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The Dark Side

Down the Rabbit Hole With Alireza Heidari

Thanks to a comment on yesterday’s blog post, I was able to read this extraordinary tale, which comes to us courtesy of Prof. William Grover at UC Riverside’s Bioengineering department. Go check it out – you’ll learn of one Alireza Heidari, who is apparently quite the polymath. He is the author of 115 papers, which is not bad when you consider that this is only since 2015 and that he appears to have defended his PhD in 2012. As Grover notes, that publication list includes things like a one-page opinion piece, which has 90 (!) references, every single one of which is to one of his other papers. It’s a breathtaking sight. In fact, a quick glance suggests that every single one of his “publications” cites nothing but his own “work”. And he’s also on the editorial boards of more ridiculous predatory journals than you have patience to count. I mean, the list just goes on and on, and it’s a tour through the dregs of the publishing world. No “journal” who lets an Alireza Heidari on its “editorial board” can possibly be any good whatsoever, and sure enough, it’s one steaming mound of refuse after another. If it turns out that he shares a masthead somewhere with Prof. Hoss Cartwright, my day will be complete.

Ah, but the story doesn’t end there. I don’t know who this Alireza Heidari is, but his name is spelled exactly like that of an Iranian Olympic wrestler, so make of that what you will. This “Heidari’s” biography is a maniacal screed that just gets crazier as you work your way through it, both in its laughable details (attendee of three hundred conferences! recipient of nine hundred awards!) and its otherwordly grammar. Successive sentences start with “Hitherto”, “Syne” (sic), “Heretofore”, and “Hitherward”, that last being the first time I have ever encountered that word in my life. Where, you wonder, does this paragon work his magic? Why, at “California South University“.

Say what? Prof. Grover has quite a time with that one, as well he might. Good ol’ CSU is supposed to be in Irvine, and a professor at Riverside (35 miles away) just might have noticed its 150-building campus occupying 50 city blocks. It turns out that the entire description of CSU on its amazing web site is lifted word-for-word from the Wikipedia article on the University of Alberta – well, with a few words swapped. That leads to brow-furrowing oddities like it being called one of the greatest universities in the province of California and references to the Los Angeles Maple Leafs hockey team.

Every single page of the CSU web site is, on inspection, a jumbled heap of blatant plagiarism. You can find hunks of Wikipedia all over the place, including at one point a flat description of the “lorem ipsum” typographic placeholder, which is at least a 9/10 on style points alone. It keeps looping back to the University of Alberta article, though, faithfully reproducing a discussion of recent scandals involving the faculty. Oh, and that faculty? Brace yourself. The page for “Prof. Arthur Miller” features a photo of the late James van Allen, and text lifted from the Wikipedia article about the office of the Canadian Prime Minister, which leads (inexorably) to a statement that CSU’s current president is Justin Trudeau. Meanwhile, Prof. “Calvin Carter’s” page is illustrated with a still from the 2009 movie “A Serious Man”, while its text is from the Wikipedia article on NASA’s Gene Krantz. And so on, and so on. These names, by the way, are the only co-authors that ever appear on any of Heidari’s “papers”.

Honestly, this site is the predatory publishing equivalent of Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, as if Charles Kinbote had learned about cascading style sheets. Why does such a thing exist? Prof. Grover has done some digging, and finds that from 2010 to 2016 the “Cal South” web site, in various iterations, promoted a good ol’ fashioned diploma mill, with degrees based on “life experiences” mailed to you within ten days of receipt of funds. As that article shows, such operations typically assemble and repurpose photos from all sorts of real universities. But “CSU” doesn’t seem to be doing that now. There are no pages that “enroll” you in anything, nothing about payments, etc. There’s a rather surreal page about visiting the campus, but it provides no directions and no way to schedule a visit. Heidari’s own stated mailing address, which is reproduced in the CSU site’s WHOIS record, is a residential street in Irvine.

Grover’s best guess (and it’s mine, too) is that “Heidari”  is collecting a piece of the action every time someone pays for a paper in one of those predatory journals he’s on the editorial board of. The come-on emails inviting you to join such things sometimes explicitly mention deals like this – it’s like a multilevel marketing scheme. He’s cast a huge net to scoop up this sort of money, but interestingly, he doesn’t seem (from what I can see so far) to have set up his own publishing empire. Rather, he’s piggybacking off the OMICs group and other sleazeballs, who seem only too happy in turn to associate with a scholar of such distinction.

As for the actual person behind all this, a quick search of California business records and a little Googling will turn it up. Over the years, plenty of other people have had contacts with this active businessman, and it’s safe to say that “CSU” and “Alireza Heidari” are just parts of his activity. Based on what I’ve seen, I wouldn’t trust the guy to tell me whether it was raining or not, but this is the sort of person who now fills up the junk scientific journals. It’s a farce – the whole predatory publishing business is a ridiculous, moronic farce. California South University is its natural home.

