paper mills Research integrity University Affairs

German Authorities on Papermills and Whistleblowing

"I am not familiar with Iranian papermills!" - Prof Dr med Henning Madry, Saarland University.

Meet two German elite researchers of the Saarland University, the professorial husband and wife couple Henning Madry and Magali Cucchiarini-Madry. Some years ago, Mrs Madry discovered her interests for Persia, and these Iranian “collaborations” expanded her scientific horizons and her publication record into all possible research fields. Her husband soon joined her. Envious bad tongues call this behaviour “paper mills“, but the University of Saarland calls this good scientific practice. Both the university and the Ombudsman of the German national authority DFG decreed it’s the whistleblowers who are the real problem.

A year ago, the Saarland University was very proud (translated):

“The German Society for Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery (DGOU) honors Henning Madry , Chair of Experimental Orthopedics and Arthrosis Research in Homburg, with the prize for promoting basic research . His scientific contribution to research into the development of arthritis after cartilage damage and its molecular therapy is recognized. The award for promoting basic research is the highest scientific award for orthopedics and trauma surgery in Germany. .
Henning Madry was also elected President of the Basic Research Section (SGF) of the German Society for Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery (DGOU) . The basic research section develops clearly defined scientific goals and research policy content for the German Society for Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery (DGOU).

Professor dr Magali Cucchiarini Madry , Associate Director of the Chair of Experimental Orthopedics and Osteoarthritis Research, has been appointed to the Board of Directors of Osteoarthritis Research Society International (OARSI) . OARSI is the world’s largest society dedicated to clinical and experimental issues of osteoarthritis.”

Prof. Dr. Henning G. Madry (centre) was awarded the DGOU’s 2021 Prize for Promotion of Basic Research Prize © Intercongress

Now you would like to know what kind of amazing basic research on arthritis the Madry couple does. Alexander Magazinov found this out:

A number of articles have been published by drs. Henning Madry and Magali Cucchiarini, with the affiliation of Saarland University in collaboration with “researchers” from Iran. Those articles show signs of papermill origin, most notably, irrelevant citations.

Like this one (at least it’s about arthritis):

Seyedeh Maryam Hosseinikhah , Mahmood Barani , Abbas Rahdar, Henning Madry , Rabia Arshad, Vahideh Mohammadzadeh , Magali Cucchiarini Nanomaterials for the Diagnosis and Treatment of Inflammatory Arthritis International Journal of Molecular Sciences (2021) doi: 10.3390/ijms22063092

Look at the references of this MDPI paper, almost 40 (!) inappropriate citations go to their Iranian co-authors Mahmood Barani and Abbas Rahdar (here an overview of their PubPeer record):

Another nonsense paper in MDPI, with Barani and Rahdar, plus other notorious papermill customers Tapan Behl and Simone Bungau, where the orthopaedist Cucchiarini-Madry suddenly became an expert in nanotechnology and… cardiovascular diseases:

Fakhara Sabir , Mahmood Barani , Mahwash Mukhtar , Abbas Rahdar , Magali Cucchiarini , Muhammad Nadeem Zafar , Tapan Behl , Simona Bungau Nanodiagnosis and Nanotreatment of Cardiovascular Diseases: An Overview Chemosensors (2021) doi: 10.3390/chemosensors9040067 

It is a massive citation plantation for “a certain M Barani and a certain A Rahdar”, as Magazinov noted.

In this MDPI study, the orthopaedists Madry suddenly became experts for DNA sequencing, again thanks to enlightenment from the Iranian papermillers Rahdar and Barani. Also, Magazinov spotted that a sentence irrelevant to the rest of the article was added, only to accommodate citations which have exactly zero to do with genomics but a lot to do with a certain papermill customer Changhe Li:

Mahwash Mukhtar , Saman Sargazi , Mahmood Barani , Henning Madry , Abbas Rahdar , Magali Cucchiarini Application of Nanotechnology for Sensitive Detection of Low-Abundance Single-Nucleotide Variations in Genomic DNA: A Review Nanomaterials (2021) doi: 10.3390/nano11061384

Now observe the unexpected expertise in organic chemistry from the orthopaedist Cucchiarini-Madry, again combined with irrelevant citations to Changhe Li:

Saman Sargazi , Mohammad Reza Hajinezhad , Mahmood Barani , Abbas Rahdar , Sheida Shahraki , Pouya Karimi , Magali Cucchiarini , Mehrdad Khatami , Sadanand Pandey Synthesis, characterization, toxicity and morphology assessments of newly prepared microemulsion systems for delivery of valproic acid Journal of Molecular Liquids (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.molliq.2021.116625 

“In this respect, nanomaterials or nanofluids have been extensively studied as desirable drug carriers and medical applications [33–38].”

