Scientist goes to court to clear his name after fake peer review retractions

A scientist who lost 11 papers for fake peer review and other reasons went to court to pin the misconduct on a coauthor – and received a favorable judgment. 

The retractions for Aram Mokarizadeh, a biomedical researcher previously affiliated with the Kurdistan University of Medical Sciences in Iran, were part of a batch of 58 papers in seven journals that Springer and BioMed Central pulled in 2016 after an investigation found “evidence of plagiarism, peer review and authorship manipulation, suggestive of attempts to subvert the peer review and publication system to inappropriately obtain or allocate authorship.” 

After our story on the case appeared, Mokarizadeh told us that a coauthor was “responsible for all problems associated with retraction,” and that he had brought a case to court in Iran to prove it. 

Six years later, in a decision dated Oct. 3, 2022 that Mokarizadeh shared with us but said was confidential, a judge of the Tehran Criminal Court found that the coauthor, Javad Javanbakht, had committed forgery of computer data “by creating fake emails attributed to reputable authors and reviewers.” Javanbakht was ordered to pay a fine of one hundred million Rials, about $2,360 USD. Javanbakht, who has 16 retractions in our database from the 2016 investigation, has not responded to our requests for comment. 

Javanbakht “had submitted papers through creating fake email addresses without informing me,” Mokarizadeh told us. “I was absolutely in the dark concerning conducted violations.”

But when we pointed out that Javanbakht was a co-author on only three of Mokarizadeh’s papers that were retracted, and asked whether Javanbakht had submitted those papers on which he was not named, Mokarizadeh did not respond. [Update, 1800 UTC, 11/21/22: Following publication of this post, Mokarizadeh said he did not receive our email with this question, and answered: “all 13 retracted papers were submitted by Javanbakht as investigations performed by court proved it.”]

We asked a Springer Nature spokesperson if the publisher would update the retraction notices, and got this response: 

The notices remain a clear and full description of why we published the retractions in 2016, and as such we are not in a positon [sic] to amend them.

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6 thoughts on “Scientist goes to court to clear his name after fake peer review retractions”

  1. Kudos to this scientist!
    The convicted person (Mr. Javad Javanbakht) which was a Ph.D student previously affiliated with University of Tehran has been identified as responsible for the most majority of Iranian retracted papers in November 2016 through creating fake email addresses.
    The relevant news is published in Persian as below:

  2. Complicated case and a web of deception is discovered here. No question about the genuine intentions of Dr. Aram Mokarizadeh. What puzzels me:
    -Why no one of the other (co-)authors joined his crusade for justice
    -What did the accused tried to achieve
    -Is it to boost citations (and sell them?)
    -Was the co-authorship for sale (like a paper mill kind of scam)
    I suspect the latter possibility makes the most sense (the combination of manipulating the peer review system and ‘composing’ papers with plagiarised material is their way of operation).
    In other words I guess there is more to it than ‘just’ retracting the papers. I suspect there is more to uncover here.

  3. It appears to me that javanbakht was committed to sell papers as he misused the identity of reputable authors ( like Dr. Mokarizadeh) to decieve both journals and coauthors contributed to papers by paying money.

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