paper mills University Affairs

I, Rajender Varma, Highly Cited Researcher

"I could not comprehend the situation where a university picks up on individuals with an extraordinary and sterling performance and basically destroy one of the top European institutions. " - Raj Varma

We return once again to the Czech town of Olomouc, its Palacký University, and its freshly founded Czech Advanced Technology and Research Institute (CATRIN). The story in brief: the big Czech cheater remains protected, one foreign papermiller is out, another foreign papermiller brought in, with €2.5 million EU Commission money in tow.

The main hero of this story is Rajender S Varma, a 72 year old employee of the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), who describes his role there as

“Senior Scientist (GS-1320, Level 15, Step 10-Highest level in US Federal
Government General Services), Water Systems Division/ Water Resources
Recovery Branch, National Risk Management Research Laboratory,”

Varma works at EPA since 1999 and will probably work there till his death because the US institution does not react to emails. Or maybe he retired there years ago and just pretends he didn’t? More important for our story: the Highly Cited Researcher used to be employed as visiting scientist by the Palacky University of Olomouc since 2014, and became the poster boy of CATRIN when it opened in 2021. But by the end of 2022 Varma was sacked, because his contract was not extended. You will read about the details, but first, the real reasons why he had to leave.

Rajender Varma on Clarivate

Part 1. Varma’s Iranians

Varma was caught on papermilling, hit by the “Vickers Curse“. It works when an inappropriate citation to a certain editorial about insect pheromones appears in an otherwise utterly unrelated paper. This in turn is in most cases a sure sign of a papermill origin, as my sleuthing colleagues found out. In the case of Ghaffari-Bohlouli et al 2022, Varma was apprehended with a gang of Iranian papermill customers. Read here:

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!

Soon, there was more. 20 papers on PubPeer by now – Varma and his Iranian friends were very productive. Here is an example:

Neda Motamedi , Mahmood Barani , Azadeh Lohrasbi-Nejad , Mojtaba Mortazavi , Ali Riahi-Medvar , Rajender S. Varma, Masoud Torkzadeh-Mahani Enhancement of Thermostability of Aspergillus flavus Urate Oxidase by Immobilization on the Ni-Based Magnetic Metal–Organic Framework Nanomaterials (2021) doi: 10.3390/nano11071759

Methods section: “The SEM method (S-4800 machine, Hitachi, Japan) was used for the morphology observation of synthesized NPs, which operated at 10 kV and 100 mA.” Figure 5, according to PubPeer user: “The layout of the info panel is characteristic to FEI Quanta 200 instrument. The indicated acceleration voltage is 25 kV.”

The problem with misreported Scanning Electron Microscopy (SEM) equipment arose also in other papers co-authored by Varma, e.g. Nasrollahzadeh et al 2019 and Motahharifar et al 2020. This happens when the papermillers write sloppily, but hey, Professor Varma, you get what you paid for and that’s the risk you took to become a Highly Cited Researcher.

Moreover, as Alexander Magazinov noted, the Motamedi et al 2021 paper contains inappropriate references to the “works” of a known citation fraudster, a certain Changhe Li. Basically, papermills sell not only authorships but also citations. Li buys at both ends.

Elsewhere, totally irrelevant citations went to Varma’s own papers, and of course also to the papers of his Iranian coauthors, like the papermill fraudsters Navid Rabiee and Siavash Iravani (see Rabiee et al 2022a, Rabiee et al 2022b, Rabiee et al 2022c, Ashrafizadeh et al 2023, Iravani & Varma 2022).

Sometimes it’s the straightforward fake figures which give away Varma’s papermilled secret as Highly Cited Researcher. Here is a fake XRD spectrum he published with Rabiee:

Mojtaba Bagherzadeh , Moein Safarkhani , Amir Mohammad Ghadiri , Mahsa Kiani , Yousef Fatahi , Fahimeh Taghavimandi , Hossein Daneshgar , Nikzad Abbariki , Pooyan Makvandi , Rajender S. Varma , Navid Rabiee Bioengineering of CuO porous (nano)particles: role of surface amination in biological, antibacterial, and photocatalytic activity Scientific Reports (2022) doi: 10.1038/s41598-022-19553-2 

Here is Varma with his papermilling friends, the notorious crooks Abbas Rahdar and Sadanand Pandey:

Mohadeseh Hassanisaadi , Amir Hashem Shahidi Bonjar, Abbas Rahdar, Rajender S. Varma , Narges Ajalli , Sadanand Pandey Eco-friendly biosynthesis of silver nanoparticles using Aloysia citrodora leaf extract and evaluations of their bioactivities Materials Today Communications (2022) doi: 10.1016/j.mtcomm.2022.104183

In the same Springer Nature journal, where we can only hope for a papermill origin of this Iranian “study”, so that no real animals were tortured to publish fraud.