57 comments on “Down the Rabbit Hole With Alireza Heidari”

  1. NMH says:

    Ah yes. A very conservative interpretation of Islam suggests is perfectly OK to lie and to fool infidels (ie, any one who wants to publish) , so if Mr Heidari is an islamist, then he is, in fact, acting in a ethical manner.

    1. Hap says:

      I assume this might be more relevant:

      He probably doesn’t care who he’s ripping off, as long as they are willing to pay for publications. The people paying for pubs aren’t exactly being honest themselves, and so they don’t really deserve much in the way of sympathy. Of course, the real targets are the people overseeing the people buying publications, who apparently can’t tell between articles in these journals and articles in journals that someone might actually have to do research to be published in. As long as universities and their administrations keep buying baloney, they’ll keep giving it to them.

      1. John Wayne says:

        To quote a famous professor of chemistry, “I’d love to publish a small number of important papers, but the average dean can count better than they can read.”

        1. Hap says:

          Perhaps the people giving out the grants? If the U isn’t getting cash, and the professors and their students cost money to keep, I’m sure that the administration can count that.

        2. Pastor Bentonit says:

          And therein, lies the problem. Well put!

        3. Derek Lowe says:

          Hard to argue with that reasoning, unfortunately!

      2. Sophist says:

        Indeed, this is simply free enterprise at work. So long as a market exists, some enterprising soul will find a way to profit.

    2. Anonymoose says:

      Would you care to share any of your other racist/xenophobic viewpoints?

      1. Nick K says:

        What did he say that is false?

    3. Derek Lowe says:

      Ah, “ketman” as detailed in Milosz’s “The Captive Mind”. But IIRC, that deception is only in furtherance of religious aims. Which is most certainly not the case here, so you comment is a bit tangential.

    4. Bla says:

      We’re letting this racism crap stand? How disappointing.

      1. skeptical says:

        I don’t think I’m being pedantic by saying that it isn’t racism. It’s a different form of bigotry. But bigotry it is.

    5. Fodil says:

      I think you’re wrong about the religion … re-check 😉

  2. Anon says:

    Fake World, as our moronic President says. Fake sells!

  3. Some Dude says:

    What cracks me up is his Google Scholar profile:

    His top paper is cited 30 times – entirely by himself:

    Maybe Google should stop indexing these “journals”?

  4. Mad Chemist says:

    What I think is the most ridiculous is the sheer number of countries the guy claims to have done research in. I think anyone would be hard pressed just to visit that list of countries in their lifetime, and he claims to have done research sabbaticals and other such stuff in each one. Perhaps he has a half dozen duplicates of himself running around, courtesy of Calvin’s duplicator. XD

    1. NJBiologist says:

      Actually, if I’ve read his bio correctly (I may not have–I was laughing too hard)… he claims to have visited “as research fellow, sabbatical and volunteer researcher or visitor and so on”. So… he may have visited as, y’know, a visitor. As one does.

      1. a. nonymaus says:

        Perhaps he doesn’t mean a touristic visitor, but an official one.
        After all, wouldn’t you want such a distinguished academic on your institution’s Board of Visitors?

  5. Eric S says:

    Funny, my PI just sent me the Grover site last night. Seeing that we’re at UC Irvine, looks like we got competition! I’m glad you covered this, Derek.

    I spent the evening crossing my eyes trying to read one of Heidari’s “editorials.” Ironic (and comical) they mention “Arthur Miller” because that dribble is no more science than witchcraft. So sad.

  6. Emjeff says:

    Love this part of his bio,

    “He has a history of several years of teaching for college students and various disciplines and trends in different universities. ”

    Teaching “for” college students?

  7. myma says:

    Clearly, making shit up for profit is a full-time job. Wouldn’t it be easier to, yanno, have a real job?

  8. Anon2 says:

    Apparently he’s innumerate, too: “With more than 15,000 employees, the university is California’s fourth-largest employer. ” As you might image, 15,000 employees doesn’t even put you in the top 50.

  9. Mark Thorson says:

    I wonder if I could start an OMICS journal? I’d have a provision that if I required a manuscript to be revised and resubmitted, you would be subject to an additional editorial review fee. I can assure you that I can always find errors in even the best papers. You appear not to have run this through a spell-checker. This term should have been hyphenated. Your bibliographic entries do not conform with our style guide. You are using inconsistent capitalization in your bulleted lists. Your tables do not conform with our style guide. Your figure references seem to go to the wrong figures. You are using English spelling, but the style guide quite clearly says we use American spelling. Section headers are to be in bold, 12 point font with 13 point line spacing. I could be the editor from hell.

    1. NJBiologist says:

      A discounted additional editorial review fee, of course. Maybe 15% off the initial review fee? It’s not like we’re trying to rob people, after all.

  10. Uncle Al says:

    Alireza Heidari, is to be revered not reviled for being a Social Juice Warrior,
    … Luce Irigaray sources physics’ defects.

    then reviled for being a potential predatory patriarchal oppressor and not-yet-accused thought-rapist. We will not be seduced by ontological confusions versus epistemically suspect beliefs!

