Carnets de Géologie / Notebooks on Geology: Article 2009/04 (CG2009_A04)

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Contents

[I - Introduction] [II - Summary of the fraud]
[III - Discussion] [IV- Conclusion] and ... [Bibliographic references]


The Imam case.
Additional investigation of a micropaleontological fraud

Bruno Granier

Département des Sciences de la Terre, UMR 6538 Domaines Océaniques, Université de Bretagne Occidentale (UBO), 6, avenue Le Gorgeu, F-29238 Brest Cedex 3 (France)

Monique Feist

Laboratoire de Paléontologie (C.C.62), Université Montpellier 2, Place Eugène Bataillon, F-34095 Montpellier Cedex 05 (France)

Edward Hennessey

2719 Tyler Street, Long Beach, California 90810 (U.S.A.)

Ioan I. Bucur

Babeş-Bolyai University, Department of Geology, Str. M. Kogalniceanu nr. 1, 400084 Cluj-Napoca (Romania)

Baba Senowbari-Daryan

Institut für Paläontologie, Universität Erlangen, Loewenichstr. 28, 91054 Erlangen (Germany)

Manuscript online since May 18, 2009

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Abstract

Starting in 1996 and for almost a decade, M.M. Imam contributed to twelve papers published in international geological journals. These papers dealt with the micropaleontology and biostratigraphy of Cretaceous to Miocene series from Egypt and Libya. They were abundantly illustrated in order to support the author's findings and interpretations. However most photographic illustrations (189 at least) were fabricated with material lifted from the publications of other authors, commonly from localities or stratigraphic intervals other than those indicated by M.M. Imam.

Key Words

Foraminifera; Corallinales; Dasycladales; Charophyta; fraud; Egypt; Libya.

Citation

Granier B., Feist M., Hennessey E., Bucur I.I. & Senowbari-Daryan B. (2009).- The Imam case. Additional investigation of a micropaleontological fraud.- Carnets de Géologie / Notebooks on Geology, Brest, Article 2009/04 (CG2009_A04)

Résumé

L'affaire Imam. Compléments d'enquête sur une fraude micropaléontologique.- À partir de 1996 et pendant près d'une décennie, M.M. Imam a contribué à douze articles parus dans des revues géologiques internationales. Ces publications traitent de la micropaléontologie et de la biostratigraphie de séries d'âge Crétacé à Miocène d'Égypte et de Libye. L'iconographie abondante était sensée renforcer la validité des découvertes et interprétations de l'auteur. Or la plupart des illustrations photographiques (189 au moins) ont été fabriquées à partir de photos "empruntées" à des publications d'autres auteurs, le plus souvent provenant de localités ou d'intervalles stratigraphiques autres que ceux indiqués par M.M. Imam.

Mots-Clefs

Foraminifères ; Corallinales ; Dasycladales ; Charophytes ; fraude ; Égypte ; Libye.


I - Introduction

In the period from 1996 to 2003 before Aguirre (2004) made the initial report on the matter, Mo(u)stafa Mansour Imam published ten papers either alone or as senior author (Imam, 1996a, 1996b, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003; Imam & Refaat, 2000; Imam & Galmed, 2000), and two papers as junior author (Phillip et alii, 1997; Refaat & Imam, 1999). The fraudulent nature of three papers (Imam, 1996a, 2003; Imam & Refaat, 2000) has been given wide publicity (Aguirre, 2004; Bosch, 2004a, 2004b; Eriksson et alii, 2004; Granier et alii, 2008) in the hope of generally deterring such misguided efforts. In order to provide additional support to this inquiry we have undertaken research on the subjects Imam purportly "investigated" (stratigraphy of North Africa, Near East and Middle East and pertinent microfossils). Our intention is to verify all of the descriptions and stratigraphic ages he assigned his figured specimens in order to substantiate more firmly the probability that his findings are unsupported by any valid data. So far we have found 167 more pirated images to add to the 22 discovered by Aguirre (2004). Four of these twelve papers (Imam, 1999, 2001; Phillip et alii, 1997; Refaat & Imam, 1999) were published in the Journal of African Earth Sciences and the details of the fraud there were recently exposed in a paper published in that journal (Granier et alii, 2008). Setting aside the 97 images listed and correlated in that article, 70 remain. As part of a summation of the entire investigation they are discussed in the section that follows.

