Exclusive: Embattled dean accused of plagiarism in NSF report

Erick Jones

Erick Jones, the dean of engineering at the University of Nevada in Reno, appears to have engaged in extensive plagiarism in the final report he submitted to the National Science Foundation for a grant, Retraction Watch has learned.

The $28,238 grant partially supported a three-day workshop that Jones and his wife, Felicia Jefferson, held for 21 students in Washington, DC, in April 2022 titled “Broadening Participation in Engineering through Improved Financial Literacy.” Jefferson received a separate award for $21,757.

Jones submitted his final report to the agency in May 2023. Retraction Watch obtained a copy of that report through a public records request to Jones’s previous employer, the University of Texas at Arlington, and identified three published sources of extended passages he used without citation or quotation marks.

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An editor on why he ignores anonymous whistleblowers – and why authors are free to publish ‘bullshit and fiction’

Guido Schmitz

Just over a decade ago, in the second year of Retraction Watch’s existence, we wrote a column in the now-defunct Lab Times urging journal editors to stop ignoring complaints from anonymous whistleblowers. The Committee on Publication Ethics didn’t think anonymity was a problem as long as the complaints were evidence-based, so why should editors? 

And journals have come a long way over the last decade in this regard. Some retraction notices even credit anonymous – and even pseudonymous – correspondents. 

Guido Schmitz, however, appears not to have gotten the memo. 

Continue reading An editor on why he ignores anonymous whistleblowers – and why authors are free to publish ‘bullshit and fiction’

Engineering researcher who cast blame on co-author will soon have 12 retractions

Jorge de Brito

A civil engineering researcher will soon have 12 retractions to his name after a data sleuth notified journals of issues with image reuse in the papers. 

Jorge de Brito, a professor at the University of Lisbon, has lost four papers in Construction and Building Materials, two in the Journal of Building Engineering, of which he had been editor-in-chief, and another in Engineering Structures since we reported in March on retractions for a pair of researchers in Iran with whom de Brito had coauthored papers. 

Editors of the Magazine of Concrete Research have decided to retract another paper, “Improved bending behaviour of steel-fibre-reinforced recycled aggregate concrete beams with a concrete jacket,” we learned from a staffer who copied Retraction Watch on an email to the data sleuth who raised concerns. The paper has been cited eight times, and this retraction would bring de Brito’s total to 12. 

Continue reading Engineering researcher who cast blame on co-author will soon have 12 retractions

Engineers’ research starts to look shaky as retractions mount

A group of structural engineering researchers based in Iran has lost at least five papers for problems with the data – and a data sleuth says more look shaky, too. 

Four of the articles appeared in Construction and Building Materials between 2018 and 2020 and were written by a changing cast of characters with two constants: Mansour Ghalehnovi and Arash Karimipour, both of the Department of Civil Engineering at Ferdowsi University of Mashhad. Karimipour’s LinkedIn profile lists an affiliation with the University of Texas at El Paso from 2019 to January of this year. 

The journal, an Elsevier title, says it began investigating the papers after a whistleblower raised questions about the integrity of the data. In some cases, for example, data in one article were found in other papers but were represented as demonstrating different materials. The authors also used images from other researchers or the internet without proper attribution. 

Here’s the notice for “Experimental study on the flexural behaviour and ductility ratio of steel fibres coarse recycled aggregate concrete beams,” from 2018: 

Continue reading Engineers’ research starts to look shaky as retractions mount

Researcher to overtake Diederik Stapel on the Retraction Watch Leaderboard, with 61

Ali Nazari and Swinburne University vice-chancellor Linda Kristjanson, presenting him with a commendation in 2017

A construction researcher is watching his publishing edifice crumble, as more upcoming retractions of his papers will bring his total to 61. 

Ali Nazari is believed to be a member of a ring of authors whom a whistleblower has claimed are churning out unreliable research — hundreds of papers, according to the sleuth, who goes by the pseudonym Artemisia Stricta. Nazari lost his job at Swinburne University, in Australia, following a misconduct investigation in 2019. 

