Effect Measure

People complain that ministers in the cabinet Iran’s recently selected President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s government will say things so outlandish no one else would even think of saying them, but Declan Butler over at the Nature blog, The Great Beyond, begs to differ. Take Iran’s Science Minister, Kamran Daneshjou. Daneshjou’s credentials had been questioned in an LA Times report in August, but Butler has found that a paper co-authored by Daneshjou contains genuine peer-reviewed science. The only fly in the ointment is that it doesn’t seem to be Daneshjou’s science:

Large chunks of text, figures, and tables in a 2009 paper co-authored by Kamran Daneshjou, Iran’s science minister, are identical to those of a 2002 paper published by South Korean researchers, Nature has learned. Daneshjou served as the head of the interior ministry office which ran the disputed presidential elections in June, which returned Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to power. Daneshjou is also a former governor general of Tehran. (Declan Butler, The Great Beyond, Nature blog)

More details on the source (a paper by South Korean scientists entitled “Ricochet of a tungsten heavy alloy long-rod projectile from deformable steel plates”) at The Great Beyond, Nature magazine’s blog counterpart to Science magazine’s ScienceInsider blog (I hope the comparison doesn’t piss off both of these worthy rivals; you should be reading each of them anyway, or you’ll miss great scoops like this one by Declan Butler, who also engineered a historic special issue in Nature on flu pandemics at a time when the scientific press was pretty much still asleep at the wheel. (NB: The URL for Butler’s fictional blog account of a pandemic in Nature linked in my 2005 post has been changed. Use this one.). Both the Nature blog and the Science blog are written by a team of accomplished, professional science journalists, a life form on the endangered species list. You can do science journalism and yourself a lot of good by reading them daily. We do.

Anyway, it’s good to know that Iran has a scientist designing voting techniques who isn’t shy of employing the methods of others, like those pioneered in the world famous electoral engineering laboratories of Russia, Afghanistan and Florida. It’s all part of a hallowed science-based tradition that data drives policy.

Or did I get that backwards?

Update: Butler provides more details on the plagiarized South Korean paper, the news that the Springer journal where it was published has formally retracted it, and evidence of still another plagiarized paper from Ahmadinejad’s Science Minister.


  1. #1 Uncle Glenny
    September 23, 2009

    The people at armscontrolwonk have also been piecing together other aspects of NK/Iran cooperation:


  2. #2 Curious
    September 23, 2009

    Curious to see what you think of this. Seasonal vaccinations have started in our area. http://www.cbc.ca/health/story/2009/09/23/flu-shots-h1n1-seasonal.html

  3. #3 revere
    September 23, 2009

    Curious: Yes, I saw it. And I think this is some of the worst junk reporting I’ve seen in a long time. We have no idea what this is based on, what “preliminary” means, who has reviewed it or seen it. No data. No details. And something with considerable potential consequence for peoples’ lives, so you want to get it as right as you can. This is one step above a rumor. A tiny step.

  4. #4 carl
    September 23, 2009

    I would venture to guess that at the Ministerial level he didn’t bother to plagiarize it himself. Probably some flunky did it for him.

  5. #5 Matthew Cline
    September 24, 2009

    And Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name!

  6. #6 Otto
    September 24, 2009

    If I may quote Butler,

    “The 2009 paper by Daneshjou and Majid Shahravi, from the department of mechanical engineering at the Iran University of Science and Technology in Tehran, in many places duplicates verbatim the text of the 2002 paper published by South Korean scientists in Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics. A smaller number of sentences are identical to those in a paper given at a 2003 conference by other researchers.”

    Having spent quite some time in the trenches of high-volume journals editing, I would note that such verbatim reuse of text is hardly uncommon among authors with a limited command of English. If *this* is the heart of the matter, the assertion that “Springer takes plagiarism very seriously” by Anthony Doyle is laughable. There’s no filter in place. The only question here is whether the articles under scrutiny contained novel scientific contributions, something I haven’t seen clearly addressed.

  7. #7 Otto
    September 24, 2009

    Sorry to follow up to myself, but I would further mention that Daneshjou & Shahravi did not fail to cite Lee, Lee, & Shin. Somebody let it go through as Woong, Heon, & Hyunbo, though, exchanging given name and surname.

  8. #8 revere
    September 24, 2009

    Otto: You make a point but let’s consider it. I am a co-Editor in Chief of a journal and frequently we get papers from those not fluent in English. The tell-tale marks of verbatim use of another’s work are often strikingly obvious. But more to the point, as noted by Butler, in one or the other of the papers there were unsourced unattributed figures, sometimes in mirror image from the other paper. That is scientific content. This one doesn’t seem close to me. There are close calls and gray areas, but this doesn’t seem to be one of them. And I’ve been in the trenches, too.

  9. #9 Otto
    September 24, 2009

    The question, I suppose, leaving aside the worthiness of the notion of fair use regarding the figures, is still whether this sort of thing is as common as dirt. In my experience, it is. So why are these guys special?

  10. #10 revere
    September 24, 2009

    otto: One of them is special because of politics. It would be like if the Director of NIH plagiarized. Except that in addition there is the Iranian election connection. So it’s not purely or even primarily a matter of plagiarism but who he is and the context.

  11. #11 Otto
    September 24, 2009

    The article was received two years ago.

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