Meet Ahmed Esmail Shalan, a young materials science researcher from Egypt who convinced many he was a genius because he publishes so many papers in quite fancy journals. Shalan has two affiliations, in fact two full-time positions: as assistant professor back home, at the Central Metallurgical Research and Development Institute (CMRDI) in Cairo, and as postdoc at the Basque Center for Materials Applications & Nanostructures (BCMaterials) in Leioa, Spain.
It looks however that Mr Shalan is a one-man papermill. My sleuthing colleagues went through his papers and had a feast, almost every single one had serious issues with forged data. An investigation has now been opened at BCMaterials.
The early works by Shalan and his Cairo colleagues are quite kack-handed, straightforward recycling of figures, with just the sample labels changed. Here an example:
M. M. Rashad, A. E. Shalan Surfactant-assisted hydrothermal synthesis of titania nanoparticles for solar cell applications Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Electronics (2013) doi: 10.1007/s10854-013-1226-y
In the same Springer Nature journal, visualised with animations, courtesy of Orchestes quercus (there will be many more of those):
E. M. Elsayed , A. E. Shalan , M. M. Rashad Preparation of ZnO nanoparticles using electrodeposition and co-precipitation techniques for dye-sensitized solar cells applications Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Electronics (2014) doi: 10.1007/s10854-014-2033-9
Basically, those are same datasets, obtained from obscure origins and reused with some stretching and fudging to represent different experiments. Again, in the same Springer Nature journal, an early one by Shalan:
A. E. Shalan , I. Osama , M. M. Rashad , I. A. Ibrahim An investigation on the properties of SnO2 nanoparticles synthesized using two different methods Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Electronics (2014) doi: 10.1007/s10854-013-1586-3
What we learned from my colleagues’ paper mill investigations, is that when papermillers find a soft target journal with a weak or even crooked editorial team, they will keep submitting there, ad nauseam. Materials and Electronics was founded by Arthur F. W. Willoughby, now emeritus of Southampton University in UK, and is currently led by Safa Kasap, professor at University of Saskatchewan, Canada. Congratulations to these gentlemen on another peer reviewed forgery:
M. F. Abdel Messih , Ahmed E. Shalan, Mohamed F. Sanad , M. A. Ahmed Facile approach to prepare ZnO@SiO2 nanomaterials for photocatalytic degradation of some organic pollutant models Journal of Materials Science: Materials in Electronics (2019) doi: 10.1007/s10854-019-01798-9
Shalan apparently knows what editors and reviewers expect, and his “research” shaped objects get accepted in rather respectable materials science and chemistry journals. Here, in Elsevier’s Applied Surface Science, with journal impact factor of 6.7 and edited by expert professors, including from Netherlands and Germany. Look what they happily waved through:
A.E. Shalan , M.M. Rashad Incorporation of Mn2+ and Co2+ to TiO2 nanoparticles and the performance of dye-sensitized solar cells Applied Surface Science (2013) doi: 10.1016/j.apsusc.2013.07.055
With time, the forgeries became less obvious, maybe Shalan’s team learned from journal rejections. The editors and reviewers of this Wiley journal can be forgiven for overlooking these details which reveal a falsified spectrum:
Ahmed Mourtada Elseman , Ahmed Esmail Shalan , Mohamed M. Rashad , Ali M. Hassan , Nabila M. Ibrahim , Amr M. Nassar Easily attainable new approach to mass yield ferrocenyl Schiff base and different metal complexes of ferrocenyl Schiff base through convenient ultrasonication-solvothermal method Journal of Physical Organic Chemistry (2017) doi: 10.1002/poc.3639
Less tolerance must be shown for editors and reviewers of the Springer Nature journal Applied Physics A, whose Editor-in-Chief is a Swiss professor, Thomas Lippert.
M. M. Rashad , A. E. Shalan Hydrothermal synthesis of hierarchical WO3 nanostructures for dye-sensitized solar cells Applied Physics A (2014) doi: 10.1007/s00339-013-8148-7
Shalan obtained his MSc degree in Spain, in the lab of Monica Lira-Cantu at the Catalan Institute of Nanoscience and Nanotechnology in Barcelona. Here is one example of her collaboration with the Cairo gang, in same journal:
A. E. Shalan , M. M. Rashad , Youhai Yu , Mónica Lira-Cantú , M. S. A. Abdel-Mottaleb A facile low temperature synthesis of TiO2 nanorods for high efficiency dye sensitized solar cells Applied Physics A (2013) doi: 10.1007/s00339-012-7368-6
Here another one, in an Elsevier journal with impact factor of 6.9.