Here you have a unique international collaboration, In Elsevier. Our Olomouc star Varma, with a bunch of Iranians of course, plus scholars from South Africa, South Korea and Singapore. Classic papermill? They will probably claim they met on LinkedIn.

Zohreh Bakhtiarzadeh , Shamila Rouhani , Ziba Karimi , Sadegh Rostamnia , Titus A.M. Msagati , Dokyoon Kim , Ho Won Jang , Seeram Ramakrishna , Rajender S. Varma, Mohammadreza Shokouhimehr Hydrothermal self – sacrificing growth of polymorphous MnO2 on magnetic porous – carbon (Fe3O4@Cg/MnO2): A sustainable nanostructured catalyst for activation of molecular oxygen Molecular Catalysis (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.mcat.2021.111603

Alexander Magazinov: “Fig. 3: overlap between panels (b) & (c), (b) & (d). According to the caption, (b) does not show the same material as (c) and (d).

I should mention that Varma never replied to my email inquiries. So here is another fake papermill trash from Iran:

Bahareh Feizi Mohazzab , Babak Jaleh , Mahmoud Nasrollahzadeh , Sadegh Khazalpour , Mohaddeseh Sajjadi , Rajender S. Varma Upgraded Valorization of Biowaste: Laser-Assisted Synthesis of Pd/Calcium Lignosulfonate Nanocomposite for Hydrogen Storage and Environmental Remediation ACS Omega (2020) doi: 10.1021/acsomega.9b04149 70-1343 

Fig. 2 of this paper. The authors show diffraction patterns for CLS and CLS dosed with different amounts of Pd. The spectra are surprisingly identical, even in regions that one would expect to be dominated by noise.”

Piping hot, freshly off the papermill and into a known ACS fraud-factory journal:

Milad Nayebi , Amir Faraji , Ashkan Bahadoran , Zhian Jamal Othman , Soheila Arghavani , Pouya Ghamari Kargar , Seyed Mehrzad Sajjadinezhad , Rajender S. Varma TiO2/g-C3N4/SO3H(IL): Unique Usage of Ionic Liquid-Based Sulfonic Acid as an Efficient Photocatalyst for Visible-Light-Driven Preparation of 5-HMF from Cellulose and Glucose ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces (2023) doi: 10.1021/acsami.2c20480 

Fig. S1: XRD patterns show unexpected internal repetitions, shown by magnifying fragments for g-C3N4, and by vertical markers for TiO2.”
Fig S6: two different XRD patterns are similar down to noise at lower angles. It is unclear whether they are similar or different at higher angles because of unreadable graphical presentation.”

Good thing for Varma that the Editor-in-Chief of ACS Applied Materials & Interfaces, the University of Texas San Antonio professor Kirk Schanze has a big heart for fraudsters. That fake papermill trash is safe and in worst case will get fixed with a “conclusions not affected” correction, just like the others:

Zombie fingers inside corroded nano-piecrusts

Smut Clyde is back with more fraudulent nanotechnology. This time, he presents the works of Dhanaraj Gopi, who designs fabricated surfaces for surgical implants. In Photoshop, or with a pencil.

Speaking of. Here is a Correction for Varma, the Iranians, and a fellow connoisseur of Iranian papermills, Virgilio Mattoli from Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia:

Pooyan Makvandi, Milad Ashrafizadeh , Matineh Ghomi , Masoud Najafi, Hamid Heydari Sheikh Hossein , Ali Zarrabi , Virgilio Mattoli , Rajender S. Varma Injectable hyaluronic acid-based antibacterial hydrogel adorned with biogenically synthesized AgNPs-decorated multi-walled carbon nanotubes Progress in biomaterials (2021) doi: 10.1007/s40204-021-00155-6

Correction in November 2021 (highlight mine):

“The authors found that the TEM image of AgNPs (Fig. 4a) is sent wrongly by the institute that took the TEM image. Even though the TEM images of pure AgNPs (in comparison with Ag-adorned CNTs) were not determinative and it does not affect the other results in this study, as responsibility of the authors to report precise and correct data, a new image (by TEM, Zeiss-EM10C-80 KV, Germany) was taken and now replaced in Fig. 4a. It is worth mentioning that other data and images in Fig. 4 are not altered. The authors do apologize for this inconvenience.”

