When Parisa Ariya was invited to write a review for a special issue of the journal Atmosphere, she asked one of her former doctoral students to take the lead. But she soon regretted that decision after discovering Lin (Emma) Si had plagiarized and duplicated significant portions of the review.
Ariya, chair of the Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences at McGill University in Montreal, told Retraction Watch that she believes it’s important to foster the careers of young women in science and was excited for her former student, Si, to take on the challenge of writing her first review. (Si was cc’d on our email communications with Ariya, but did not respond to our individual request for comment.)
Si, now an assistant professor of chemistry at Auburn University at Montgomery, wrote the manuscript, and Ariya revised, commented and edited it. The review, “Recent Advances in Atmospheric Chemistry of Mercury,” was published online in Atmosphere in late February. Ariya told Retraction Watch:
I was very happy for her.
But a few days later, Ariya and Si received a troubling email from the journal: A reader had complained that the review had plagiarized from various papers. (An anonymous commenter also flagged the alleged plagiarism on PubPeer). Ariya said her first response was disbelief:
I was shocked and trembling. … I never expected someone in my group to copy.
Ariya told us that Si immediately revised the review to eliminate the duplicated or plagiarized text and sent the corrected version to the journal within 48 hours.
But after Ariya received the journal’s report highlighting the plagiarism, she saw the problem was extensive and knew what needed to be done:
I asked the journal to retract the review. I also decided not to try to publish the corrected version.
The journal has not yet retracted the review. We asked the editor-in-chief, Bob Talbot, when it plans to retract the review and why it didn’t catch the plagiarism prior to publication. Martyn Rittman, the publishing services manager for the publisher, MDPI, responded and informed us that the matter is “still under active investigation and we prefer not to comment at this stage.”
Ariya forwarded us the retraction notice she proposed to the journal, which explains that Si’s copying was unintentional but “ethically wrong and should not be tolerated in the scientific community.”
Ariya said she believes Si made “an innocent mistake” and that her lack of experience writing review papers and not being a native English speaker may have been contributing factors.
Ariya now wants to make sure this type of situation doesn’t happen again:
I want the scientific community to be better, particularly at a time when cheating and lying have become the norm.
Ariya said she has since acquired plagiarism detection software for her lab “to avoid any future headaches.” And she accepts responsibility for not checking the paper for plagiarism:
It didn’t even cross my mind because everything was cited and I trusted her.
Like Retraction Watch? You can make a tax-deductible contribution to support our growth, follow us on Twitter, like us on Facebook, add us to your RSS reader, sign up for an email every time there’s a new post (look for the “follow” button at the lower right part of your screen), or subscribe to our daily digest. If you find a retraction that’s not in our database, you can let us know here. For comments or feedback, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.