Sunday, August 15, 2010

Japanese Plagiarism and Misrepresentation Case

A Japanese correspondent has alerted me to the strange case of Serkan Anilir.  He is a German-born researcher of Turkish descent who was said to be an Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture, Graduate School of Engineering, the University of Tokyo.

He has an impressive biography - but depending on which language you are reading (English, Japanese or Turkish) it is different. He claims to be a Turkish astronaut candidate for NASA, but closer inspection will show that this is his head photoshopped onto the body of Richard Hieb.

He has had "guest professorships" all over the world, according to the list is on the Turkish Wikipedia (translated here). It appears that he gave talks at these schools, but not that he had guest professorships. He is not listed in the official researchers lists for projects he supposedly worked on.

His publication list has a number of anomalies: wrong publisher; long article in a journal that only prints short ones; an examination of a given journal issue shows no article with that name; one publication can be found with the same name and co-author, but not with his name on it.

He also claims to be an Olympic gold medalist in skiing. However, there is no record of this.

Asahi Shinbum, a respected Japanese newspaper, picked this up and reported that they checked his reference that was supposed to be from the Turkish Air Force, but they denied that it was from them.

When things got hot in the Japanese press, an investigation into his dissertation was started. Since it turned out to be more than  40% plagiarized (later reports: 59%) the University of Tokyo revoked his doctorate in March of 2010 (press release in Japanese translated by Google) - the first time in the history of the university that they have done such a thing!

In the aftermath, his talk at TEDxTaipei in Taiwan and other places were mysteriously canceled. It is a shame that they were not open about this. He is no longer listed as a professor at the University of Tokyo. And the university has announced a crackdown on plagiarism.

Nice to hear of a success story, even if it did take 10 years!

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