Before he discovered Iranian papermills, Varma had to boost his publication record by self-plagiarism (maybe not just self-plagiarism, Varma really has no shame or limits). A paper with someone named Vivek Polshettiwar was published twice (Chemical Communications 2009 and Tetrohedron 2010), the second time the female middle author was dropped. The newer paper references the older only in passing, hidden in the text, as ref. 49. [The previous sentence erroneously stated there was no reference at all, see comment below].

Because Varma’s name was found on a number of papermill fabrications, I reported this Highly Cited Researcher for research misconduct to both EPA and the Czech university in November 2022. EPA never replied to any of my emails, but Varma’s contract in Olomouc wasn’t extended. More on that in a moment.

Part 2. Varma’s friend

At the Palacky University Olomouc, Varma used to be a close collaborator of the nanotechnology professor and scientific director of the Regional Centre of Advanced Technologies and Materials (RCPTM) at CATRIN, Radek Zbořil. In 2019, Zboril was exposed as a research cheater by his colleagues, who published the evidence in a university magazine. I wrote about Zboril here:

Zboril was eventually found guilty of ethics violations in an investigation by his Palacky University, several papers of his were retracted. Still, he retaliated by suing the dean Martin Kubala for “bullying”, the latter was then sacked. Zboril however remains in his job because the journal editors sided with him even while retracting his papers, also a CATRIN investigation found no misconduct, as you will read below.

This is also why the duo Zboril and Varma were celebrated at CATRIN’s grand opening in October 2021, and the next month Zboril’s RCPTM issued this press release:

“The chemists Radek Zbořil and Rajender Varma appear again on the Highly Cited Researchers 2021 list, which is published annually by Clarivate Analytics. The list comprises about 6600 scientists from 70 countries, including 24 Nobel laureates. There are also ten scientists in this elite group who affiliate to domestic institutions or universities. […]

Chemist Rajender Varma, who works at the Environmental Protection Agency in the US and is a member of the Environmental Nanotechnologies group at CATRIN, has been ranked repeatedly among the most highly cited scientists.

“I am very pleased to be included for the fifth time on this elite list, which contains 240 chemists from all over the world. I really appreciate such an entirely independent evaluation of my research, with nearly 52,000 citations over the last decade,” said Varma.

For four consecutive years, the Highly Cited Researchers list has included Radek Zbořil, a nanomaterials research expert, who focuses mainly on the use of nanomaterials in medicine, chemistry and environmental cleaning technologies. This year, he’s listed in the Chemistry category. He and Varma are the only two representatives in it with domestic affiliations.

“It’s not easy at all to secure one’s position in this growing competition. The key to success is the right choice of topics and the ability to identify key challenges in the area, and, of course, a great team of scientists who can turn ideas into findings and sell them in the world’s best journals. I have people like these around me. My thanks and a part of this award go to every one of my colleagues in Olomouc and Ostrava,” commented on his success Radek Zbořil…”

CATRIN currently has over 220 employees, about a third of whom are foreigners. Among them are several researchers who regularly appear in the list of the world’s most highly cited scientists announced annually by the American company Clarivate Analytics (electrochemistry expert Patrik Schmuki, chemist Rajender Varma, physical chemist Radek Zbořil).” Text: CATRIN, image source: RCPTM

I obtained the protocol of the meeting of the CATRIN Board of Directors, which you can download here. It concerned both Zboril’s case (retractions but no misconduct findings) as well as Varma’s case.

On 20 February 2023, the institute’s director Pavel Banáš wrote a letter to the Council of the Palacky University (UP). Translated:

“Furthermore, I would like to state that suspicions of possible ethical misconduct by CATRIN employees were dealt with in detail and conscientiously by the Board of Directors of CATRIN, which, especially with regard to external independent expert opinions and the results of independent investigations in the editorial offices of the journals, decided whether to activate the standard procedure and submit an initiative to Ethics Commission of UP. In none of the cases involving CATRIN employees and investigated by the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Arts, which is an advisory body to the dean of the Faculty of Arts, UP, the board of directors did not find any ethical misconduct by CATRIN employees. Therefore, the Board did not consider it necessary to submit an initiative to the UP Ethics Commission in these cases and therefore considers these cases closed, just as they were closed in the editorial offices of journals, without any indications of violation of the integrity of scientific work.”

