Iran: Verbatim Copying Not “Scientific Theft”

John is a Science contributing correspondent.

Iran has now taken a stand on the plagiarism scandal that has engulfed two government ministers after substantial portions of their research articles were discovered to be verbatim copies of other scientists’ published work. According to a member of the Iranian parliament who was part of the government investigation, copying in this case isn’t plagiarism because the results are "a genuine scientific work." (He said it here, in Persian.) Meanwhile, a junior Iranian scientist who wrote two of the papers says he was responsible but also denies it counts as plagiarism.

The scandal erupted 3 weeks ago with a report by Nature that Iran’s science minister, Kamran Daneshjou, was first author on a 2009 article in the journal Engineering with Computers that plagiarized a 2002 article published by South Korean researchers in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics, as well as a 2003 conference paper by U.S., U.K., and Chinese researchers. Since then, the scandal has expanded to include two more papers for which Daneshjou was lead author that included copy-and-paste sections, and yet another authored by the country’s transportation minister, Hamid Behbahani. All four papers have been retracted by the journals.

I couldn’t reach Daneshjou (e-mails sent to him bounced); he has said nothing publicly on the matter. His co-author and former Ph.D. student, Majid Shahravi, appears to be taking all the blame. But in an e-mail exchange with me over the weekend, Shahravi argued that “no plagiarism occurred” because all of his results and conclusions are novel, even though some of the text appeared first in others’ papers.

Shahravi, listed as second author, says that he wrote the paper himself based on experiments from his Ph.D. thesis. He submitted the papers with Daneshjou as first author, he says, because not doing so would have been “impolite.” He says he used Daneshjou’s e-mail account to communicate with the editors of the journals that published the papers. (He claims that all of Daneshjou’s Ph.D. students do this with his permission.) The reason that Shahravi copied passages from previously published work, he says, is simply “that I am not fluent in English.” You can read his self-defense in full below.

After an investigation into the matter, the Iranian government concurs with Shahravi. Earlier this week, Iran’s Mehr News Agency published this interview with Saadollah Nasiri Gheydari, a member of parliament and the government’s higher education commission. “The model used and the results obtained in the article by the Korean author are completely different from those in Dr. Daneshjou's paper,” he concludes. “The only issue here is that the Ph.D. student of Dr. Daneshjou has used some of the writings of the Korean author, which is of course poor judgment. But as I said, this article is a genuine scientific work and by no means represents scientific theft.”

Opinions about the plagiarism scandal among Iranian scientists are sharply polarized. Seyyed Hasheminejad, an engineer at the Iran University of Science and Technology in Tehran, says plagiarism occurred and puts the blame squarely on Daneshjou’s ex-Ph.D. student. “[Shahravi] must be punished ... in order for him to understand the seriousness of his actions." Others are not so convinced about the science minister’s innocence. “[Daneshjou] was the corresponding author on the papers,” says an Iranian physicist based in Germany who requested anonymity to avoid harassment of his family in Iran. “He should have known the content of his paper, and ... he cannot escape the responsibility.”

Email to John Bohannon From Majid Shahravi:

Dear Dr John Bohannon

The following composition is my comprehensive response that refutes any plagiarism.

1. Firstly, I have been PhD students during the 2004-2009 and I graduated in Feb 2009 while my PhD supervisor was Dr. Daneshjou. The text published in the paper, was some results presented in my PhD thesis. It presents the advantages of SPH comparing with other primitive methods such as Lagrangian one. It should be noted that this paper published two month after I defended my PhD thesis.

2. About the paper published, I should noted that, firstly, I have got the results from both Lagrangian and SPH methods, then I showed the results to Dr. Daneshjou. Dr. Daneshjou compared these results and confirmed that SPH is more precise especially for brittle material than the primitive methods. He also emphasized that, a new paper can be published as SPH is a new method to calculate critical ricochet angle. Then, I attempt to write a new paper considering Dr. Daneshjou’s comments.  In other word, he considered my scientific results based on SPH method and then recommended to publish a scientific paper. Therefore, in order to observe honesty behavior, (especially as he cooperated with me in SPH method) I add his name as an author.

3- About the insertion of Dr Daneshjou’s name as a first author, I should tell that it was impolite to insert my supervisor’s name as a second author. About Corresponding Author, I should tell that all the students as well as me, use Dr. Daneshjou’s Email in order to submit and revise our papers. In other word, it was me who sent email to the  journals editorial boards via Dr. Daneshjou’s E-mail

4) I should clearly noted that: I (Majid Shahravi) accept(s) all authorities corresponded to this paper. Because, Dr. Daneshjou did not participate during of editing and writing of this paper. As expressed in case 2, he only confirmed the advantages of SPH method comparing with Lagrangian one.

