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Allegations of scientific plagiarism in Iran must be investigated with support from the global academic community, urges a Nature editorial.

Last week (9 December), the journal published fresh cases of apparent plagiarism in papers co-authored by Iranian government ministers and senior officials.

Previous allegations were widely reported by Iran's mainstream media, which deserve credit for exposing the story despite the present regime's record of intimidating free speech, says the editorial.

But the regime's research institutions have done little to investigate the allegations, it adds.

It calls for an official inquiry to clarify the circumstances surrounding questionable papers co-authored by transport minister Hamid Behbahani and science minister Kamran Daneshjou.

Plagiarism in Iran could arise from difficulties with English or from pressure to publish as a condition for promotion, says the editorial. But it might also be caused by politicians' increasing influence on university promotions that began when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took power in 2005.

Many Iranian researchers are calling for an investigation into the allegations and should be applauded for their attempts to maintain scientific standards in difficult political conditions, says the editorial.

They are widely supported by their overseas colleagues — Iranian professors across the globe signed a petition earlier this year (October) against plagiarism in the country (see Iran urged to stamp out plagiarism).

But the international scientific community must do more to support Iranian researchers against plagiarism, says the editorial — "the actions of a few must not be allowed to soil the reputation of the majority of Iran's scientists".

Link to full editorial in Nature