Banas referenced the decisions from the 3 January 2023, made by the triumvirate of himself plus the Director’s Board members Michal Otyepka and Ivo Frébort:

Resolution No. 1:

The CATRIN Director’s Board strictly condemns any form of violation of the integrity of scientific work, including manipulation of research data, plagiarism or so-called papermills. It unequivocally distances itself from these practices and will take all available measures for their prevention and possible correction. Following its resolution of 22.6.2021, the CATRIN Director’s Board will always emphasize independent external assessments and clear identification of the specific perpetrator of a possible violation of the ethics of scientific work. With the same intensity, the CATRIN Director’s Board also condemns the efforts to abuse the subject of the ethics of scientific work for targeted harming of colleagues, especially in the form of false accusations and their extensive media coverage instead of efforts for a proper and independent investigation. This applies in particular to the purposeful passing off of unintentional factual errors by the authors as ethical misconduct. In the same way, the college considers it inadmissible to generalize and transfer responsibility for any violation of the ethics of scientific work to the entire author collective instead of clearly identifying the perpetrator of this violation. All these practices, which can significantly damage both the career and personal life of the scientists concerned, are considered by the college to be as objectionable and dangerous as the violation of the integrity of scientific work itself.

For: 3 Against: 0 Abstentions: 0

Basically, these three Heroes of Research Integrity voted that the only people guilty of research misconduct are those who slander CATRIN’s science geniuses like Zboril: the Olomouc whistleblowers plus the sacked dean Kubala, and that horrid Leonid Schneider.

By the way, I noticed that almost all of CATRIN’ leader’s leadership are male. All four directors: male. On the 18 members strong Scientific Board, 17 members have a member. Of the 10 members of the Supervisory Board: 9 males, led by a female bursar though (someone has to do the hard work of management and bookkeeping). No wonder this good ole boys club keeps protecting their own.

A decision was made about this fake paper by Zboril:

Ravishankar G. Kadam, Martin Petr , Radek Zbořil , Manoj B. Gawande , Radha V. Jayaram Hexagonal Mesoporous Silica Supported Ultrasmall Copper Oxides for Oxidative Amidation of Carboxylic Acids ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (2018) doi: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.8b02247

Resolution No. 3:

The CATRIN Director’s Board discussed the submissions regarding the suspected manipulation of the XRD data in Figure 4 of the article by Kadam et al. ACS Sus. Chem. Eng., 2018, 6, 12935−12945 (i.e. statements of external experts, statements of the manufacturer of the XRD device, e-mail communication with the editor of the journal, communication with the authors and supplied XRD data of the original sample remeasured in Olomouc at the UP). The director’s panel states that the suspicion relates to the measurement of a sample prepared at the collaborating ICT Mumbai workplace in India and measured there by its employees, i.e. not by UP employees. The co-authors of the work from UP have provided maximum cooperation from the beginning, they have remeasured the samples on the XRD apparatus at UP, provided primary data from this remeasurement that confirm the conclusions of the work, and openly communicate with the editorial staff of the journal. The director’s board was informed of the letter from the editor of the journal prof. Licensee who has confirmed that he is familiar with the situation and currently has no further comment or recommendation regarding the article in question. The Board thus states that it sees no reason to submit an initiative to the UP Ethics Commission through the UP Rector to investigate a possible violation of the UP Code of Ethics by one of the UP employees.

For: 3 Against: 0 Abstentions: 0

Translated: the result in Figure 4 was faked in India, but Zboril and his mates in Olomouc now achieved exactly the same result by doing actual experiments because magic, pardon, science. Read about the humiliating farce which the Olomouc whistleblowers were previously submitted to by the above-mentioned executive editor Peter Licence, professor of chemistry at the University of Nottingham in UK:

Here is another Zboril-coauthored paper from the same data-forging Indian lab of Manoj Gawande, featuring, ta-da, Varma:

Vilas B. Gade , Anuj K. Rathi , Sujit B. Bhalekar , Jiri Tucek , Ondrej Tomanec , Rajender S. Varma , Radek Zboril , Sharad N. Shelke , Manoj B. Gawande Iron-Oxide-Supported Ultrasmall ZnO Nanoparticles: Applications for Transesterification, Amidation, and O-Acylation Reactions ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering (2017) doi: 10.1021/acssuschemeng.6b03167

