14 December 2013

Graduate Student Benjamin Hayempour Shows Pattern Of Plagiarism

Benjamin Hayempour is apparently a graduate student in Oxford in radiation biology working towards a PhD and doing his best in a publish or perish academic climate to get ahead.  Unfortunately, it appears that he has engaged in serious academic misconduct while doing so. [Ed. Correction: based upon his e-mails to me, he appears to be a graduate student at the UC Berkeley Department of Engineering and UC San Francisco School of Medicine, despite indications from other online sources that he was at Oxford, perhaps a past affiliation.]

A paper that he was a co-author of from 2011 entitled “Neuroradiological advances detect abnormal neuroanatomy underlying neuropsychological impairments: the power of PET imaging,” was retracted because of "unexplained close similarity of some passages to parts of a previous publication" (i.e. possible plagiarism), and the blog Retraction Watch noted this fact in a blog post.  

Benjamin Hayempour alleges that he played only a minor almost clerical role in preparing the paper, yet, he is listed as the corresponding author for the paper and his co-author is the one who requested the retraction claiming that he was unaware of the plagiarism.

Hayempour hired inexperienced Los Angeles real estate lawyer Eyal Aharonov to write a cease and desist letter directing Retraction Watch to retract its truthful and factual coverage of the retraction notice or face a lawsuit for defamation (the legal basis for the threatened suit wasn't clear).  

This triggered the Streisand Effect, i.e. "the phenomenon whereby an attempt to hide, remove, or censor a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely."  After learning of the groundless legal threat, readers of Retraction Watch tried to determine if any of Benjamin Hayempour's other published work showed evidence of academic misconduct or deceit on his part.

The readers of Retraction Watch found a great deal when they dug around a little more into the situation and found a lot of troubling additional facts.

(1) According to one RW reader, On his linked in profile (no longer public or since edited) Benjamin Hayempour claimed that: 
Even though he just started as graduate student, he is editor-in-chief of a journal: “Journal of Nuclear Medicine and Radiation Therapy” and is on the editorial board of three other journals: Journal of Neurological Disorders 
The Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease & Parkinsonism 
Journal of Family Medicine and Medical Research.
All of which are published by OMICS Publishing Group, which has a reputation with another RW reader as something of a hybrid of a vanity publisher and diploma mill.  While this is not illegal, it is certainly unethical morally and reflects poorly on the integrity and honesty of anyone involved in the venture.  It manifests a clear intent to blatantly deceive third parties presented with these articles about the significance of these publications.

(2) RW Readers note in the comments to the posts linked above, very similar plagiarism problems in seven other papers listing Benjamin Hayempour as an author including:

* “Biological Imaging Instrumentation…” J Nucl Med Radiat Ther. 2013 Jul 20;4(3). doi:pii: 1000157

 “Should Antidepressants be our Choice of Treatment?”

*  “The Controversy of Conventional Psychiatric Diagnostics”

 “Clinical Medical Physics Methods in Radiotherapeutic Cancer Treatments”

*  "Brain Disorders: Evaluation by Radiological Techniques and Nuclear Medicine of the Primitive Neuropsychiatric Disorders."

J Psychiatry Law. 2011 Winter; 39(4): 537–566.

* "Neuromolecular Imaging Instrumentation Demonstrating Dysfunctional Brain Function in Schizophrenic Patients" (2013)

Benjamin Hayempour, rather that admitting wrongdoing as he participates in the discussion tries to argue that he believes that the many instances cited (sometimes despite several long plagiarized passages in a single paper) that his conduct was considered acceptable academic practice when writing review papers.

Eight papers in just a few years with plagiarized passages, dubious claims of editorial roles in four diploma mill journals including an "editor-in-chief" claim, a refusal to acknowledge wrongdoing when presented squarely with black and white evidence of his misconduct, and a doubtful claim that the authors of the RW blog misquoted him despite support in contemporaneous notes of a conversation about what was said all point to an obvious conclusion.

I used to be a full time associate professor in a master's degree program at the for profit "College for Financial Planning" which developed the Certified Financial Planner designation, and later became a sister college of the for profit 'University of Phoenix" system.  Not a particularly prestigious post within academia, to be sure.  

But, even in that little outpost, I would have immediately assigned an "F" grade to any paper from a student that had instances of unattributed quotation from another source of the type illustrated by Benjamin Hayempour in all eight of the papers identified by RW or its readers, and would have expelled him from the program with a negative academic dishonesty reference if I ever saw that kind of behavior repeated even a single time.  The plagiarism examples present in those works are easy and clear cases of intentional academic misconduct, not gray areas.  Any college sophomore would be expected to know better, and Hayempour's academic credentials are from schools where knowledge that this is not acceptable academic conduct is widespread.

The fact that Benjamin Hayempour felt the need to hire a lawyer to try to cover up and intimidate people who were revealing Benjamin Hayempour's academic misconduct with threats of defamation lawsuits that have no substantial justification also tends to indicate an awareness on his part of just how damaging the truth would be to his reputation.

In my opinion, Benjamin Hayempour has engaged in a widespread, intentional pattern and practice of academic misconduct and plagiarism that no reasonable graduate student at Oxford University could have possibly been unaware was improper, and certainly conduct that no one who was legitimately Editor-in-Chief of an academic journal could possibly believe was acceptable.  He did so, apparently, for the purpose of inflating is academic reputation and professional credentials.  And, in my opinion based upon this evidence, deceit is so second nature to him that he may very well be irredeemably some sort of psychopath, or just a habitual liar and con man. 

