IRAN: Misconduct prompts call for ethical standards

As a result of plagiarism and academic misconduct scandals associated with the country's newly appointed Science Minister, Iranian professors in US-based universities and research centres have called on their peers at home to uphold high ethical standards, including safeguarding the integrity of the academy, curriculum, scholarly contributions and publications.

Despite questions being raised about his academic credentials, the Iranian parliament approved the nomination by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of 52-year-old space scientist Kamran Daneshjo as the country's new Science, Research and Technology Minister.

Daneshjou, the former election chief who oversaw the disputed vote tally in June, is a professor at the Tehran-based school of mechanical engineering of the University of Science and Technology, the same institution from which Ahmadinejad graduated.

Daneshjo's official biography indicates he holds a doctoral degree in aerospace engineering from Imperial College, London and that he has a degree from the Amirkabir University of Technology in Iran. The curriculum vitae on his website lists numerous articles in English and Farsi dated to 1999.

But an investigation by reformist website says Daneshjo has lied about his academic credentials in claiming that he obtained a British university degree and that no evidence exists of him finishing a degree in Iran.

On 22 September, Nature magazine pointed out uncanny similarities between a 2009 paper co-authored by Daneshjou and published in the Springer journal Engineering with Computers and a 2002 paper published by South Korean researchers in the Journal of Physics D: Applied Physics in 2002. As a result, the Springer journal labelled the article online as "retracted" and included an erratum.

In an open letter issued on 9 October, Iranian scientists wrote that "[academic misconduct] not only demoralising to the society at-large, but more devastatingly detrimental to the stature of the higher education system as a whole in the eye of the public and world opinions. Such tragedy will in turn seriously undermine the faculty and student exchange opportunities with sister institutions worldwide."

Davood Rahni, a professor of chemistry at Pace University and one of the US-based Iranian scientists who signed the open letter, said: "The bottom line is when the university leaders who later become government leaders violate such basic rule of conducts, what could one expect from millions of students?"

To avoid that, Rahni said every discipline must have an independent peer-review system that linked publications emerging from that subject to ensure they were original. This would safeguard the curriculum integrity and the advanced degrees and dissertations given in that subject.