II - Summary of the fraud

Year 1996

Earlier in his career Imam was the third author of a paper in the Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Abhandlungen (Youssef et alii, 1988). Following this first promising publication, Imam (1996a) possibly felt confident enough to submit (in September 1994) a manuscript to the same journal and to get it published. This paper deals with Coralline (red) algae collected in the Middle Miocene strata of Gebel Gushia (Sinai, Egypt). Surprisingly, the caption for his Fig. 3 (a set of 8 photomicrographs) states aberrantly that the illustrated material is of Middle Eocene (sic) age while the legend of his Fig. 4 (a set of 9 photomicrographs) states that the illustrated material is Middle Miocene. Aguirre (2004) demonstrated that photomicrograph 3.1 labelled "Archaeolithothamnium saipanense" (Fig. 1 top ) was reproduced either from Johnson (1957: Pl. 37, fig. 10, where it was called "Lithothamnium sp." or from his 1961: Pl. 2, fig. 1, "Archaeolithothamnium". Note: we found that Johnson himself used this photo again in 1963: Pl. 25, fig. 3, here again titled "Archaeolithothamnium") and that it was pirated twice more in Imam & Refaat (2000: Fig. 7.5) and in Imam (2003: Pl. 3, fig. 1). In addition (Fig. 1 ), we verified that:


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Figure 1: Left side: 4 images duplicated by Imam (1996a); right side: original images from Johnson (1954, 1961) and Youssef et alii (1988). [Some rights reserved]

In the same year, Imam (1996b) published in the allied journal Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Monatshefte another paper, the manuscript of which was submitted in October 1995. This time he discusses the occurrence of Dasycladalean (green) algae in the Upper Cretaceous strata of Jebel Um Heriba, Sinai, Egypt. His Figure 3 (Fig. 2 ) consists of a set of 8 photomicrographs. We found that all but two of these images were "borrowed" from Okla (1991, 1992). The results of our investigation are summarized in this table:

Imam, 1996b Radoičić 2006 Carras et alii, 2006 Okla Carras et alii, 2006
3.1 a Cylindroporella parva it is not "parva" 1992 Pl. III, fig. 2 Salpingoporella ubaiydhi it is "ubaiydhi"
3.1 b Cylindroporella parva it is "parva" 1991 Pl. 1, fig. 7 Heteroporella jaffrezoi
3.2 a Heteroporella lemmensis 1992 Pl. II, fig. 8 Dissocladella sp. (it is more probably Cymopolia sp.)
3.2 b Heteroporella lemmensis 1991 Pl. 2, fig. 6 Salpingoporella annulata questionable "annulata"
3.3 Salpingoporella annulata it is not "annulata" 1991 Pl. 2, fig. 7 Salpingoporella annulata questionable "annulata"
3.5 Salpingoporella ubaiydhi it is "ubaiydhi" 1992 Pl. III, fig. 4 Salpingoporella ubaiydhi it is "ubaiydhi"
3.6 Trinocladus tripolitanus 1992 Pl. III, fig. 3 Salpingoporella ubaiydhi it is "ubaiydhi"

The remaining 2 photomicrographs (Fig. 2 ) were extracted from E. Flügel (1979):

In a letter to the editors of the Revista Española de Micropaleontología, Imam said "he used other people's photos because he lacked the means to provide good illustrations for his manuscripts" (Bosch, 2004b). However, this statement is untrue because his images of Dasycladales (Fig. 2 ) were deliberately altered to conceal their adoption much in the way a stolen car is repainted to hide evidence of the crime.


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Figure 2: Left side: Figure 3 of Imam (1996b); right side: original images from Okla (1991, 1992) and E. Flügel (1979). [Some rights reserved]

Year 1997

He was also the second author of a multi-authored paper dealing with planktonic foraminifera, the manuscript of which was submitted in April 1996 to the Journal of African Earth Sciences and published the next year (Phillip et alii, 1997). Some of the photomicrographs of Youssef et alii (1988) were re-used there, but as valid reproductions, for both papers investigate the same locality. However the figures 5 to 7 of Plate 1 (that is Figs. 4.5 to 4.7) of Phillip et alii (1997) are mirror views of the original photomicrographs in Youssef et alii (1988, respectively Figs. 5D, 5C and 5A): left-coiling planktonic foraminifera are converted into right-coiling ones, and vice-versa (Fig. 3 ).