  • [36] M. Yang, C. Li, L. Luo, R. Li, Y. Long, Predictive model of convective heat transfer coefficient in bone micro-grinding using nanofluid aerosol cooling Int. Commun. Heat Mass Transf. 125 (2021) 105317.
  • [38] Y. Zhang, C. Li, D. Jia, D. Zhang, X. Zhang, Experimental evaluation of MoS2 nanoparticles in jet MQL grinding with different types of vegetable oil as base oil J. Cleaner Prod. 87 (2015) 930.

The crack team of the polymath orthopaedist Cucchiarini-Madry and the Iranian papermillers Barani and Rahdar also cured cancer, in MDPI and always with nanoparticles of course, how else:

The German orthopaedist Henning Madry and his French orthopaedist wife Magali Cucchiarini must be the greatest, wisest polymath scholars the German and French nations ever had the honour to have, because this power couple are experts in basically everything.

Here, another paper on cancer therapy, but this time with anti-foaming agent Pluronic F127 (a substance for some reason popular with papermill fraudsters):

Naturally, Frau Dr Cucchiarini-Madry also knows all there is to know about pharmacology and traditional medicine. Probably because she likes mint tea?

The orthopaedists Madry, especially the wife, are also experts in nephrology, hepatology and urology, preferably addressed with nanoparticles. All they need to start healing is a helping hand from certain Iranians:

There is absolutely no reason for the orthopaedist couple Madry not to be world-recognised experts in dentistry, again all thanks to some Iranian friends:

And of course, COVID-19, how detect the infection and how to cure it with… stem cells (the latter with the predatory publisher Baishideng)!

I did not find any papers on autism or erectile dysfunction, so I suggest the Professors Madry get in touch with their Iranian colleagues to complete their publication record in medical polymathy. But with Chinese colleagues, Frau Dr Cucchiarini-Madry mastered the regenerative medicine, via a short detour into the developmental biology of salamanders!

Speaking of regenerative medicine: I do not know why Cucchiarini-Madry is corresponding author on a paper about 3D bioprinting of living tissues (don’t bother, it’s nonsense) which acknowledges as its only source of funding “Iran National Science Foundation research chair award”:

Roghayeh Khoeini , Hamed Nosrati , Abolfazl Akbarzadeh , Aziz Eftekhari , Taras Kavetskyy , Rovshan Khalilov , Elham Ahmadian , Aygun Nasibova , Pallab Datta , Leila Roshangar , Dante C. Deluca , Soodabeh Davaran , Magali Cucchiarini , Ibrahim T. Ozbolat Natural and Synthetic Bioinks for 3D Bioprinting Advanced NanoBiomed Research (2021) doi: 10.1002/anbr.202000097

Maybe someone at a German university agreed to pay the Open Access publication fees, via their naive university library? A win-win for everyone, except for the German taxpayer.

It seems the orthopaedist Cucchiarini-Madry discovered her Iran-inspired expertise for everything outside her official expertise around 2-3 years ago, and eventually she convinced her orthopaedist husband to look to Iran so he also can expand his academic horizons and his publication record. Here is the oldest Irano-Cucchiarinian paper we could find, on stem cells and cancer, a topic which other, pedestrian orthopaedists know little of:

I can’t tell you where Magali Cucchiarini met her Iranian “collaborators”, according to her CV she studied and graduated in France, did postdoc in Harvard, USA, where she met her husband Henning Madry, with whom she went to the Saarland University in Germany and stayed there till today. Maybe she just answered to one of those unsolicited emails, you know which kind.