Mossbauer spectra appear to have extremely low noise, which raises questions due to the fact that the same problem was earlier identified in (now retracted) Nat. Comm. paper of prof. Zboril. See the mathematical analysis of Moessbauer spectra in Nat. Comm. paper, which have similar signal to noise ratio and their analysis concludes that “Thus, rather than by applying filtration methods on experimental data, it seems more probable that Fig. 2a was created by a simulation of noise around chosen Lorentzian curves.”(

And finally, this from the January 2023 meeting report is about Varma:

Resolution No. 4:

The Director’s Board was informed of the suspicion of the involvement of the now former CATRIN employee Dr. Varma to the so-called research paper mill and with other suspicions of violation of the integrity of scientific work in seven studies, which Dr. Varma co-authored. Dr. Varma is cooperating in the matter and in his statement strongly denied the allegations of being involved in a paid research paper mill. The Board of Directors is currently not aware of any facts that would connect the publications of dr. Varma with research paper mill practices, i.e. paid purchase of authorship on articles, see definition of research paper mill: “profit oriented, unofficial and potentially illegal organization that produces and sells authorship on research manuscripts” (source: Wikipedia). However, the Director’s Board does not consider a publication practice that overuses the publication of review-type papers to be appropriate and will not support it. In the case of specific suspicions in seven papers, co-authored by dr. Varma, the CATRIN Director’s Board urges the CATRIN Director to address these concerns. The panel recommends immediately dealing with the article by Ghamari Kargar et al., Cellulose 29, 9183–9198, 2022, in which it considers the raised suspicions to be serious.

For: 3 Against: 0 Abstentions: 0

Here is that Ghamari Kargar et al 2022 paper which is of course never from an Iranian papermill because Varma says so:

Pouya Ghamari Kargar , Milad Nayebi , Zahra Parhizi , Rajender S. Varma Nickel nanoparticles adorned on magnetized cellulose nanofibers: ultrasound-facilitated cross coupling reactions Cellulose (2022) doi: 10.1007/s10570-022-04823-z 

“Fig. 7. Repetitive fragments in the XRD patterns, marked by blue and red boxes. The repetition in the red boxes involves a mirror symmetry in the vertical direction.
Also, contrary to the description, the patterns (a) and (c) are in mismatch.

Not in the report is the fact that Varma was sacked. Specifically, his contract in Olomouc ended in December 2022 and was not extended. Martin Tomášek, head of Rector’s Office of the Palacky University told me on 22 February 2023:

“I can confirm that prof. Rajender Varma is no longer an employee of Palacký University Olomouc.”

Well, he is not a professor anymore! But look now what else I found, an older open letter by Varma, highlights his:



Dated 16th June 2019

About Professor Radek Zboril and RCPTM

I, Rajender Varma (H-Index 105. Highly Cited Researchers 2016-18, Publons Awardee 2018), Senior Scientist at U S Environmental Protection Agency, have been working at RCPTM for several years. Importantly, I serve as a leader and key researcher for the scientific activity in the project Excellent Research. “Nanotechnologies tor Future”. Also, I am a board member for most of the leading journals in the world on Green and Sustainable themes.

Last week, l came to deliver the Keynote lecture at the International meeting “Green for Good V” arranged by our university in Olomouc. Soon, I realized that something is not normal as Prof. Radek Zboril called for a ‘All Hands` meeting at the center alter my talk on l 31*’ June 2019. I was deeply shocked to team about what happened to Prof. Tucek, one of the top physicists in Europe besides ethical issue related to 12-years old story in JACS 2007 implicating Radek Zboril. I can
not comment on this story at all because it was well before my time. However, based on my personal experience, I would like to point out that RCPTM is a top-notch European Center with highly ethical standards required by the director. Personally l have written numerous proposals and papers with Prof. Zboril and in my experience. he has been labeled as a very tough person, requiring lots of supporting data.

However, as I arrived back in my office in Cincinnati, Ohio, I could not comprehend the situation where a university picks up on individuals with an extraordinary and sterling performance and basically destroy one of the top European institutions. Internationally, I have heard of external boards that oversee any such irregularity of this kind as the internal oversight is often plagued with bias and poor judgement.

Additionally, I am deeply concerned about the the successful culmination of the above-mentioned project with a huge budget. I believe that the president of the university and its his team of responsible well-wishers should ensure the optimum conditions for conducting the project smoothly. Currently it is a real issue and any impediments need to be removed so that project(s) can proceed.

My sincere hope is that with the involvement of several other world-renowned scientists, our university’s name is at stake and need not be maligned or disparaged any further.

I guess Varma didn’t know back in 2019 that it will be him who will be sacked in Olomouc, while Zboril stays on.