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Figure 3: Left side: original images from Youssef et alii (1988 as 5A- Globigerina ciperoensis, 5C- G. angustiumbilicata, and 5D- G. builloides); right side: 3 photomicrographs of Phillip et alii (1997 as Globigerina ciperoensis ciperoensis, G. ciperoensis angustiumbilicata, and G. eamesi). [Some rights reserved]

Year 1998

1998 marks Imam's return to the Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Monatshefte with a manuscript submitted in May 1997. This article deals with the description of a new species of planktonic foraminifer: Clavatorella salumensis n.sp. But his Figure 3.1, called the "holotype", is in fact the holotype of Protentella (Clavatorella) nicobarensis Srinivasan et Kennett, 1974 (op. cit.: Pl. 3, fig. 11), which these authors also illustrated in 1975: Pl. 3, fig. 11. Imam's Figures 3.2 and 3.3, his "paratypes", were also taken from the same paper (Srinivasan & Kennett, 1975: Pl. 3, respectively figs. 12 and 13, a paratype and a topotype of their species). On the basis of an excerpt from Imam's text: "The new species also shows a great resemblance to Clavatorella nicobarensis Srinivasan & Kennett but differs in that the latter taxon (Clavatorella nicobarensis) has less swollen extremities of the ultimate chambers and the specimen figured by Srinivasan & Kennett (1974) (pl. 1, Figs. 1, 11) is almost biumbilicate", so we can state that following this piece of deceit Imam felt confident he would never be caught.


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Figure 4: First row: 4) holotype, 6) and 1) two paratypes of Protentella (Clavatorella) nicobarensis Srinivasan et Kennett, 1974, original images from Srinivasan & Kennett (1974). Second row: 11) holotype, 12) paratype and 13) topotype of Protentella (Clavatorella) nicobarensis Srinivasan et Kennett, 1974: original images from Srinivasan & Kennett (1975, re-used by the authors, Kennett & Srinivasan, 1983: Pl. 55, figs. 6-8). Third row: "holotype" and "paratypes" of Clavatorella salumensis Imam, 1998: the 3 images duplicated by Imam (1998). [Some rights reserved]

Year 1999

Possibly because his earlier multi-authored contribution was published in that journal (Phillip et alii, 1997), Imam was privileged to publish two additional papers in the Journal of African Earth Sciences (Refaat & Imam, 1999; Imam, 1999).

The first paper (Refaat & Imam, 1999, submitted in July 1998) deals with Charophytes collected in Upper Eocene strata at Abu Zenima, Sinai, Egypt. Their figures 9 and 10 are respectively 22 and 16 gyrogonites. All these 38 images were "borrowed" from 4 publications (Feist-Castel, 1977; Feist & Ringeade, 1977; Grambast & Grambast-Fessard, 1981; Grambast-Fessard, 1980). The details of this fraud were recently published (see Granier et alii, 2008).

Most figures have been reproduced without modifications, but in 3 cases the image has been rotated 180° and gyrogonites appear with their bases oriented upwards (Fig. 5 ):


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Figure 5: Left side: 3 photomicrographs of Refaat & Imam (1999 as 15- Sphaerochara olmensis, 6- Stephanochara vectensis, and 7- Rhabdochara major); right side: original images from Grambast & Grambast-Fessard (1981 as 1- Gyrogona morelleti n.sp.), Feist & Ringeade (1977 as 9- Rhabdochara langeri) and Feist-Castel (1977 as 9- Stephanochara oodea n.sp.). [Some rights reserved]

The second paper (Imam, 1999, submitted in October 1997) deals with planktonic foraminifera collected from Upper Eocene to Middle Miocene strata in the Al Bardia area, northeastern Libya. His figures 8 and 9 consist of 32 images, all plagiarized from one publication (Waters & Snyder, 1986). The details of this fraud were recently published (see Granier et alii, 2008).

Year 2000

As Aguirre (2004) reported, in the paper of Imam & Refaat (2000) published in the Neues Jahrbuch für Geologie und Paläontologie, Monatshefte and dealing with an Egyptian Miocene series, "only" 2 photomicrographs (op. cit.: Fig. 7.5 and 7.6) were pirated from Johnson (1961: Pl. 2, fig. 1 & Pl. 10, fig. 2) but these 2 photomicrographs and 3 other were re-used in Imam's Libyan Miocene paper (2003).