It is not just the suspicious pattern of papermilling. There was also some plagiarism as Smut Clyde found out while chasing after Balwant Rai – a scamference organiser, “Space Dentist“, and a “broad-spectrum fabulist“. Read about Rai here:

It is about this paper by both Madrys:

Mohamed Mediouni , Daniel R. Schlatterer , Henning Madry , Magali Cucchiarini , Balwant Rai A review of translational medicine. The future paradigm: how can we connect the orthopedic dots better? Current Medical Research and Opinion (2018) doi: 10.1080/03007995.2017.1385450

Fig 2 “is unexpectedly similar to Fig 2 of “Drilling in cortical bone: A Finite element model and experimental investigations” (Lughmani et al 2015), despite the absence of an acknowledgement, and the absence of Lughmani et al from the References.
6b is unexpectedly similar to Fig 2 from “Improved Accuracy with 3D Planning and Patient-Specific Instruments During Simulated Pelvic Bone Tumor Surgery” (Cartiaux et al 2014).
5a and 5b is unexpectedly similar to Figs 1 and 2 from “The influence of water jet diameter and bone structural properties on the efficiency of pure water jet drilling in porcine bone” (Dunnen & Tuijthof 2014) – cited in the References but not acknowledged.
Fig 4b “is unexpectedly similar to Figure 1 of “Drilling of Bone: Practicality, Limitations and Complications Associated with Surgical Drill-Bits” (Bertollo & Walsh 2011). This is despite the absence of an aknowledgement, and the absence of Bertollo & Walsh from the References.
3a is unexpectedly similar to Fig 5(b) from “The Role of Fibers in the Femoral Attachment of the Anterior Cruciate Ligament in Resisting Tibial Displacement” (Kawaguch et al 2014), while 3b is similar to 5b from “Effect of Anteromedial Portal Entrance Drilling Angle during Anterior Cruciate Ligament Reconstruction: A Three-Dimensional Computer Simulation” (Moon et al 2014). These authors are cited but not acknowledged as the source of the illustrations.

Also, as Smut Clyde noted:

Second author Daniel Schlatterer appears as a Director of “JBR University”. The 5th author, “Prof. (Dr.) Balwant Rai” – “Program Director and Associate Professor of Aeronautic Dentistry at Kepler Space Institute” – is President of that nebulous organisation.

The DGOU society remained silent, probably because they don’t care. Magali Cucchiarini remained silent also. Henning Madry did reply, but refused to address the specific PubPeer allegations. When challenged, he never denied to have contributed his name to these papers knowingly and willingly. He insisted however:

I am not familiar with Iranian papermills.

Both Magazinov and I reported this case to the Saarland University with a request to investigate. I also forwarded them my email exchanges with Henning Madry, where he protested against the papermill suspicions but never denied his willful authorship on these papers. This is important, because in many cases the German academic authorites drop the investigations when the respondent scientist declares that the malfeasance in their papers happened totally without their knowledge.

DFG and Marburg drop misconduct investigation of Roland Lill papers

German Research Foundation (DFG) terminated the investigation against their Senator and Marburg University professor Roland Lill, after having found no research misconduct. No comments are issued on the integrity of the data in his papers on yeast biochemistry, or on some unusual image manipulations which were already admitted by Lill and his former PhD students

The Ombudsoffice of the Saarland University announced on 7 November 2022 to investigate the affair. This was the result of their investigation, announced on 9 December 2022 (highlights mine):

“Thank you very much for your e-mail from 5 November 2022, in which you raised allegations of scientific misconduct towards Prof. Dr. Henning Madry and Prof. Dr. Magali Cucchiarini, both members of Saarland University.

After a detailed examination of your allegations by our „Ständige Kommission zur Untersuchung von Vorwürfen wissenschaftlichen Fehlverhaltens“ (standing commission for the evaluation of allegations of scientific misconduct), we would like to inform you that the members of the commission decided in their formal meeting on 7 December 2022 to close the “Vorprüfungsverfahren” (preliminary examination) given that the suspicion of scientific misconduct towards the aforementioned members of our university has not been sufficiently substantiated.

Please note that according to our regulations, we offer you the opportunity to arrange a consultation with our standing commission within two weeks as of today.