A.E. Shalan, M.M. Rashad , Youhai Yu , Mónica Lira-Cantú , M.S.A. Abdel-Mottaleb Controlling the microstructure and properties of titania nanopowders for high efficiency dye sensitized solar cells Electrochimica Acta (2013) doi: 10.1016/j.electacta.2012.11.091
The PubPeer user Thallarcha lechrioleuca is known to my readers as #FakeSpectraGoogling activist, here their guest post as Dayo Maor:
With the section of Shalan’s papers presented in this article, it is worth clicking on the PubPeer links, because I am not able to show you all of the fake stuff the sleuths Orchestes quercus, Thallarcha lechrioleuca and Aneurus inconstans found in each of these papers. There is really a lot.
The fraudulent Figure 10 discussed above featured also in this paper, plus other forgeries:
M. M. Rashad, A. E. Shalan, Mónica Lira-Cantú, M. S. A. Abdel-Mottaleb Enhancement of TiO2 nanoparticle properties and efficiency of dye-sensitized solar cells using modifiers Applied Nanoscience (2013) doi: 10.1007/s13204-012-0117-5
Shalan then briefly left Spain to do PhD in Japan. As he wrote on ResearchGate about himself, in third person:
“He had obtained his PhD (2017) from the Research Institute for Electronic Science, Hokkaido University, Japan, in the group of Prof. Dr. Hiroaki Misawa with the collaboration of Prof. Dr. Eric Diau -NCTU- Taiwan. It worth to mention that he got a prize during his Ph.D. as the best thesis at the graduate school of information science and technology, Hokkaido university and Ministry of Education Prize.”
And here is the fabricated trash Shalan, Eric Diau and Hiroaki Misawa produced, for the Royal Society of Chemistry (RSC) journal Nanoscale (impact factor 7.9):
Ahmed Esmail Shalan , Tomoya Oshikiri , Hiroki Sawayanagi , Keisuke Nakamura , Kosei Ueno , Quan Sun , Hui-Ping Wu , Eric Wei-Guang Diau , Hiroaki Misawa Versatile plasmonic-effects at the interface of inverted perovskite solar cells Nanoscale (2017) doi: 10.1039/c6nr06741g
It passed peer review, nobody noticed anything. Here another RSC journal, Sustainable Energy and Fuels (impact factor 6.4). Orchestes quercus extracted graphical data to prove that some stretches of the spectra are repetitive, i.e. falsified.
Ahmed Esmail Shalan, Sudhakar Narra , Tomoya Oshikiri , Kosei Ueno , Xu Shi , Hui-Ping Wu , Mahmoud M. Elshanawany , Eric Wei-Guang Diau , Hiroaki Misawa Optimization of a compact layer of TiO2via atomic-layer deposition for high-performance perovskite solar cells Sustainable Energy & Fuels (2017) doi: 10.1039/c7se00220c
Shalan published a number of fraudulent papers in RSC journals. Here another one, flagged by an anonymous PubPeer who is not a member of our team (pity to see such a great pseudonym Allium sativum going to waste!):
Ahmed E. Shalan, Ayat N. El-Shazly , Mohamed M. Rashad , Nageh K. Allam Tin–zinc-oxide nanocomposites (SZO) as promising electron transport layers for efficient and stable perovskite solar cells Nanoscale Advances (2019)
And here another RSC journal targetted, apparently every kind of spectra can be falsified by this team:
Reza Taheri-Ledari , Jamal Rahimi , Ali Maleki , Ahmed Esmail Shalan Ultrasound-assisted diversion of nitrobenzene derivatives to their aniline equivalents through a heterogeneous magnetic Ag/Fe3O4-IT nanocomposite catalyst New Journal of Chemistry (2020) doi: 10.1039/d0nj05147k
Shalan honoured RSC even more by publishing in their trash bin journal RSC Advances, where authors pay a rather modest Open Access fee of £850 so nobody looks too closely or asks questions. No wonder that publisher recently had to retract many fake RSC Advances papers from Chinese paper mills. Here is one of Shalan’s contributions, hot off the press:
Mehdi Davoodi, Fatemeh Davar , Mohammad R. Rezayat , Mohammad T. Jafari , Ahmed Esmail Shalan Cobalt metal–organic framework-based ZIF-67 for the trace determination of herbicide molinate by ion mobility spectrometry: investigation of different morphologies RSC Advances (2021) doi: 10.1039/d0ra09298c
And here another one:
Ayat Nasr El-Shazly , Ahmed Esmail Shalan, Mohamed Mohamed Rashad , Elsayed Ali Abdel-Aal , Ibrahim Ahmed Ibrahim , Mohamed F. El-Shahat Solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells based on Zn1−xSnxO nanocomposite photoanodes RSC Advances (2018) doi: 10.1039/c8ra02852d
The linked paper from Shalan’s MSc period in the lab of Lira-Cantu, also published in RSC Advances, is just as fake:
Ahmed Esmail Shalan, Ahmed Mourtada Elseman , Mahmoud Rasly , Marwa M. Moharam , Monica Lira-Cantu, Mohamed M. Rashad Concordantly fabricated heterojunction ZnO–TiO2 nanocomposite electrodes via a co-precipitation method for efficient stable quasi-solid-state dye-sensitized solar cells RSC Advances (2015) doi: 10.1039/c5ra21822e
Lira-Cantu commented on her common papers with the wizard from Cairo:
“This person, Ahmed Shalan worked in my lab more than 10 years ago and I don’t have contact with him anymore. I know he also has several problems with other professors he has been working with lately. These issues, specially fraudulent data, are of high concern for me and Im (me and my team) currently under evaluation of this. As soon as I (we) finalize the analysis of the data in these articles we will take action. I certainly don’t support this type of behaviour in any way.“
Shalan denies everything. When confronted with witness allegations that he is never seen actually doing research in BCMaterials labs, while constantly writing new research papers, he retorted:
If he says so.
