Ebtekar paper said to be plagiarized.
Nature, a leading American scientific journal, said that an Iranian scientific magazine was alerted to the potential plagiarism by Deja vu, a web database at the University of Texas that culls published articles with potential plagiarisms by computer matching of the texts.
One of the 74,771 articles currently pinpointed by Deja Vu is a 2006 paper by Ebtekar on cytokines and air pollution published in English by the Iranian Journal of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Nature reported that Deja vu said about 85 percent of that article was lifted from five other professional papers.
Mohammad Eslami, editor-in-chief of the Iranian publication, told Nature the article was being retracted. He said he will publish an editorial repeating the magazine's policy on original work.
The sole author of the paper was Ebtekar. She speaks fluent English from her grammar school education in Pennsylvania, where her father was studying. In 1979, her fluency led her to be chosen as the spokesperson for the students who seized the U.S. embassy. She became internationally famous as "Mary."
She went on to become an immunologist. In 1997, President Khatami named her his vice president in charge of Iran's Environmental Protection Agency. Ebtekar was revealed to be "Mary" many months later when Elaine Sciolino of The New York Times recognized her.
Ebtekar left office when Khatami was replaced in 2005. She began teaching at Tarbiat Modares University in Tehran and won election to the Tehran City Council in 2007.
She sent a response to Deja vu saying some paragraphs in the article had been taken "without due reference to the authors which is a clear miscontinued take." She blamed a student helping her with the manuscript. "I have apologized for my shortcomings and mistakes. I will take more care in writing my articles and preparing my manuscripts," she wrote.
She also complained that Deja Vu, in citing her paper with almost 75,000 others, went "too far in condemning people and smearing their reputation before they have a chance to respond."
One of the source papers cited by Deja Vu was by Ian Mudway, a toxicologist at King's College in London. He was not impressed with Ebtekar's explanation. "The [Ebtekar] article is a veritable patchwork of other people's work, word for word, grammatical error for grammatical error," he told Nature.