Yours sincerely,

Ombuds Office of Saarland University”

Magazinov immediatedly tried to get the promised consultation but only got an appointment after he sent a reminder. But to me nobody replied when I tried to figure out why this kind of publishing behaviour, i.e. suspect papermilling and plagiarism, is perfectly acceptable.

Original images: , DGOU, ICRS

It was even crazier than that. It turned out the confidential Ombudsperson of the Saarland University has been forwarding Magazinov’s and mine emails to the Madry couple all along. With our names.

Verena Krenberger, an official of the Ombudsoffice and assistant to the Vice-president for Research replied to my email to her office to inform Magazinov and me that we must adhere to strict confidentiality and not contact anyone as not to affect the university’s investigation.
She added Madry and Cucchiarini in cc, who in this way received the entire email thread.

Basically, the Saarland University got the concept of whistleblower protection totally backwards. It may not matter much to Magazinov and myself, but what about other whistelblowers, like PhD students? What about their privacy and protection?

So I complained to the The German Research Ombudsman, or the Ombuds Committee for scientific integrity in Germany. It is an advisory panel of active academics appointed by the Senate of the national founder German Research Foundation (DFG).

I received on 25 November a reply, signed by the spokesman Eric Steinhauer, a law profesor. Translated:

“We looked at the e-mail correspondence you forwarded and found that you yourself had already contacted the two scientists concerned on November 7th, 2022 and asked for a statement. […]

“Dr. Verena Krenberger, head of the ombudsman office of Saarland University, then informed you that the information is already being investigated, whereby she has cc’ed the two scientists to whom her information relates. Also, she asked you to refrain during the ongoing investigation from contacting other offices outside of Saarland University.
In this specific case, we can understand this step by the ombudsman of Saarland University for several reasons. On the one hand, you had already contacted the persons concerned, presented the information and asked for a statement. Those affected already knew that you are the informant in the matter and that it is important to you to clarify the facts.”

Basically this means if you, the whistleblower, have previously contacted the accused scientist, you forfeit all rights to privacy and protection when you report this scientist to authorities. Of course every PhD student lodging a complaint about their PhD advisor will previously have tried to resolve the allegations with the said advisor, so there. I pointed this out to Steinhauer and received no reply.

The Steinhauer letter also elaborated that it was actually Magazinov and myself who infringed the confidentiality. Our misconduct was to contact other parties besides the Ombudsoffice of Saarland University. Magazinov contacted me, and I contacted the German Society for Orthopedics and Trauma Surgery (DGOU), who didn’t reply anyway. But as Krenberger complained to Steinhauer, I was not allowed to do that, and he agreed. I was educated that DGOU had no business to be informed about Madrys’ unusual publication record, a point I can’t quite follow. Steinhauer also specified:

Mr. Magazinov, in turn, had previously informed the instituion’s leadership, the press office and you. You have therefore turned to the public with your information. It is therefore incomprehensible to us to what extent you regard it as a breach of confidentiality that the ombudsman (only) informs those affected about your inquiry and your view of things, which they were already aware of.

I did not turn to public with this information, a law professor of all people must understand the difference between turning to public and writing to a learned society or the university’s press office. I only publicised the story in Friday Shorts after Krenberger proudly shared my emails with Madry.

Also, Steinhauer argued that not only the whistleblower names, but also all the possibly sensitive information they provide to the investigators must be immediatedly forwarded to the accused.

When I’m citing you, will you answer too?

What do moth pheromones on one side have to do with cancer research, petrochemistry, materials science, e-commerce, psychology, forestry and gynaecology on the other? They are separated by just one citation!

In fact, I had a similar experience almost at the same time, when reporting another papermill case. The Ombudsperson of a Helmholtz institute forwarded my emails to the accused where I mentioned that I know how to catch them on dishonesty, i.e. which question to ask, which answer would make sense and which answr would mean an admission to papermilling. Luckily I did not provide details. After the Ombudsman shared all my emails with the accused, I escalated the case to the senior Ombudsperson of the Helmholtz Society who indeed thanked me and confirmed to me that whistleblower protection was important. Much unlike the German Ombudsman for Science.