When asked if he receives two full-time salaries in Spain and in Egypt, Shalan claims:
Never mind that all his papers, including those from 2021, list his the CMRDI affiliation, while Shalan’s Publons profile declares him to be Assistant Professor there.
And when asked to comment on the evidence of massive data forgery in his papers, Shalan declared:
But now have a look at this masterpiece by Shalan with his PhD mentors Diau and Misawa:
Ahmed Esmail Shalan, Tomoya Oshikiri, Sudhakar Narra , Mahmoud M. Elshanawany , Kosei Ueno , Hui-Ping Wu , Keisuke Nakamura , Xu Shi , Eric Wei-Guang Diau, Hiroaki Misawa Cobalt Oxide (CoOx) as an Efficient Hole-Extracting Layer for High-Performance Inverted Planar Perovskite Solar Cells ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2016) doi: 10.1021/acsami.6b10803
Neither Hiroaki Misawa nor the leadership of the Hokkaido University ever replied to my emails. Even when I suggested that “I will have to inform my readers that Dr Misawa has been an active participant in this research fraud case, and the University of Hokkaido approves of the misconduct in order to defraud the Japanese public for research grants”. Silence even then. Maybe that’s the truth indeed?
Reminds me a bit of the materials science professor and Elsevier journal chief editor Anthony Turner in Linköping, Sweden, who welcomed and protected the mega-fraudster Ashutosh Tiwari, and then went down with him, forcefully retired and slapped with research misconduct findings. Good luck, Dr Misawa.
Another paper, same impact factor 9.2 journal by the American Chemical Society (ACS), again with Shalan. The corresponding authors are Shalan and his CMRDI colleague and regular co-author, Ahmed Mourtada.
Ahmed Mourtada Elseman, Ahmed Esmail Shalan, Sajid Sajid , Mohamed Mohamed Rashad , Ali Mostafa Hassan , Meicheng Li Copper-Substituted Lead Perovskite Materials Constructed with Different Halides for Working (CH3NH3)2CuX4-Based Perovskite Solar Cells from Experimental and Theoretical View ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2018) doi: 10.1021/acsami.8b00495
Now, you might wonder how this fraudulent shit-show passed peer review, at ACS no less. The articfically drawn Figure 2a alone takes the biscuit, a reviewer has to be a particular kind of incompetent idiot to let that one through. Unless of course, the authors themselves got appointed by a dimwitted editor as sock-puppet peer-reviewers of their own paper? A total editorial failure in any case.
ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces is allegedly an elite journal published by the elite chemistry society, with a big fat impact factor and a US chief editor, Kirk Schanze, professor at UT San Antonio. In reality, this ACS journal is a massive fraud factory. Schanze never replies to emails, and his fraudster customers usually get away with a correction where they declare conclusions to be unaffected. If there is even a correction, that is.
Shalan’s scientific career so far has been stellar. The young man who has no research lab of his own while claiming to be a principal investigator at BCMaterials in Spain now publishes as last author:
G. Nagaraj , Mustafa K.A. Mohammed, Masoud Shekargoftar , P. Sasikumar , P. Sakthivel , G. Ravi , M. Dehghanipour , Seckin Akin , Ahmed Esmail Shalan High-performance perovskite solar cells using the graphene quantum dot–modified SnO2/ZnO photoelectrode Materials Today Energy (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.mtener.2021.100853
Amazing stuff, an Elsevier journal with impact factor of 7.3, so I guess this fabrication is now a science fact?
