U of R prof accused of plagiarism

An engineering professor at the University of Regina has been accused of plagiarizing a student's work and trying to publish it in an academic journal in a case the university is declining to talk about.

An engineering professor at the University of Regina has been accused of plagiarizing a student's work and trying to publish it in an academic journal in a case the university is declining to talk about.

Former student Shahryar Ali Khan, now a petroleum engineer in Calgary, laid a complaint with the university but says officials haven't told him what, if anything, they're going to do about it.

Khan said he learned something was wrong in the summer of 2008, when he submitted a paper for publication in the Journal of Canadian Petroleum Technology.

It was based on the research he did for his Master's thesis at the University of Regina, a document titled "A Simulation Study of Water-Coning Using Downhole Water Sink Technology."

Khan got a surprising response — the journal staff said his submission closely resembled another paper received six months earlier, one that bore the same title.

The earlier paper, which was never published, listed his academic supervisor — associate professor Ezeddin Shirif — and three other people as authors. Khan was not credited, however.

"I said, 'Well, I can send you the abstract of my thesis work. I can send you the whole technical paper that I sent to my supervisor. And you can just put them side to side and just compare them,'" Khan said.

The journal looked at material Khan sent them and agreed his complaint had merit.

It banned two of the supposed authors of the earlier paper, Shirif and graduate student Ashutosh Kumar, from publishing any of their work in the publication. It accepted the statements from two other co-authors who wrote to the journal to say they had no idea their names had been put on the paper.

Less successful at clearing their names with the journal were Shirif and Kumar.

CBC News was not able to contact Shirif for an interview. But in a 2008 letter to the journal, Shirif said he was "shocked and surprised" by the journal's letter to him over what he called "an honest terrible mistake."

"Had I approved the papers before sending them for publication during the final scrutiny and documentation signing, I would have found the mistakes and included the right names," Shirif said in the July 24, 2008 letter to the journal.

"This all happened due to an honest communication gap between me and Mr. Kumar."

Kumar, too, wrote to the journal, claiming that it was a "mistake" and a "misunderstanding" that his name was listed as the author of the paper. He apologized and asked that the ban on future publication of his work be reconsidered.

The journal replied that the ban would stand and any "anguish" that had been caused had been brought about by Kumar himself.

Khan said he complained to the university about plagiarism and was told last year by the vice-president of research that there was an investigation.

However, the university wouldn't tell him about the outcome, he said.

"How do I know it was not a slap on the wrist?" Khan said. 

Asked about the case by CBC News, U of R vice-president of external relations Barb Pollock would neither confirm nor deny there was even an investigation.

"The complainant in a case would, I guess, have to have confidence that the complaint was dealt with," she said.

Under provincial law, personal information cannot be released without the person's consent, Pollock said.

Khan said he's not satisfied with the university's answer. He just wants to see that appropriate action was taken, he said.