Author of retracted math paper defends against plagiarism charge, threatens to sue journal

A researcher in Egypt is threatening to sue a mathematics journal if it doesn’t un-retract one of his papers.

The American Journal of Computational Mathematics in May retracted Mostafa M. A. Khater‘s 2015 paper, “The Modified Simple Equation Method and Its Applications in Mathematical Physics and Biology.” The retraction notice is sparse on the details, indicating only that the article was not up to snuff:

The paper does not meet the standards of “American Journal of Computational Mathematics”.

This article has been retracted to straighten the academic record. In making this decision the Editorial Board follows COPE’s Retraction Guidelines. The aim is to promote the circulation of scientific research by offering an ideal research publication platform with due consideration of internationally accepted standards on publication ethics. The Editorial Board would like to extend its sincere apologies for any inconvenience this retraction may have caused.

Editor guiding this retraction: Prof. Hari M. Srivastava (EiC of AJCM)

We’re pleased to see the journal include a checklist alongside the retraction notice, providing basic information on the retraction, which lists “plagiarism” and “academic misconduct” as reasons for the action.

The AJCM — whose publisher is on Jeffrey Beall’s list of “potential, possible, or probable” predatory publishers — is not indexed by Thomson Reuters Web of Science.

The rest of the story gets a bit complicated, so just bear with us as we try to sort through it all.

Khater, based at Mansoura University in Mansoura, Egypt, told us he didn’t plagiarize the paper, and threatened to sue the journal if it refused to reverse the retraction:

…i send to the editor all evidences which prove this research is my research only … So that, i kindly ask for a last time to remove this retraction [from] my research or i will will lift a lawsuit in international court against the magazine and against this act (retraction ) and I demand the material and moral compensation for this act.

When we followed up with Khater about what evidence he had gathered, he forwarded an email from the editorial assistant for AJCM, Jinrong Ge, addressing a complaint made by “E.M.E. Zayed” that Khater’s paper in AJCM plagiarized substantial portions of Zayed’s June 2014 paper, “The Modified Simple Equation Method Applied to Nonlinear Two Models of Diffusion-Reaction Equations,” published in the Journal of Mathematical Research and Applications (JMRA).

The letter also notes that Ge suspects Zayed may have duplicated portions of his 2014 JMRA paper in his 2015 paper in the International Journal of Physical Sciences.

In addition, Khater provided a screenshot of an email Ge sent to him regarding the issue:

For my personal opinion, I do not think that you are a thief. But for the first paper, I think you do not protect your paper well.

There are many researchers in the similar direction and they may have the same idea. It is a competition about publishing your new idea too.

I am sorry that our journal can not ignore the same research result.

As our editor-in-chief said, please do more things to protect your idea in the future.

Although Ge’s email mentions two papers by Zayed — one in 2014 and one in 2015 — the 2014 JMRA paper was published before Khater’s.

When we emailed Ge, we received a response from the editorial office of AJCM that clarified that Khater’s paper was indeed retracted for plagiarizing Zayed’s 2014 paper in JMRA:

The paper of Zayed was published in June, 2014, while Mostafa Khater’s paper was published in March, 2015. We are sorry that we did not find it in the beginning. Anyway, the paper was retracted by our journal because of plagiarism at last.

The spokesperson added:

Personally speaking, we tend to believe our authors and it will be very sad if our author is involved in a plagiarism. However, we cannot make a decision based on personal emotion; we should make it based on the evidences. And without enough evidences, the paper cannot be republished as requested, though much time and energy has been spent on it by us. What we can do is to tell our author to do more to protect their original works and avoid such issues.

Elsayed M. E. Zayed, a mathematician at Zagazig University in Zagazig, Egypt, invited us to compare his June 2014 paper with the Khater’s retracted paper, adding:

This problem has been discussed from two years ago and has been closed for me.

Hat tip: Tansu Kucukoncu

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5 thoughts on “Author of retracted math paper defends against plagiarism charge, threatens to sue journal”

  1. A quick look at one of MMA Khater’s other papers, Exact Traveling Wave Solutions for Modified Liouville Equation Arising in Mathematical Physics and Biology (2015), reveals that the Introduction is very similar to a 2011 paper by a different group.

    But this doesn’t seem to be the end of it. Googling phrases from both of these papers reveals several more articles that all seem textually related. It would take a while to make sense of the inter-relationships.

  2. Let him sue. Show the court the two papers side by side, with all the plagiarism highlighted. The joke will be on his wallet.

  3. The plagiarism issue aside, this whole “simple equation method” business is far removed from cutting-edge research in partial differential equations. The whole approach consists in a series of ad hoc transformations which are tailor-made to produce a solvable equation, under very specific conditions for which no practical justification is given. It is basically a recipe producing particular solutions under very restrictive assumptions on parameters and initial conditions.

    Reducing a partial to an ordinary differential equation by looking for traveling waves is a widespread method, even if it gives only access to a very small set of possible solutions (those which translate at constant speed). Further assumptions are more questionable. For instance, in (8) the author looks for particular solutions where v is proportional to u, which works thanks to his particular choice of model parameters. You can of course do this, but claiming that this gives “the” exact solution is rather far-fetched. One wonders what these special solutions contribute to the understanding of the original systems.

  4. There is zero tolerance for plagiarism in the academic world. If the article does have a problem, the editor’s tight control seems fine.

  5. Plagiarism is a crime in academia, also huge damage to the reputation of the publisher. On this point, their solution seems reasonable and acceptable. On the other hand, a publisher who doesn’t care about the quality of their publications is really concerning.

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