I am a professor in a public university and have been accused of plagiarism by an anonymous letter to the Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan.

The anonymous letter framed two charges:

  1. It accused four scientists of submitting a plagiarized manuscript in Laser Surgery and Medicine, a prestigious US journal. As a proof the accuser attached an email of rejection on the basis of high similarity index from the editor of the journal addressed to the corresponding author. I have been listed as a co-author, whereas the email of rejection is addressed to seven email addresses.

  2. In second allegation a reference of 2005 of the editor of a Pakistani journal is mentioned. The editor accused the corresponding author of submitting an article which was already published in a journal, i.e. attempted self-plagiarism. The manuscript was not published but the editor declared that the corresponding author and his co-authors were blacklisted from the journal without mentioning the names of co-authors. Unfortunately the corresponding author in both cases is the same person and the co-authors in both cases are unclear.

My name is listed as a co-author by the anonymous letter and I was completely unaware of both the incidents. But HEC has black-listed all four people accused, including me, for two-years.

What can I do?

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    I do not understand. Are you a coauthor or not? If so, did you and/or your coauthors plagarize? – StrongBad Jul 22 '15 at 11:22
  • Some aspects of your question do not match information available on news outlets. Namely a newspaper states that "The journal editor [...] found the work to be plagiarised and contacted Pakistani authorities" No mention of an anonymous letter. Furthermore, your defense in the article is "They blacklisted me [...] on the basis of a research paper which was never published anywhere" not that there is uncertainty about your co-authorship. – Cape Code Jul 22 '15 at 11:52
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    Besides, obviously, the fact that the plagiarism was detected prior to publication does not mean it did not happen. – Cape Code Jul 22 '15 at 12:04
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    Did someone fraudulently put your name on their paper or papers without your knowledge? – Bill Barth Jul 22 '15 at 12:26

Your question is weirdly vague on one important question, namely whether you actually are/were a co-author of the two questionable submissions. I am not sure how one can be "alleged" as a co-author - isn't that entirely clear and a completely black-white, yes-no question? Is your name on these papers?

Even if the HEC does not publish the name of the co-authors, you should still know whether you actually were a co-author of this publications or not.

The question "what can I do?" very much depends on your answer to this.

If yes:

You have presumably been sanctioned correctly. Trying to weasel out of your penalties based on formalities will likely only reflect worse on you. Accept the 2-year blacklisting and move on.

If no:

This then should be a clear-cut case of misjudgement, and following the formal appeal procedure whatever it is should definitely work out in favour of you. Your university should support you in this if the case is actually "I was blacklisted for a paper submission that has nothing to do with me".

  • Agree, especially with the "if yes" part. Also it's not clear what exactly "blacklisting" means here. If it's just that you can't publish, then the two years will pass quickly while you do (original!!) research and build a backlog of good papers to submit. Not such a big deal if you have a permanent job?! – P.Windridge Jul 22 '15 at 12:23
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    If someone fraudulent added OP's name to these papers, they may have no knowledge of what happened. It sounds like they were rejected before publication, so this could have happened entirely in private. If there was no hearing by the HEC, then OP's first knowledge of it may have been when the blacklisting was handed down. – Bill Barth Jul 22 '15 at 12:28
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    @BillBarth That's a possibility, even though it seems to me very unlikely that the HEC would not first investigate (i.e., question) the respective individuals, and during this investigation something like "hey, I have never seen this paper - why am I a co-author of this??" would have come up. – xLeitix Jul 22 '15 at 12:46
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    It's possible that, because of different dialects of English, "alleged as co-author" doesn't mean "alleged to be a co-author" but rather "alleged to have plagiarized because I am a co-author". – Andreas Blass Jul 23 '15 at 2:12
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    @Murphy I would assume that Andreas means that it is "alleged" that the paper has been plagiarised, and not that the OP was a co-author. – xLeitix Nov 30 '15 at 13:19

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