He claims ignorance, a desire to fix his past mistakes, and so on.  But, there are simply too many implausible statements in his reactions to the accusations against him, and too many blatant instances of conduct that couldn't be anything other than intentional, to make his statements believable.

The only just sanction for this kind of widespread academic misconduct, in my opinion, would be to expel him from his program at Oxford with a bad recommendation reflected on his transcript, together with a termination of any scholarships or stipends, to retract all eight of these papers and to investigate all of his other published work for similar misconduct, to revoke any professional certifications that he has obtained to date, and to advise the appropriate officials at the National Institute of Health of the academic misconduct that he engaged in when doing work funded by one of their grants.

No responsible educational institution, professional regulatory body, or employer could continue to keep him on in any capacity where integrity or honesty was required.

Neuroskeptic and others in the blogsphere have similarly noted Benjamin Hayempour's academic misconduct which otherwise might have gone unnoticed.

So, there you have the story of Benjamin Hayempour's pattern of plagiarism.

Footnote: Eyal Aharonov, an incompetent rookie lawyer

Of course, it is also the story of his lawyer Eyal Aharonov's gross incompetence and professional malpractice in handling the situation.  Aharonov's bad advice and ill drafted cease and desist letter has made the situation a hundreds or thousands of times more damaging to Benjamin Hayenpour's reputation than it otherwise would have been.  Aharonov's actions have probable turned a minor hiccup in Hayenpour's career into a situation that will probably destroying Benjamin Hayenpour's career prospects for life, deny him any hope of ever becoming a doctor or a professor, and thus may cost him millions of dollars in lost income over the decades.  Aharonov's bad judgment may also expose Benjamin Hayenpour to a substantial risk of sanctions and anti-SLAPP law penalties such as the attorneys' fees incurred by people who he sues (if he does).

As a lawyer, one of your first priorities had to be to act in a way that does not call more attention to the myriad instances of misconduct that your client has committed.

Aharonov is slightly more sympathetic, as he has apparently been dumped into self-employment as a lawyer more or less right after graduating from a second rate law school (Pepperdine), and has only had a couple of years of experience without the kind of post-law school mentoring necessary to develop good judgment.  But, on the other hand, I was in more or less the same boat when I finished law school and somehow managed to avoid harming any of my clients so seriously with my own incompetence.

Still, Aharonov's mistakes were merely a product of incompetence and don't reflect all that badly on his integrity.  Most junior lawyers, with enough experience and guidance can learn not to repeat catastrophic mistakes like the one he made in this case.  And, he is probably too broke to be worth suing for malpractice at this point.  If you must screw up, it is better to screw up when you are poor, than to screw up once you have accumulated substantial wealth.

Meanwhile, I have no doubt whatsoever that the Retraction Watch blog will be fully vindicated in this dispute.

UPDATE 3/27/2014:  This post was the subject of an improper DMCA takedown notice.  More than fourteen days have passed since I was notified that a DMCA counterclaim was served and no federal lawsuit has been filed regarding this post in the appropriate forum.  Therefore, I am republishing it.  Further discussion of the takedown notice drama and comments re further plagarism by Hayepour can be found here.

UPDATE 4/06/14:  As noted in the related post, I got the official notice of the all clear in the wake of the takedown notice and my counterclaim only on April 4, 2014, more than two months after the original take down notice, although I had already restored it a week earlier, once fourteen days from acknowledgement of receipt of my counterclaim passed without incident.  Thus, the takedown and reinstatement process actually takes about nine weeks, rather than the two weeks it should take in theory, for a blogger post takedown.  Since then, there have been twists to the underlying story, in addition to the metastory told at the companion post.  The following comment was made anonymously at the metastory post and is included her because it relates to the original post:

"BTW, I though you might be interested to learn that Ayden Jacob (aka Hayempour) is still plagiarizing.

(also posted to RetractionWatch)

Hayempour (now going by Ayden Jacob) is *STILL PLAGIARIZING*. I admit to being stunned, but there we go...

Ayden's new website contains the following two sentences:

"Using patented nerve monitoring technology, the surgeon gains lateral (side) access to the spinal column, avoiding any major nerves in the area between the incision and the column. The XLIF procedure does not require an anterior (front) or posterior (back) exposure, and thereby does not present the same risks of vascular and/or neural injury as traditional approaches."

(from http://www.aydenjacobmedicine.com/orthopedic-surgery.html , archived here: http://archive.is/c0lYJ )

They are copied, word-for-word, from http://www.nuvasive.com/patient-solutions/nuvasive-surgical-solutions/extreme-lateral-interbody-fusion/ (archived here: http://archive.is/6fiyx ).

There is no citation, no quotation marks, not even a link to the site he stole from.

He learned *nothing*.

Benjamin Hayempour, has identified himself as "Ben Jacob" in some of his correspondence to me. So both "Ben Jacob" and "Ayden Jacob" appear to be aliases of Benjamin Hayempour.


andrew said...

More developments here involving a publication made without the consent of the principal investigator and without noting his authorship.

Anonymous said...

Not only does Ayden" Benjamin Hayempour plagiarize, he also lies and misrepresents. He is a pathological liar.

Shaw said...

Wow. The author of this blog must be a very sad person living in his mothers basement and "writing a blog." The utter non sense and complete fabrication that is this blog post should baffle anyone who is scientifically savvy or intellectually aware.