Response from experts and to Ministry’s press release from yesterday + Another expert answers in Review 6

You should also read: Response to Ministry’s second press release

Emeritus Professor Ian J. Bruce (University of Kent, UK) has just offered his review for yesterday’s plagiarism case of Nechifor and Andronescu. Inline with the previous 6 reviews, Prof Bruce also found that the paper constitutes “gross professional misconduct on the part of Nechifor and Andronescu”.

Yesterday, the Ministry issued a press release (local copy in English and Romanian) with regards to the plagiarism of Nechifor and Andronescu. Although it was not the Ministry as an institution involved in plagiarism, but the persons Nechifor and Andronescu as scientific authors, the letter is signed by the Ministry, not by Nechifor or Andronescu. The Ministry also issued this press release without undertaking any formal investigation into the matter.

Prof David Tomanek (see his review) commented yesterday on Facebook:

It did not take long (only half a day) until I (and probably also the other experts involved) received an email from the Romanian ministry of Education suggesting that the information provided in the FAZ is inaccurate. The underlying accusation is that opinions of 6 international experts are biased. Well – everybody can judge for himself/herself now, thanks to the information provided at this site. It appears that the media are becoming more sensitized to the problem of plagiarism, which is often linked to corruption.

Dr Philip Camp (see his review), who wished to offer his response, says:

The letter from the Romanian Ministry is disappointing and absolutely dishonest. I am baffled that the Ministry attempted to “explain” away the evidence, which is as clear as day.

[UDPATE 4 Dec 2012] Prof Albert P. Philipse, whom the Ministry mentions as having collaborated with Aurelia Cristina Nechifor, and also sent a letter to her, says:

Already some years ago I heard rumours that there is/was a Roumanian PhD thesis that contains work from my PhD student Gerard van Eewijk.

Now there is a name mentioned of a Aurelia Christine Nechifor who is supposed to have work with me as a post-doc around 1993; I have been informed that this lady is now about 35 years old ..rather unlikely that she was a post-doc back then!

The truth is that there was a Roumanian post-doc, with the name Ana Mariana Nechifor (now fifty) , who worked on magnetic particles and who had permission to take samples and TEM images to her home lab in Bucharest. The letter, directed to A.M.Nechifor, is one of those permissions.

Apparently someone is confusing names, for reasons I can only speculate on; it should not be difficult for any journalist to verify the age of A.C. Nechifor and draw conclusions.

The reviews on are performed independently by international experts, who are provided with the scientific articles involved in the case. Our About page describes the process. The reviewers are provided only with the relevant scientific authored papers for review. They are not made aware of any public or political positions that any of the authors may have. Their reviews are entirely impartial, based solely on the scientific material.

The 7 experts are all internationally established researchers in the field, widely known in the international academic community (one can compare the Hirsch indices of all involved). All 7 experts confirmed the misconduct of Nechifor and Andronescu, being in direct contradiction with the Ministry’s press release.

Moreover, although the evidence on is clear and already available publicly yesterday, the Ministry’s press release is also erroneous. The most important example regards the microscope image. As shown by the comparison, this microscope image was first published by by Ana-Mariana Nechifor in 1993 (not by Aurelia Cristina Nechifor, who was a PhD student in 2003). Evidence (global) of collaboration with Prof Albert P. Philipse shows Ana-Mariana Nechifor (not Aurelia Cristina Nechifor), and her affiliation to be the Research Center for Macromolecular Materials and Membranes (not the Department of Analytical Chemistry at the Politehnic University Bucharest). Aurielia Cristina Nechifor and Ana-Mariana Nechifor are two different persons, which was made clear on page 2 of the comparison.

Dr Philip Camp in his rerview shows findings of his independent investigation underlining the same aspect regarding the Nechifors:

Probably the most serious instance of misconduct is in the falsification of data. A microscope image is presented as having been obtained by the authors, when it fact it was published some 10 years earlier by different authors: the original work was not cited. I note that one of the current authors (A. C. Nechifor) has the same affiliation as one of the authors from the earlier work (G. Nechifor), and that A. C. Nechifor and G. Nechifor have published works together: I found 15 articles on ISI Web of Knowledge as of 20/11/12. (Note that there has been no mix-up between A. C. Nechifor and A. M. Nechifor, the latter being a co-author on the earlier work.) These connections might have provided the current authors with the means of accessing the data.

Further in his review, Dr Camp states:

In the present case, it is possible (and I stress that this is speculation) that there has been a degree of collusion between authors, which is particularly serious as it suggests a problem at an institutional level.

Dr Camp’s independent findings and insights regarding the identity and collusion between authors are actually inline with information that was provided to us yesterday, which alleged that Ana-Mariana Nechifor (1993 author) was the first wife of Gheorghe Nechifor (also 1993 author, a professor at the same institution since 1991) and that Aurelia Cristina Nechifor (2003 author) is Gheorghe Nechifor’s second wife, and also that Aurelia Cristina was not named Nechifor in 1993. In fact, in 1993, Aurelia Cristina was only 18 years old and had only just finished highschool. Gheorghe Nechifor has been with the same institution as the other authors, Politehnica University Bucharest, since 1993.

In general, besides truthfulness and legal implications, it is expected that press releases issued by a Ministry of Research regarding research works consider the implications for the public image of the institution and research, perceived at both national and international levels.

We want to thank all 7 international experts once again for investing time and effort into reviewing this case.

You should also read: Response to Ministry’s second press release