This MDPI peer reveiw must have been tough. Guess who the editors of the special issue are.

In his letter, Steinhauer also argued that a university is entitled to terminate an investigation if the whistleblower (who, as reminder, is not entitled to any protection or confidentiality whatsoever) does not adhere to the order of total confidentiality. He even cited the relevant DFG guideline:

“The competent bodies at the universities and non-university research institutions (usually ombudspersons and investigative commissions) who investigate suspicion of scientific misconduct take appropriate action to ensure protection both of the informant and the person affected by the allegations. The investigation of allegations of scientific misconduct is expressly carried out with due regard for confidentiality and the fundamental principle of the presumption of innocence.”

It seems, since I failed to adhere to confidentiality by writing to the DGOU society, the Saarland University terminated the Madry investigation.

I guess the take home message is: don’t trust your research institution’s Ombudsperson, don’t expect any confidentiality whatsoever, and be aware they have the blessing from the national Ombudsman to turn against you any time. But I still stand confused on whether all this means that buying authorships off papermills and even plagiarism is now acceptable scientific practice in Germany.

Apparently, yes.

Cool. MDPI will be happy.

MDPI and racism

In 2019, MDPI published a Special Issue “Beyond Thirty Years of Research on Race Differences in Cognitive Ability”, one year later its owner Shu-Kun Lin expressed admiration for Trump and said “Black Lives Matter. White Lives Matter. All Lives Matter.”

Update 18.12.2022

Alexander Magazinov held a consultation with the Ombudspeople of the Saarland University on 15 December 2022. Turned out not only does the university fully approve of papermilling and citation plantations, they even endorse plagiarism, all they ask from the authors is to add at least some credits when caught, preferably via a stealth correction. The above-described plagiarism in Mediouni et al 2018 was flagged on PubPeer in May 2019. The current published version of today is however different from the one in May 2019, we know this thanks to the “accepted manuscript” available to Magazinov and myself. The dishonest chief editors of the Taylor & Francis journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, a Dimitri P. Mikhailidis and a Leslie Citrome, eagerly accomodated the Madrys and other authors with the request of that stealth correction.

This is Magazinov’s rebuttal letter to the Saarland University:

“Following the consultation that happened last Friday, December 16, 2022, please find below my formal rebuttal.

1. Regarding your response as to (Mediouni et al., 2018).

1.1. You declared that the lack of attribution of Fig. 2 to its original source (Lughmani et al., 2015, is not a misconduct for some obscure reasons, like “it is a review, everyone understands that the figures are not original anyway” or so. This is obvious nonsense because Elsevier’s copyright on this image was obviously violated.

1.2. You declared that other figures are properly attributed. This is correct at the face value, apart from the mix-up in Figure 6. However, these attributions exhibit signs of sloppy post-hoc correction, which you would have noticed, if you had conducted a real investigation, not a sham “investigation.”

1.2.1. At this point, I am in possession of the “Accepted Manuscript” version of (Mediouni et al., 2018) dated October 7, 2017 (after its acceptance on September 21, 2017). In this version, no attribution of the concerned images is given. You may request the historic versions of this manuscript from the publisher, or retrieve them by any other means you find appropriate. It means that the PubPeer commenter, whom I know by their other works, although not by their identity, was absolutely correct with their comments #1, #3 and #4, given the version of the manuscript they had access to. It also means that the attribution of the concerned images was obscured from the peer-reviewers of the manuscript. Hiding the sources of the images from peer-reviewers might constitute misconduct from the authors of (Mediouni et al., 2018) regardless of whether they were properly attributed in any version published at a later point.

1.2.2. Please note that (Natali, 1996) and (Dunnen, 2014) are cited at the end of the reference list, out of the normal order of references. This is yet another sign of post-hoc addition of references to the concerned figures.

1.2.3. Fig. 1 in (Natali, 1996) illustrates the consequences of poor control over a blunt drill, not consequences of thermal necrosis. In (Mediouni et al., 2018) it is represented as “loosening of bone implant due to unstable fixation of secondary screw loosening from thermal necrosis.” Misrepresentation of content of other publications might amount to misconduct.