That same year, images from several papers on charophytes were misappropriated by Imam (2000, submitted in September 1998) in his monograph on charophytes from Mizdah (NW Libya) published in the Arab Gulf Journal of Scientific Research. As in the paper by Refaat & Imam (1999), species names from the original publications have been changed, including:

One photomicrograph is duplicated (Imam, 2000: Pl. 1, figs. 5 and 14) and the source of only two of the other photomicrographs (Imam, 2000: Pl. 1, figs. 7 and 13B) could not be determined.

Imam, 2000 Soulié-Märsche, 1994
Pl. 1, fig. 1 Atopochara trivolvis trivolvis Fig. 5.6
rotated 90° left
Atopochara trivolvis trivolvis Lower Cretaceous
Pl. 1, fig. 2 Atopochara trivolvis trivolvis Fig. 5.5
rotated 180°
Atopochara trivolvis trivolvis Lower Cretaceous
Pl. 1, fig. 4 Flabellochara harrisi Fig. 5.3
rotated 90° left
Atopochara trivolvis trivolvis Lower Cretaceous
Pl. 1, fig. 5 Lamprothamnium cylindericum Fig. 8.3 (1) Lamphrothamnium cylindricum Lower Cretaceous
Pl. 1, fig. 6 Lamprothamnium cylindericum Fig. 8.9
rotated 90° left
Lamphrothamnium cylindricum Lower Cretaceous
Pl. 1, fig. 7B Platychara grambastii Fig. 8.11 Lamphrothamnium cylindricum Lower Cretaceous
Pl. 1, fig. 13A Porochara anlunesis Fig. 8.1 Lamphrothamnium cylindricum Lower Cretaceous
Pl. 1, fig. 14 Porochara sp. B Fig. 8.3 (2) Lamphrothamnium cylindricum Lower Cretaceous
Imam, 2000 Feist & Ringeade, 1977
Pl. 1, fig. 3 Flabellochara harrisi Pl. X, fig. 11
rotated 30° left
Harrisichara subteres n.sp. Lower Miocene
Pl. 1, fig. 8 Porochara douzensis Pl. XIII, fig. 1 Stephanochara berdotensis n.sp. (Holotype, profile) Lower Miocene
Pl. 1, fig. 11A Porochara palmeri Pl. XIII, fig. 10 Rantzieniella nitida Lower Miocene
Pl. 1, fig. 11B Porochara palmeri Pl. XIII, fig. 11 Rantzieniella nitida Lower Miocene
Pl. 1, fig. 12B Sphaerochara sp. Pl. XIII, fig. 5
rotated 135° right
Stephanochara berdotensis n.sp. Lower Miocene
Imam, 2000 Martin-Closas & Grambast-Fessard, 1986
Pl. 1, fig. 10A Porochara maestrica Pl. II, fig. 1 Musacchiella maestratica n.sp. (Holotype, vue latérale) Lower Cretaceous
Pl. 1, fig. 10B Porochara maestrica Pl. II, fig. 4
rotated 90° left
Musacchiella maestratica n.sp. Lower Cretaceous
Pl. 1, fig. 12A Porochara sp. A Pl. I, fig. 8 Musacchiella sp. Lower Cretaceous
Imam, 2000 Feist & Grambast-Fessard, 1984
Pl. 1, fig. 9 Porochara douzensis Fig. 4C
rotated 180°
Musachiella douzensis n.sp. Middle Jurassic
Pl. 1, fig. 15 Porochara douzensis Fig. 4B Musachiella douzensis n.sp. Middle Jurassic

Year 2001

Again in the Journal of African Earth Sciences (2001, manuscript submitted in August 1999) Imam 's Fig. 6 illustrates 26 SEM photographs of foraminifera: only one, the source of his Fig. 6.6 ("Abathomphalus mayaroensis"), was not identified, all the the remaining material was lifted from Petters (1983). The details of this fraud are exposed in Granier et alii (2008).