Shalan is also an active peer reviewer himself, maybe he even rejected your paper? Our young genius also made it to editorial board of several journals. Including one, Applied Nanoscience, presided upon by the Nobel Prize winner Fraser Stoddart. But then again, Stoddart will probably have understanding for Shalan’s “research” methods.
It is worth double checking Shalan’s claims of editorial memebrships though. Emergent Materials does not list him as editorial board member. Neither does Applied Surface Science, but never mind, at least as author Shalan placed a fake paper there (see above). So congrats to Sir Fraser, great choice.
The Cairo genius has currently 38 papers on PubPeer. I show you just a selection, not even all problems with a given paper. There is simply too much.
Shalan’s problem however might be that those fabrications were spotted before he established himself as full professor, before he acquired the necessary extensive networks into politics and academia with oodles of people who owe him. Basically, Shalan is in a less priveleged position than this Turkish nanofabricator Fatih Sen, whose lab produces forgeries on a conveyor belt.
Oh look, another Shalan last-author paper in an ACS journal, with another US chemistry professor, Phillip E. Savage, as Editor-in-Chief:
Mehdi Davoodi , Fatemeh Davar, Sudabe Mandani , Behzad Rezaei , Ahmed Esmail Shalan CdSe Quantum Dot Nanoparticles: Synthesis and Application in the Development of Molecularly Imprinted Polymer-Based Dual Optical Sensors Industrial & Engineering Chemistry Research (2021) doi: 10.1021/acs.iecr.1c02124
And here is something for biologists like myself, a brief respite from all those fake spectra. Fake flow cytometry, hurray, Dr Shalan has cured cancer! The victim is yet another RSC journal:
Mohamed Fathi Sanad, Esraa Samy Abu Serea , Shereen Magdy Bazid , Shimaa Nabih , Md Ariful Ahsan , Ahmed Esmail Shalan High cytotoxic activity of ZnO@leucovorin nanocomposite based materials against an MCF-7 cell model Analytical Methods (2020) doi: 10.1039/d0ay00498g
I have alerted Shalan’s boss and scientific director of BCMaterials, Senentxu Lanceros-Méndez, who immediately announced to open a research misconduct investigation:
“This is a serious issue and I cannot provide any statement until the assessment is properly performed and concluded. In any case, this is an internal procedure and will take the necessary time to guarantee a serious and correct process. The conclusions and the eventual actions will be communicated to the researcher.“
Lanceros-Mendez published several reviews with Shalan and a Springer book. There is also this “research” paper, published in ACS’s Open Access trash bin equivalent of RSC Advances, called ACS Omega (because this is the final stop for papers rejected elsewhere?). The publication fee is $ 1,250.
Mohamed K. Ahmed , Ahmed Esmail Shalan , Mohamed Afifi, Mohamed M. El-Desoky, Senentxu Lanceros-Méndez Silver-Doped Cadmium Selenide/Graphene Oxide-Filled Cellulose Acetate Nanocomposites for Photocatalytic Degradation of Malachite Green toward Wastewater Treatment ACS Omega (2021) doi: 10.1021/acsomega.1c02667
Lanceros-Mendez assured me however:
Shalan announced to me that he won’t answer my questions anymore:
I really wonder how Shalan will defend his “research” now. Maybe his raw data was stolen with a laptop, like the fake nanotechnology of Tiwari and Turner? Maybe an Egyptian technician did it?
I think pretty soon Shalan will be back to CMRDI in Cairo. If they will still want him there.
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oh how bad, he is a handsome guy. (provided his portrait image is real)
It is disappointing that he has got so many honors and awards. Side note: DAAD in Germany would be interesting to ask, how do they oversee their fellows. Side note 2: it seems for me that when he was asked about his data in Japan he answered that the work was done in Egypt/Spain. When he was asked about his data in Germany, his reply might have been “it was done in Japan/Egypt/Spain”. And so on.
Thanks, I now informed Prof Brabec in Erlangen and DAAD.
Great reading, but quite demotivating for sincere young researchers, how easily some one can fool the system. Look at his publications profile and he has cured cancer, CoVid, and also solved other important issues such as nanoparticles, water purification, solar cells and etc. Such a broad research line in all the three area of natural science, and it counts over 30 articles in 2021, many well established professor can’t do that. Looks like an institutional failure, or can be the case of Nobel prize in each category (Three Nobel prizes). Side note, what these papers (garbage) are good for?
So far only RSC reacted to my email and announced investigation. Silence from.Springer Nature and of course from Elsevier.
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