1.3. I have posted my assessment as comment #9 here which for all purposes can be considered my final assessment given on record.

2. You dismissed the claims of inappropriate citations based on two arguments.

2.1. “Drs. Madry and Cucchiarini are not responsible for the concerned citations.” Except they are: “All authors have read and agreed to the published version of the manuscript.” Their agreement to publish the manuscript with inappropriate citations implies their responsibility for inappropriate citations. Otherwise, the responsibility should have been delimited in the contribution statement.

2.2. “Where does it go if we investigate all claims of inappropriate citations?” I have a good illustration of where it goes if you do not. Here you go,, a piece reviewed by M. Barani, where he was selected as a reviewer not least because of his citations he earned in collaboration with Madry and Cucchiarini. Now, the point: this Frontiers article, reviewed by Barani, has been offered for sale before the publication:

To sum 2.2 up: Saarland University pays APCs for self-promotion of a certain M. Barani from Iran, “This work was supported by the Saarland University within the funding program Open Access Publishing.” Then Barani capitalizes on that by approving fraudulent submissions. With further inaction, there will be more of that; the question is whether Saarland University considers this usage of public funds appropriate.”

Magazinov on Mediouni et al 2018: “the reader is welcome to judge whether the text in the green box constitutes a borrowing from [102], and whether the borrowing is appropriately acknowledged. Of interest is also an apparent discrepancy in the context in which the similar fragments are embedded (“tumor orthopaedic community must focus” vs. “the three-dimensional simulation platform will focus”).”
The reader is welcome to assess whether the similarities below warrant a citation to (Benassi et al., 2013). That source is absent from the list of references.


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12 comments on “German Authorities on Papermills and Whistleblowing

  1. Saarland University is just another of those small institutions where anything happens and nobody cares because it doesn’t make any difference either. Just a place founded for giving the chance to locals to get a university degree without going too far away. Basically, just another worthless paperwork maker.


    • Hescheler´s Best Man

      True. Which is why low-impact scientists like Sahin and Pfreundschuh were forced to work there for quite a long time.


      • One swallow does not make a summer.


      • By the way, your hero Jürgen Hescheler has 7 entries in PubPeer, of which 3 are retractions. He is co-author on them, to be fair. At any rate, is anyone interested to go through his publication record? It could be fun!


      • In 2018, I reported Hescheler (in whose institute I once did my MSc project) to the University of Cologne for organising predatory conferences.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hescheler´s Best Man

        @Aneurus: get a grip of yourself, man, before you start judging on others just by the name. If you would have known about the blog owner´s connection to big curly head (which he mentions further down) you might have found out that the ” I cure heart attacks”guy (quite sure that you don´t understand this either) isn´t really one of my kind. But at least you are stringent in your biased argumentation.


    • Albert Varonov

      We see here that big or small doesn’t make any difference, Saarland, Munich feature in the blog this year.


  2. Sorry to have to say this:

    It’s not about the “Breach of Confidentiality”… and all is about the “Breach of Fucktionality”…

    Garbage people… 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Albert Varonov

    Leonid, ”bad tongues” closely resembles “злі язики” as one your compatriot states it frequently. 😉

    This is an excellent example of a citation cartel which goes hand in hand with fraud and paper mill (Surprise!!!).

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Please look into profile of Tapan Behl and simon…


    • magazinovalex

      Of course, we know this duo very well. For what it is worth, all but one PubPeer threads on Bungau are started by me 😉

      Not sure what can be done about all that. There is less than zero chance that their universities care. Yet, if you can flag more of their papers, it will be much, much appreciated.


  5. Hi Leonid
    I think there is a very important point to be added to the fascinating example you are providing here. Look at the 38 fictitious cross-references to Barani and Rahdar. They inflate the number of citations (and H factor) of these two crooks. Fine. But they also (and more importantly) boost the impact factors of these journals because 32/38 references (84%) in this paper from 2021 are from 2020 and 2019! This means they ‘count’ for the impact factor of these journals. I made a quick estimation of the percentage of citations from years (n-1) and (N-2) in a normal journal and found 10%.
    Some statistical analysis of this rate across many journals would certainly provide very valuable insight.

    Liked by 1 person

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