Year 2002

Imam (2002, manuscript submitted in September 2000 to the Revista Española de Micropaleontología) deals with the Early Pliocene series of the Western Desert in Egypt. His biostratigraphy is based on planktonic foraminifera and his Plate 1 consists of 20 photomicrographs of them. However all the figures were extracted from Chaisson & Leckie (1993). Correlations are detailed in the table below:

Imam (2002) Chaisson & Leckie (1993)
Pl. 1, fig. 1 Globrotalia (sic) aequilateralis Pl. 1, fig. 1 Globigerinella aequilateralis
Pl. 1, fig. 2 Globorotalia obesa Pl. 1, fig. 3 Globigerinella obesa
Pl. 1, fig. 3 Globorotalia obesa Pl. 1, fig. 4 Globigerinella obesa
Pl. 1, fig. 4 Globigerina apertura Pl. 1, fig. 6 Globigerina apertura
Pl. 1, fig. 5 Globigerina decoraperta Pl. 1, fig. 7 Globigerina decoraperta
Pl. 1, fig. 6 Globigerina druryi Pl. 1, fig. 10 Globigerina druryi
Pl. 1, fig. 7 Globigerina nepenthes Pl. 1, fig. 11 Globigerina druryi
Pl. 1, fig. 8 Globigerina bulloides Pl. 1, fig. 14 Globigerina bulloides
Pl. 1, fig. 9 Globigerina woodi Pl. 1, fig. 18 Globigerina woodi
Pl. 1, fig. 10 Globigerinoides obliquus obliquus Pl. 2, fig. 2 Globigerinoides obliquus
Pl. 1, fig. 11 Globigerinoides obliquus extremus Pl. 2, fig. 3 Globigerinoides extremus
Pl. 1, fig. 12 Globigerinoides trilobus Pl. 2, fig. 15 Globigerinoides triloba
Pl. 1, fig. 13 Globigerinoides sacculifer Pl. 2, fig. 16 Globigerinoides sacculifer
Pl. 1, fig. 14 Globorotalia scitula Pl. 4, fig. 7 Globorotalia praescitula
Pl. 1, fig. 15 Globorotalia margaritae Pl. 6, fig. 9 Globorotalia margaritae
Pl. 1, fig. 16 Sphaeroidinellopsis seminulina Pl. 10, fig. 11
rotated 90° left
Sphaeroidinellopsis seminulina
Pl. 1, fig. 17 Sphaeroidinellopsis seminulina Pl. 10, fig. 12 Sphaeroidinellopsis seminulina
Pl. 1, fig. 18 Sphaeroidinellopsis kochi Pl. 10, fig. 15 Globigerina druryi-
Sphaeroidinellopsis disjuncta
Pl. 1, fig. 19 Sphaeroidinellopsis praedehiscens Pl. 10, fig. 9 Sphaeroidinellopsis praedehiscens
Pl. 1, fig. 20 Globorotaloides hexagona Pl. 9, fig. 4 Globigerina angulisuturalis

Year 2003

Aguirre (2004) made an excellent review of the most recent Imam publication (2003, manuscript submitted in September 2002 to the Revista Española de Micropaleontología). But as he focused narrowly on the red algae and microfacies, his report fell short of the exhaustive. We augment its coverage hereinafter. In his investigations of the red algae, Aguirre (2004) found that:

As reported by Aguirre (2004), Imam also transferred microfacies micrographs from a paper he co-authored (Youssef et alii, 1988) as described here.

Imam (2003) Youssef et alii (1988)
Pl. 6, fig. 6 Miocene, Libya Fig. 12A Miocene, Egypt
Pl. 7, fig. 1 Miocene, Libya Fig. 9B Miocene, Egypt
Pl. 7, fig. 8 Miocene, Libya Fig. 13C Miocene, Egypt
Pl. 7, fig. 9 Miocene, Libya Fig. 6B Miocene, Egypt

We also found that he duplicated the same pictures to illustrate Miocene and Oligocene microfacies which we chronicle below.

Imam (2003) Imam & Galmed (2000)
Pl. 6, fig. 3 Miocene, Libya Pl. 17, fig. 6 Oligocene, Libya
Pl. 7, fig. 4 Miocene, Libya Pl. 17, fig. 7 Oligocene, Libya

The primary additions supplementing Aguirre's work concern planktonic foraminifera. They are summarized in the following tables:

