Danish university revokes PhD of anti-terrorism researcher

Nasrullah Memon
Nasrullah Memon

Anti-terrorism researcher Nasrullah Memon has lost his PhD after a committee in Denmark found he had plagiarized his doctoral thesis.

He’s also recently been let go by his latest employer, the University of Southern Denmark in Odense; a spokesperson for the university told us the decision stemmed from budgetary cutbacks, and was unrelated to the loss of his PhD.

We previously reported on 15 retractions for papers co-authored by Memon; in 2014, the Danish Committee on Scientific Dishonesty (DCSD) ruled that Memon’s thesis had been plagiarized.

In May this year, an official from Aalborg University (AAU) in Denmark — where Memon earned his PhD — told us the university was considering whether to revoke Memon’s PhD. They ultimately decided to do so, Inger Askehave, AAU’s pro-rector, told Retraction Watch:

The Academic Council at the Faculty of Engineering & Science decided to revoke Nasrullah Memon’s Ph.D.-degree on June 30, 2016.

Askhave said the institution cannot release the results of the investigation, and the AAU will not take any further action against Memon since he is no longer affiliated with them.

Nina Schjoldager, a senior consultant at the AAU, told us that

the university can confirm that the decision of revoking the Ph.D.-degree is being appealed by Memon and that it is to be handled by the Danish Agency of Higher Education.

Danish newspaper Weekendavisen first reported the news in July. A Google-translated excerpt from the article reads:

Apparently, [Memon] had invented the computer system imines that can identify key people in the terrorist network based on the patterns of information you can find freely available on the web.

According to Weekendavisen, in order to defend his actions, Memon claimed that three other recent theses by researchers at the AAU were also plagiarized. Schjoldager told us the university was currently investigating those theses, as well.

She added:

The status of these investigations is not known as they are confidential. Any person should be viewed as is innocent until proven guilty.

Most recently, Memom held an appointment at the University of Southern Denmark. A spokesperson sent us this statement:

This year SDU has gone through a cutback process in order to align budgets and strategies for changed financial conditions. We have laid off a large number of employees, including Nasrullah Memon. The dismissal has nothing to do with his PhD, but is entirely about economy. SDU has closed the research area.

Regarding Memon’s doctoral thesis, the DCSD concluded in 2014:

The Committee considered in detail 10 passages from versions B and D of the PhD thesis, and found large-scale direct copying and/or paraphrasing without sufficient indication and referencing of sources.

The DCSD added at the time:

On this basis, the Committee ruled that plagiarism had occurred in both versions B and D of the PhD thesis, that this was a serious breach of good scientific practice and that the researcher had acted intentionally.

Several more of Memon’s papers are being questioned on VroniPlag Wiki.

We were unable to find current contact details for Memon, who holds a spot on our leaderboard.

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