According to the whistleblower (who laid out the case in a recent email to a journal editor): 

Continue reading Researcher to overtake Diederik Stapel on the Retraction Watch Leaderboard, with 61

Researcher linked to author with 52 retractions loses a paper for duplication

An engineering researcher alleged to be part of a four-group ring of authors who have “repetitively published their own work in ways that call into serious question” the validity of hundreds of papers has had a paper retracted.

As we reported in August, Mostafa Jalal, a postdoc at Texas A&M, is alleged to have “engaged in some manner of collaboration or communication” with three other researchers, including Ali Nazari, who has now had 52 papers retracted. Those retractions came after the whistleblower, the pseudonymous Artemisia Stricta, called attention to problems in Nazari’s work.

The newly retracted paper, originally published in 2013 in Science and Engineering of Composite Materials, is one of five publications in which Artemisia Stricta said Jalal’s group had misrepresented electron microscopy images.

Here’s the retraction notice for “Assessment of nano-TiO2 and class F fly ash effects on flexural fracture and microstructure of binary blended concrete”:

Continue reading Researcher linked to author with 52 retractions loses a paper for duplication

The ‘Iran Connection’: A ring of four research groups has published hundreds of dodgy papers, says whistleblower

A scheme of far-reaching research misconduct among several groups of Iranian researchers may have created hundreds of low-quality and fraudulent publications, according to a new detailed report by an anonymous whistleblower who has already forced the retraction of dozens of papers by one author in the ring.

The whistleblower, who goes by the pseudonym Artemisia Stricta, says that he or she is an expert in the field of construction engineering — the same as researchers behind the alleged misconduct.

In a new report now being made public by Retraction Watch, Artemisia draws attention to four main groups centered on Ali Nazari, Mostafa Jalal, a postdoc at Texas A&M University, Ehsan Mohseni of the University of Newcastle in Australia, and Alireza Najigivi of Sharif University of Technology in Tehran. The whistleblower lists a total of 287 potentially compromised papers in the 42-page report.

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“A flooding accident:” Engineer has seven papers retracted at once

via U.S. Library of Congress

A chemical engineer in China who claims his supporting data were wiped out in a flood has notched his ninth retraction, seven from a single journal, for suspicious images and related issues. 

The work of Dong Ge Tong, of Chengdu University of Technology, had come under scrutiny in PubPeer, and several of his articles received expressions of concern before ultimately falling to retraction.

Last week, the Journal of Materials Chemistry A pulled seven papers on which Tong was an author. Here’s the notice for one of those articles, “Hollow amorphous NaFePO4 nanospheres as a high-capacity and high-rate cathode for sodium-ion batteries,” first published in 2015: 

Continue reading “A flooding accident:” Engineer has seven papers retracted at once

A publisher just retracted ten papers whose peer review was “engineered” — despite knowing about the problem of fake reviews for years

Many publishers have been duped by fake peer reviews, which have brought down more than 600 papers to date. But some continue to get fooled.

Recently, SAGE retracted 10 papers published as part of two special collections in Advances in Mechanical Engineering after discovering the peer review process that had been managed by the guest editors “did not meet the journal’s usual rigorous standards.” After a new set of reviewers looked over the collections, they determined 10 papers included “technical errors,” and the content “did not meet the journal’s required standard of scientific validity.”

Yeah, we’re not exactly sure what happened here, either. SAGE gave us a little extra clarity — but not much.

Continue reading A publisher just retracted ten papers whose peer review was “engineered” — despite knowing about the problem of fake reviews for years

PNAS wouldn’t let authors cite unpublished manuscript. Now, it admits it was wrong.

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When researchers submitted a paper about a type of microparticle to PNAS, they wanted to give credit where it was due, and cite an unpublished manuscript that helped guide their work. But the journal’s policy forbid citing unpublished work, and the reference was removed before publication. Now, concerns from the authors of that unpublished work have prompted the journal to have a change of heart.  

Continue reading PNAS wouldn’t let authors cite unpublished manuscript. Now, it admits it was wrong.