of text from a PDF and run it through a search for matches for ourselves, then, mark my words, we will have thousands of independent “investigators” overnight. Also, if someone can provide a nice, diplomatic, neutral, well worded but concerned letter template for a) figure copying/manipulation and b) plagiarism detection, requesting a formal retraction from the editor and publisher, then this will be a stoke of magic for those who are sick and tired of seeing people in high places getting positions, funding and grants for publishing things that don’t deserve to be out there in the academic pool. In the case above, isn’t Springer also responsible for irresponsible editorial work and for failing to detect plagiarism during the peer review process? Although I am not condoning the authors’ actions, I am startled how the publisher has taken such an aggressive stance at banning these AMU authors when Springer is also at fault (minor percentage). Although the story is fresh, I wonder if Dr. Ansari will be able to retain his position at AMU. Having a retraction is one thing, but being banned from a journal is a whole different ball game. If he gets to stay, this says one message about Dr. Ansari and about AMU. If he gets “released” from his post, as has been the destiny of most who are the topics of this blog, then that says a completely different message about AMU. Seems like there is no sitting on the fence here, either 5% or 95% (i.e. one extreme or the other). Has anyone bothered to contact AMU staff, and higher authorities, including the Indian Ministry of Education, about this? As someone commented above, this is just the teeny-weenie tip of the ice-berg of what’s taking place in India. But do not underestimate the power (socio-religious) of AMU within India (my weak judgment from Wikipedia)… so an investigation could and should start there… Of course not all that is published from AMU has this problem (we hope), so innocence should be pronounced and evidence of fraud should be discovered, in a fair, but honest, academic process.

      1. Actually I very much miss a blog like Abnormal Science or Science-Fraud. They work all too well. Please should you know of any good, popular one, or are willing to erect a new, legally stronger one, please post here. I think that was of special help.

      2. If I may leave a few tips here.
        1) Best online guidelines are available at
        SF is still doing a great job, in a way.

        2) Contacting the publisher is the immediate option after contacting editors and getting no response. And COPE, if journal is a member. Usually the publisher and COPE will at least answer with further instructions.

        Good luck!

        1. Ivan, useful, but not useful. A REAL letter as template would be useful. There are many colleagues I know who are not native English speakers from many developing countires who are just itching to report fraud, but they lack this communication skill. A template letter would be extremely helpful. COPE is not helpful, either, in this respect. The only way to expand our coalition is to provide the tools to fight back to those who have the knowledge, but not the skills.

      3. Why single out this University, let’s start from scratch! I guess this university will look honest if investigation started is against other major Indian universities.

        1. Why not? Repo-man, when you smoe out a rat from a hole, usually there are other rats in the same hole. This applies to different species of rodents. Only those who have never owned a garden or have never actually smoked out a rodent don’t understand this. What you are suggesting in essence, is to move onto another hole while leaving a potential pest problem festering in the first hole. That’s not a solution. That’s evasion. Why not fully investigate this university first? After all, you have to start from somewhere… If this one is fully investigated (by the scientific community, that is), then other rodents in other Indian university holes will begin to start scrambling for the hole. Are you suggesting using a top-down approach to clean up (i.e., Ministry of Education down)?

          1. And what is the problem if investigations start in all universities at once. My point is Aligarh muslim university is not widely known for quality life science research anyway and they don’t claim it either . So focusing only on this university wont give much of adventure. Better look for big fishes who squander huge grant funds.

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