Research assistant fired for using student’s thesis in a paper

Reviews in Medical Microbiology

A research assistant at King Saud University (KSU) has lost his job after he used material from a student’s thesis without permission or attribution in a paper.

Lakshmana Krishnappa was terminated after a disciplinary committee considered his case last November, the vice dean for postgraduate training and research at KSU told Retraction Watch. In April of last year, Krishnappa retracted a paper published in January 2015 — we think that’s the date; the journal doesn’t make it all that clear — that included plagiarized material, published in Reviews in Medical Microbiology. He recently lost a second unrelated paper for duplication.

Here’s the retraction notice for the Reviews in Medical Microbiology paper, “Acinetobacter baumannii: pathogenecity, virulence factors and their correlation with adherence and invasion:”

This paper [1] has been retracted from publication by the author. The origin of a majority of the content was taken from a thesis of a student at the King Saud University, Riyadh, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, without prior consent, permission, and attribution.

We do not know who the student in question was. The paper is not yet indexed by Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

Krishnappa did not respond to an email sent to a Gmail address listed on the Reviews in Medical Microbiology paper. We do not know his current whereabouts.

Abdulrahman Alfuraih, a vice dean at KSU, told us that Krishnappa is no longer employed at the school:

Allegation related to his work was investigated and Dr Kirshnappa was presented before a discipline committee in November 2015 , his work has since been suspended  and his contract has been terminated. He has no affiliation with KSU anymore.

We asked Phil Daly, publisher of Reviews in Medical Microbiology, how the journal heard about the plagiarism, and whether it knew the identity of the student, but he said he had nothing to add to the notice.

Kirshnappa is the second author on another paper that was retracted in March for duplicating his own material. Here’ the retraction notice for “Characterization of carbapenem resistance mechanisms and in vitro synergistic activity of colistin plus meropenem in carbapenem resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae:”

The above article in Microbiology and Immunology (doi: 10.1111/1348-0421.12199), published online on 6 September 2014 in Wiley Online Library (, has been retracted by agreement between the authors, the journal Editors-in-Chief, Akio Nakane, Takaji Wakita, Yasunobu Yoshikai, and Wiley Publishing Asia Pty Ltd. The retraction has been agreed due to the article has substantial overlap with an article entitled ”Characterization of carbapenem resistance mechanisms in Klebsiella pneumoniae and in vitro synergy of the colistin–meropenem combination” by Lakshmana Gowda Krishnappa, Mohammed Ali M. Marie and Yazeed A. Al Sheikh, published in Journal of Chemotherapy, published online on May 28, 2014 (doi: 10.1179/1973947814Y.0000000197).

Although retraction guidelines from the Committee on Publication Ethics recommend leaving retracted articles online, but marked retracted, the original article does not appear to be online. It has not yet been indexed.

We’ve seen researchers take work from students before. A paper on asphalt was “copied word for word” by a dean of civil engineering in Iran from a student’s masters thesis, for example. In another case, an architecture professor at the University of Arizona failed to properly cite a student’s thesis in a conference paper. She received a “formal admonishment” from the university, but kept her job.

Hat tip: Rolf Degen 

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3 thoughts on “Research assistant fired for using student’s thesis in a paper”

  1. Always something that leaves me head scratching. How difficult would it be to have the student as co-author on the paper? Always nice to have a single author paper on your list (“I here show….”), but that’s clearly not a special accomplishment for a review paper. It’s not like a Cell article…..

    If the student was a co-author, what are the rules concerning thesis self-plagiarism? Would verbatim copying, which might be quite compelling/tempting for introductions und such, be acceptable? Technically, you would have to place these parts into quotation marks, I guess. Which then likely would not be accepted by the journal.
    Aside from verbatim copying, republishing your thesis results as a paper is probably the only acceptable form of duplicate publication. But has that policy ever been formally adopted by the scientific community?
    I do know of papers that state that it contains data from a thesis of one of the authors, but that is not very common.

    1. I agree – just ask them if they want to co-author a paper based on their work. How many PhD students would say no?
      The only thing I can think of for not doing this is “greed”.

  2. I would like to add the RMM has included a new manuscript category especially for PhD students, that should be co-authored by their Supervisors, but enable them to make their first publication experiences on their own while following highest publication Standards.
    The case happened before I took over the Position of the Editor in Chief, but as mentioned by our Publisher, was explained solely by the published notice mentioned in the above post.

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