Zboril (left) tells the mayor of Olomouc how he is being bullied. Image: CATRIN

Part 3. Varma’s successor

And now, you sure want to know who will replace Varma at CATRIN as the Master of the Papermills? Well, if you read Friday Shorts, you already know! And if Varma is allowed to self-plagiarise, so can I.

Meet one of Europe’s greatest scientist, at least in chemistry: Alexander Dömling, professor and Chair of Drug Design at the University of Groningen (Netherlands), associate professor at the University of Pittsburgh (USA), faculty member at the Technical University Munich (Germany), founder and board member of various pharma companies. The University of Groninger informs us:

Dömling belongs to top 2% of most influential researchers worldwide (Stanford-Elsevier ).”

This genius was now awarded by the EU Commission €2.5 million as “ERA Chair for Accelerated Synthetic Chemistry Technologies at Palacký University Olomouc”. The grant began on 1 February 2023:

“To unite a powerful potential of two outstanding research leaders and thus capitalize on their mutual collaboration for reaching the impact none of them would achieve on their own. This is the aim of the ACCELERATOR project. It brings together (1) the world-renowned Professor of Chemistry, inventor and innovator Alexander Dömling as an ERA chair of the Synthetic Group and (2) the Czech Advanced Technology and Research Institute (CATRIN) of Palacký University Olomouc (UP), merging three excellent research centres into a unique scientific ecosystem.”

But as you already know, this Czech university is riddled with insolent whistleblowers! I guess such are Czechs for you, they just laugh at ranks and authorities and publicly denounce misconduct even when facing retaliation. This is what happened to our German-American-Dutch science genius Professor Dömling – the local biochemistry professor Marek Petřivalský, who instead of prostrating himself in front of such immense scientific eminence, posted things on PubPeer.

Like this:

Fatma B. Rashidi , Alanod D. AlQhatani , Sara S. Bashraheel , Shabnam Shaabani , Matthew R. Groves , Alexander Dömling , Sayed K. Goda Isolation and molecular characterization of novel glucarpidases: Enzymes to improve the antibody directed enzyme pro-drug therapy for cancer treatment PLoS ONE (2018) doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0196254

Marek Petřivalský: “In this paper, the image of total protein staining on a SDS-PAGE gel used in Fig. 7B is apparently identical to the image used in another paper by the same author group (Fig. 1A in Al-Qahtani et al. 2019, Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy 112: 108725, ). In Fig. 7B in Rashidi et al. (2018) the gel image is showing the purification of recombinant enzyme from Pseudomonas lubricans (labelled as PsCPG2), whereas in Al-Qahtani et al. (2019), the gel image in Fig. 1A is showing the purification of the I100T mutant of Pseudomonas putida CPG2.”

More by Dömling and his Egyptian friends:

Yasmine M. Abdel Aziz , Gehad Lotfy , Mohamed M. Said , El Sayed H. El Ashry , El Sayed H. El Tamany , Saied M. Soliman , Marwa M. Abu-Serie , Mohamed Teleb , Sammer Yousuf , Alexander Dömling, Luis R. Domingo , Assem Barakat Design, Synthesis, Chemical and Biochemical Insights Into Novel Hybrid Spirooxindole-Based p53-MDM2 Inhibitors With Potential Bcl2 Signaling Attenuation Frontiers in Chemistry (2021) doi: 10.3389/fchem.2021.735236

Marek Petřivalský: “In this paper, the set of microscopy images in Fig.10 showing “untreated controls” (the first lane of the panel) is apparently identical to a similar set of three microscopy images of “control” cells in Fig. 3 of the paper by Lotfy et al. 2021 (which itself apparently contains several duplicated images – see Pubpeer comments here:

Do you have a theory on how these Egyptian papers by Prof Dömling were milled, pardon, researched? Petrivalsky wrote to Dömling, but received no reply.

Gehad Lotfy , Yasmine M. Abdel Aziz , Mohamed M. Said , El Sayed H. El Ashry , El Sayed H. El Tamany , Marwa M. Abu-Serie , Mohamed Teleb , Alexander Dömling , Assem Barakat Molecular hybridization design and synthesis of novel spirooxindole-based MDM2 inhibitors endowed with BCL2 signaling attenuation; a step towards the next generation p53 activators Bioorganic Chemistry (2021) doi: 10.1016/j.bioorg.2021.105427

Marek Petřivalský: “In Fig.3 of this paper, the images shown for the MDA-MB 231 cells treated by 2.29 uM concetration (5i) and for the Hep G-2 cells treated by 0.0588 uM concentration (5q) are apparently duplicates of the same original picture. This is suggested also by the Clone detection tool of Forensically. Also MDA-MB231 (5q) and HepG-2 (5i) are duplicates of the same original picture.