Original photomicrographs Imam (2003)
Petters (1983) Pl. 4, fig. 4 Subbotina triloculinoides
see Fig. 6
Pl. 2, fig. 1 Globigerinoides trilobus
see Fig. 6
Pl. 4, fig. 3 Subbotina triloculinoides
see Fig. 6
Pl. 2, fig. 2 Globigerinoides immaturus
see Fig. 6
Pl. 8, fig. 11 Globigerinoides trilobus Pl. 2, fig. 3 Globigerinoides trilobus
Pl. 8, fig. 16 Globigerinoides succulifer Pl. 2, fig. 4 Globigerinoides succulifer
Pl. 8, fig. 20 Globigerinoides ruber Pl. 2, fig. 5 Globigerinoides subquadratus
Pl. 8, fig. 27 Globoquadrina globosa Pl. 2, fig. 10 Globoquadrina dehiscens
Pl. 8, fig. 6 Globigerinoides sacculifer Pl. 2, fig. 14 Globigerinoides succulifer (sic)
Chaisson & Leckie (1993) Pl. 9, fig. 5 Globoquadrina baroemoenensis Pl. 2, fig. 6 Globigerina bulloides
Pl. 9, fig. 9 Globoquadrina ? cf. G. extans Pl. 2, fig. 8 Globigerina angustiumbilicata
Leckie et alii (1993) Pl. 9, fig. 9 Globigerina ciperoensis Pl. 2, fig. 7 Globigerina ciperoensis
Pl. 9, fig. 10 Globigerina ciperoensis Pl. 2, fig. 9 Globigerina angulisuturalis
Pl. 9, fig. 1 Globigerina angulisuturalis Pl. 2, fig. 11 Globigerina angulisuturalis
Pl. 7, fig. 19 Cassigerinella chipolensis Pl. 2, fig. 13 Cassigerinella chiploensis (sic)
Berggren & Norris (1997) Pl. 4, fig. 1 Subbotina triloculinoides Pl. 2, fig. 12 Globigerinnella (sic) obesa


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Figure 6: Upper row: two images from Petters (1983, both Subbotina triloculinoides); lower row: the two photomicrographs of Imam (2003, as n° 1 labelled Globigerinoides trilobus and n° 2 called G. immaturus). Nota bene: the form illustrated here as Globigerinoides trilobus had already appeared in Imam (2001: Fig. 6.25) as Subbotina triloculinoides. [Some rights reserved]

Though we are quite suspicious regarding the source of the illustrations for the remaining material, particularly the benthic foraminifers, we were not able to demonstrate that these photomicrographs were "lifted" from the publications of other authors.

III - Discussion

The fraud (see definitions in Addison, 2001, and Scott-Lichter et alii, 2006) was exposed because the author pretended that he himself illustrated his material.

Most photographic illustrations were "borrowed" from the publications of other authors, with or without manipulation. In papers dealing with fossil red or green algae (see Figs. 1 - 2 , for instance), there are obvious evidence of fabrication: cropping (see Imam, 1996a, Figs. 3.1 & 3.8), grouping (see Imam, 1996b, Figs. 3.1.a & 3.6), masking (see Imam, 1996b, Figs. 3.1.b, 3.2.a-b & 3.3), etc.. On the contrary, in most papers dealing with foraminifers or charophytes, the images were lifted without significant changes, except for a flip (mirror image) or a rotation (a number of degrees, 90°, or upside down):

Such errors demonstrate Imam's woeful ignorance of the conventions in both fields of micropaleontology. If the first example is not easy to detect by the reviewers, the second should have alerted any charophyte-expert, if one had been requested to review the manuscript before its publication.

In several cases, even images of type material (holotypes, paratypes, topotypes) were copied. Paleontologists know that the name of a fossil is attached to its type specimen and that this material is commonly used as the reference for comparison with new findings, therefore choosing photomicrographs of holotypes as Imam did repeatedly is possibly the most stupid of his falsifications:

Again such plagiarism should have alerted experts on charophytes or on planktonic foraminifers, if either had been asked to evaluate these manuscripts before their publication. Duplicated photomicrographs in some publications are commonly due either to a careless mistake or to inadequate knowledge of the studied field (see for instance Khalifa et alii (1986): figure 1 in their Pl. 1 is the exact copy of figure 2 in the same plate, but it is rotated 90° clockwise).

Some microfossils were designated by a specific name other than that ascribed it originally (see tables above and in Granier et alii, 2008). Imam commonly altered valid names of species to make them conform to Cenozoic charophyte biozonation, a fact which testifies to his dishonest intent.