5) Some told the other papers I have presented have some similarities with the one I talked about. It should be noted that the similarities are predictable as all the papers are published in result of PhD thesis.

6) In this section I want to discuss some discrepancies between the results done by this paper and those corresponded to Korean authors:

All the scientific expression followed is in my authority as I write the paper, and I am who reply to all enquiries:

A) Of course, I have used some text from Abstract and Introduction section of Korean authors, because it is common to use Abstract and Introduction in problem specifications. There are a lot of similarities between these two papers in Abstract and Introduction. However, it does not matter as it is conventional in papers in order to pose the main question.

B) About the SPH method and its advantages comparing with Lagrangian one I should tell that no matter even only one word about SPH method has not presented in Korean paper. However, the main weight of my paper is devoted to SPH method and I have concluded that this method leads to the more precise results comparing with the results of Lagrangian method. This is due to the fact that the Lagrangian method use the Erosion principal, that can not be satisfied be mass conservation law. This shortcoming is cancelled in SPH method as it consider.

The work done by Korean author in 2002 uses the Lagrangian method  with other software and he conclude that Lagrangian method is more precise than analytical methods. I do not know, which results are  similar to Korean author. In my view , the main topic of my paper about the SPH method confirms the originality of the paper. The new results presented in Figs. 14,15,16 and 17 is another confirmation to the originality of the paper.

C) There are some other discrepancies even in Lagrangian method between the Korean results and my results:

Firstly, the types of mesh generation are different.  As depicted from Fig. 2 of  Korean author, the elements are not quad . However, the Fig. 2 of my paper shows the structured quad elements. All the researchers who work in FEM know that using the Quad elements leads to more precise results. Therefore, the Lagrangian results presented in my paper is more precise than Korean authors. Secondly, I have been surprised as some told my Figures in Lagrangian simulation are the same as Korean authors. This is not true as  I used LSDYNA software but the Korean author used DYTRAN. In order to clarify this matter, you can compare the Figs. 5 (g,h) of Korean author with the Fig. 6 (g,h) of my paper.

The discrepancies are also can be seen comparing the Figs. 6(g,h) of Korean with the results of Fig. 7 of my paper. It should be also noted that the presented results are more precise than the results of Korean author as I used the Quad elements in mesh generation.

D) I claim that no work has done from 2002 till now that can estimate the long rod critical ricochet angle using SPH method. This is a main reason that made the present paper be published in scientific journal. Again, I should emphasize that probably, there are some papers that study on critical ricochet angles but not by SPH method.

E) There was no Gasgun setup in Iran that can examine long rod in high velocity. Therefore, in order to validate my results I had to employ the experimental results of Korean author with citing his paper in references. All the researchers know that using the experimental results with citing the papers is conventional.

This was so wonderful for me whenever some told about the similarity between the table of target and projectile specifications in my paper and the one presented by Korean author. This is my question: How can I use the Korean experimental results with other specifications? How can I use other materials in replace of steel and tungsten, and then compare the results with Korean Authors? Was it possible?

Again I emphasize that, I have cited this reference in the paper.

F) In the present paper, I cited the Korean paper and all 31 references that they referred them. For example the Fig. 1 of present paper and Fig. 1 of Korean authors are extracted from reference 7 [Rosenberg paper]. Then both me and Korean authors have used the same figures from the same references. Consequently, I have observed the trustworthiness as Korean authors do.

G) There are other discrepancies in the results presented in Figs 22 and 23 that show residual length and also the target perforation using both Lagrangian and SPH methods. The Korean authors did not present these results.

In spite of all the political and scientific news about the present paper, the conclusion is followed as:

Firstly, in my view no plagiarism is occurred, but  a new scientific method is presented in the present paper.

The number of paper pages is 16. The sections that are similar to Korean papers are from the main text not the results. This is due to the fact that I am not fluent in English.

There is no figure from the results of the present paper that is similar with Korean results.

Again, I should indicate that I (Majid Shahravi) accept(s) all authorities corresponded to this paper. I also added the name of Dr Daneshjou as an author, since, he was my supervisor in PhD thesis and also he helps me in SPH method.

SPH method is more precise to calculate critical ricochet angle especially for brittle material than the primitive methods. No one has worked on this scientific topic. This is the main reason of originality of present paper.

Again, I declared that certainly I had no intention to use other authors’ works.

Regards

Majid Shahravi, PhD