Petrivalsky now published an article on (closed) university platform, here a translated excerpt (hyperlinks added):

“I must confess that with all due respect to the scientific and entrepreneurial achievements of prof. Dömling (“…co-founded six biotechnology companies” (ref.1), a nagging question came to my mind:
what is the motivation for an excellent scientist to leave his “good home” at a top institution in Groningen, the Netherlands, and move to CATRIN, which has been called “Podvodníkov” in the discussion forums of Czech chemists in connection with extensive and long-standing problems with the integrity of scientific research? Certainly, the prospect of sharing generous EU funds with new
colleagues from CATRIN, which in the specific conditions of our University can translate into excellent generous salaries for the chosen ones, can be a legitimate motivation. This is matched by the surprising discovery that Prof. Dömling, whose grant and employment at UP was to start on 1 February 2023 according to the available information, has been dedicating some articles to the exclusive affiliation of CATRIN, more precisely to the still non-existent “Department of Innovative Chemistry” since October 2022 (e.g. Reyes Romero et al. Molecules 2022, 27, 8282; Zhang & Dömling (2022) Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Patents 32:11, 1161-1173; Gao et al. Green Chemistry, DOI: 10.1039/D2GC04312B). As far as I know, neither CATRIN nor UP has yet been able to deal properly with the case of (now former) CATRIN employee Prof. Varma and the purchase of scientific output in his often dubious publications originating in so-called “paper mills” (ref. 2). The
above-mentioned cases of Prof. Dömling’s dedications to CATRIN already at the time when the award of the ERA Chair grant at UP was known, but he did not work at UP in any way, clearly show that CATRIN is definitely not abandoning this “creative” way of increasing its publication output.

When getting to know more about Prof. Dömling’s successful career and broad thematic scope, I also recalled inspiring stories of other leaders in the field of nanomaterial chemistry and nanotechnology:
Jan Hendrik Schön, Vojtěch Adam, Radek Zbořil and others. There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with the fact that in recent years articles with co-authors from Egypt, Dubai or Saudi Arabia have featured prominently in Prof. Dömling’s list of publications. However, on closer inspection of the
content of some of the articles, I found several problematic points in the results that interested me (i.e. biological or biomedical applications of the newly synthesized compounds).”

Varma and his Iranian papermills is out of CATRIN and Palacky University Olomouc, Dömling and his Egyptian papermills are in. Sponsored with €2.5 million from the EU Commission.

Let’s end with this Dömling paper, its co-author Farid Badria is an associate of the Egyptian mega-fraudster Ahmed Badawy who just lost his PhD in Utrecht (read here).

Assem Barakat , Saeed Alshahrani , Abdullah Mohammed Al-Majid , Abdullah Saleh Alamary , Matti Haukka , Marwa M. Abu-Serie , Alexander Dömling , Eman A. Mazyed , Farid A. Badria , Fardous F. El-Senduny Novel spirooxindole based benzimidazole scaffold: In vitro, nanoformulation and in vivo studies on anticancer and antimetastatic activity of breast adenocarcinoma Bioorganic Chemistry (2022) doi: 10.1016/j.bioorg.2022.106124

In this regard, Petrivalsky wrote:

“I regret to note here that neither the contacted corresponding authors nor Prof. Dömling have yet responded to the comments on PubPeer – he has not responded to my direct email request for clarification. Thanks to the contributions of colleagues who still have the good name of UP at heart, I managed to get a promise from the editor-in-chief of the journal Bioorganic Chemistry to look into the matter.”

Dömling accelarating. Image source: CATRIN

The Head of the Research Ethics and Integrity Sector at the EU Commission, Isidoros Karatzas, announced to me on 23 February 2023:

“…the internal process has started. Thank you for raising the issue.

And in Groningen, Joost Frenken, the Dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, informed me:

For your information, Alexander Dömling no longer works at our university. […] Since your observations concern publications from the time that AD was in Groningen, we will take a thorough look into the matter. Scientific integrity is one or our core values.

I love Czechia. There, whistleblowers aren’t afraid and bad scientists get their butts kicked. Ask Vojtech Adam, who almost became the rector in Brno, and then got slapped with misconduct findings, shamed in the meida, and saw his big EU-funded lab closed.