Certain aberrancies in stratigraphic distribution should have warned specialists about the low degree of credibility to be accorded these articles and all the works of this author. For instance, the green algae Otternstella lemmensis (Bernier) (formerly known as Heteroporella) and Salpingoporella annulata Carozzi had never been reported in strata younger than Valanginian; their recording by Imam (1996b) in Upper Cretaceous strata ought to have warned the specialists about a misidentification; actually it did so but we could hardly have imagined that the specimens illustrated were not from the author's collection. Charophyte gyrogonites were reported by Imam from stratigraphic intervals other than the interval supposedly studied. As such the misdated co-occurrence of Late Eocene and Early Miocene gyrogonites in Upper Eocene sediments (Refaat & Imam, 1999) and that of specimens of Mid Jurassic, Early Cretaceous and Early Miocene age in one locality (Imam, 2000) should have puzzled the reviewers.

According to Refaat & Imam (1999, p. 1, lines 24-25 of their Abstract) their specimens were "illustrated for the first time" from remote localities in Egypt and Libya, from which additional samples would not be easy to obtain. Because none of the figured specimens actually came from Egyptian and Libyan localities the existence of these microfossils and even of the strata supposedly sampled  becomes problematic. In this regard, it is significant that no redepositories are listed for any of these specimens. Consequently, and obviously by design, verification of Imam's "findings" is not possible. 

Imam's fabricated data started polluting later publications and might have affected to some degree the validity of their conclusions (see for instance the recent papers of Gameil (2003), Kiessling et alii (2003), Leppard & Gawthorpe (2006), Jackson et alii (2005, 2006) and Smith & Dalla Vecchia (2006).

IV - Conclusion

The issue of image verification should become mandatory soon, for conventional methods of photography (emulsions on film of halides of silver) are being replaced by electronic methods (Fig. 7 ) that are even easier to manipulate (Scott-Lichter et alii, 2006).


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Figure 7: Find of a giant planktonic foraminifer in a remote area of the Middle East. An obvious montage made with a common photo editor. The particular example is easily detectable because pixel sizes in the paste-up vary widely.

The most regrettable aspect of these frauds is that the discredit tarnishes not only the coauthors who, in other cases of this type (the Gupta frauds, brought to light by Talent et alii, 1988, supplemented by Talent, 1989), have been presumed innocent. Publishers should try prevent such misconduct, not only for legal reasons (infringement of the copyright rules) but also because it tarnishes the reputation of established journals and their editorial committees. This Imam fraud had the "merit" of revealing a flaw in our system of evaluation for contributions to scientific publications. What would have occurred if the author had chosen not to illustrate "his" material? This poses the question: What degree of credibility should be given to publications without illustrations or, as in a case recently documented by Bilotte et alii (2007), that came with poor illustrations? To insure against fraud editors should demand that authors document the material with photos (whether or not the manuscript is illustrated by their use) that provide the bases for publication (or at least its most significant elements) and that they indicate a public site (Museum, national collection, etc.) where this material, properly referenced, will be permanently accessible to the scientific community. However one reviewer (R.S.) reminded us that "a basis for good science is trust" (we agree); he also stated that such "drastic measures" will not be beneficial to science in introducing "more bureaucracy". While reviewing a manuscript Imam submitted to the Revista Española de Micropaleontología Aguirre (2004) was able to identify an image pirated from his own work (Aguirre et alii, 1993); thanks to this image identification it was then possible to ask the author to retract his submission. In conclusion, reviewers are -and will remain- the keystone in evaluation (see Addison, 2001; Scott-Lichter et alii, 2006; Granier, 2007). But, if the submittal passes peer-review undetected, subsequent exposure through later identification of pirated material remains probable (Scott-Lichter et alii, 2006), as demonstrated herein.

Acknowledgements

Carnets' publications are usually licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 License. But the material illustrated herein was de facto published earlier in other journals and some rights are therefore reserved. Special thanks are due to the editors of Géologie méditerranéenne, Journal of African Earth Sciences, Journal of foraminiferal Research, Revue de Paléobiologie, ... who granted us permission to re-use this material. Alternatively the "fair use" clause fully applies as it was implemented to better document the fraud. The first author (B.G.) would like to thank the many persons who unreservedly supported him in his quest to unearth this blatant and long-lived fraud. Thanks are due too to Michel Bilotte and Robert Speijer for their accurate quality check of the manuscript, and special thanks to Nestor Sander who helped make this critique easier to read.

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