Moravian Rhapsody

“Please, can you tell me more about the web page and mechanism behind? Is there any “scheme” of scanning published papers?” asks Professor Vojtech Adam. Yes, it’s Elisabeth Bik.


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7 comments on “I, Rajender Varma, Highly Cited Researcher

  1. magazinovalex

    “Speaking of. Here is a Correction for Varma, the Iranians, and a fellow connoisseur of Iranian papermills, Virgilio Mattoli from Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia:”

    Speaking of. There is also Ali Zarrabi, the top Vickers-citer!


  2. Klaas van Dijk

    Great work, thanks alot for your efforts to sort out the details and to publish them in this blog. I am looking forwards to new developments.


  3. magazinovalex

    About Ghamari-Kargar. How did we learn about him? From his connection with a certain Rafa Luque,

    An then it appeared that NOT A SINGLE Ghamari-Kargar paper is genuine.


  4. I received this email:

    “Dear Dr. Leonid,
    This reply is with respect to your recent story about Raj Verma.

    However, your below statement about my work is not correct.
    “A paper with someone named Vivek Polshettiwar was published twice (Chemical Communications 2009 and Tetrahedron 2010), the second time the female middle author was dropped. The newer paper does not reference the older.”

    I indeed cited our preliminary chemcomm in Tetrahderon as ref. 49. Middle author helped me with SEM imaging of catalyst (hence coauthored in chemcomm preliminary paper), but she did not contribute to new studies in Tetrahedron full paper; hence her name was not there in 2nd paper.

    This is my postdoc work. The first paper (Chem. Commun., 2009, 1837-1839) reported preliminary results as communication, while 2nd paper (Tetrahedron 2010, 66, 1091-1097) reported the full study on this glutathione-based organo-nanocatalyst. We did cite the ChemComm paper (ref. 49) in the Tetrahedorn paper.

    If you please see the first paragraph of the discussion (after the introduction section) of our tetrahedron paper; we clearly wrote that this work is based on our initial success (ref 49, which is the initial ChemComm paper). We did clearly cite our preliminary short paper to write this full paper for three different reactions (Paal–Knorr reaction, aza-Michael addition, and pyrazole synthesis), including data of ChemComm’s Paal Knorr’s reaction (as-is), to write a complete story. This is common practice when you write a full paper based on your preliminary published paper (by citing it) using exactly the same catalyst to show its generality towards a new set of reactions.

    I sincerely request modifications in your article and to avoid punishing me for doing nothing wrong here. More details about my independent work and my work credibility can be found here, I sincerely hope that I will not get dragged into this issue just because I did my postdoc with Raj Verma and published papers with him. During my time with him, things were perfect; I could not make comments about what happened afterward, as I left his group in 2009.

    Kind regards

    Prof. Vivek Polshettiwar, PhD, FNASc, FRSC, FMASc
    Department of Chemical Sciences (DCS),
    Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR),
    Homi Bhabha Road, Colaba, Mumbai 400005 India”

    The author did not take up my offer to post a comment, so I publish his comment here.
    It should be noted that the 2010 paper indeed cites the 2009 one, but only hidden in the text:
    “Engaged in the development of greener and sustainable pathways for organic transformations 42–45 and nano-materials 46–48 and after our initial success with nano-organo-catalyst, 49 herein, we report a simple and efficient synthesis of nano-ferrite-supported, magnetically recyclable organocatalyst for microwave-assisted Paal–Knorr, Aza-Michael reactions, and pyrazole synthesis”
    Reference 49 is to the 2009 paper. The figures contain no references, there is no other mention of reference 49. I changed the text accordingly.
    Both papers are original research. As for this practice being common, Professor Polshettiwar informed me in a follow-up message:

    “I agree with you that the practice of a writing full paper based on preliminary communication may not be common in all subjects, but believe me, this is what a large number of us follow even today in the field of catalysis.”


  5. Please pay attention also to the “coauthored” works by Prof Eveliina Repo with her Iranian and Chinese coauthors and Prof Amit Bhatnagar with his international “networks”.


    • magazinovalex

      Cross-linking to the previous discussion:

      The Highly Cited Researchers of Clarivate

      This is a well-known cluster of review-writing around Mika Sillanpaa. The thing is, PubPeer is a horrible platform for flagging “review papers,” for the usual types of “hard evidence,” like image manipulation, don’t apply, and without “hard evidence” the comments don’t pass moderation.


      • I did not mean review papers, but the recent experimental research papers by those two.


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