    1. SSG says:

      Finally, a guy who makes as much sense as the CSU website!

  11. Lil'Joe says:

    Derek – your day is now complete. Please find this landmark preprint, “Emulating IPv7 Using Constant-Time Modalities”, A. Heidari, H. Cartwright, et al.

    thanks for the rabbit holes…

    1. CheMystery says:

      I love that he has published with characters from Bonanza. I would die for a Nobel line up of Heidari, Hoss Cartwright, and Little Joe.

    2. eyesoars says:

      That’s an, uh, interesting paper. Apparently time machines are one of his recent inventions, which may explain some of the grammar as well.

    3. NJBiologist says:

      OK, here’s how I’m seeing the diagnostic process:

      Candidate diagnosis: fraud.
      Rule out #1: bipolar (I) disorder, most recently manic.
      Rule out #2: really, really committed performance art.

      The candidate diagnosis is the easy one, especially with the rampant plagiarism and the association with the OMICs crowd.
      However, as myma points out, all of this–the web site, the journals, the articles–is a ton of work. The phrasing and quantity start to feel like mania.
      And finally, that Heidari, Cartright and Joe article… that just reads like art.

      1. Pennpenn says:

        I wonder how long until machine learning spam-bots will be considered an option for such nonsense creation? Maybe we’re already there. I mean, it’s not like I’d get much argument here that such systems are readily capable of generating an endless stream of nonsensical garbage with just a little feeding, and that is what we seem to have here.

        1. Lil'Joe says:

          Clearly, we’re already there! Not so much nonsense spam-bots, but manipulative spam-bots and spam. Human nature abhors a vacuum.

  12. In Vivo Veritas says:

    Prof. Dr. Kenneth Brisham sure looks familiar from somewhere….. LOL

    1. Anonymoose says:

      Seems pretty low-energy to me.

  13. Wavefunction says:

    And I dare any AI to reproduce the contents of this amazing website.

  14. CheMystery says:

    But, seriously. Is the research any good?

      1. Anon says:

        As enumerated by Nikolai Ivanovich Slobachevsky? I am never forget the day…

        1. tim Rowledge says:

          Hey, you stole that from my friend in Pinsk!

    1. The Iron Chemist says:

      I picked one and read it. Short answer: no.

  15. idiotraptor says:

    From the CSU website:
    ALBERT EINSTEIN never learned to drive. He thought it too complicated and in any case he preferred walking. What he did not know—indeed, what no one knew until now—is that most cars would not work without the intervention of one of his most famous discoveries, the special theory of relativity.

    Special relativity deals with physical extremes. It governs the behaviour of subatomic particles zipping around powerful accelerators at close to the speed of light and its equations foresaw the conversion of mass into energy in nuclear bombs. A paper in Physical Review Letters, however, reports a more prosaic application. According to the calculations of Pekka Pyykko of the California South University and his colleagues, the familiar lead-acid battery that sits under a car’s bonnet and provides the oomph to get the engine turning owes its ability to do so to special relativity

  16. Glen says:

    Why hasn’t this gent been hired by a startup? His credentials would look *great* on TV business shows.

  17. gippgig says:

    This is why science and money need to be kept separate.

    Off topic but may be of interest:
    To the Contrary with Bonnie Erbe
    “Pharmaceuticals in the waterways and food animals” (assuming my TV listing is correct)
    In Washington, D.C. Feb. 24 6:30PM Channel 32 (PBS; check your local listing)

    1. Pastor Bentonit says:

      Oh, but I dare say that science and money *are* being kept separate.

      At least increasingly so. Think about it.

  18. angrygecko says:

    Anyone else notice that the phone number of California South University has a Nevada area code?

  19. Some Dude says:

    I just randomly looked at a “paper”:

    It does not even pretend to follow the formalism of papers, just an abstract and 3 figures – and about as nonsensical as papers generated by the infamous paper generator (somebody generated on further up). At least the corresponding email address is classy:

    At least with such quality of work there is no risk of contaminating the scientific literature – nobody will waste time studying these papers. The only thing that is getting contaminated are Google Scholar search results.

  20. Anonymoose says:

    If you do the domain name lookup for, you’ll find it is registered to:

    California South University
    14731 Comet St. Irvine, CA 92604, USA

    Just for fun, go to Google Street View and have a look at CSU’s expansive, glimmering campus!

  21. Anonymoose says:

    The sources of the images of the “Notable People” on the website:

    “Arthur Miller”
    “Annie Danny”
    “Arthur Adams” (too hard to find with image search, too many white guys in ties. However, his profile mentions he was an NHL referee from 2003-2007 and was involved in a bunch of things that happened in the 1930s)
    “Calvin Carter”
    “Carol Thomson”
    “Christopher Brown” (again, couldn’t find this one for the same reason as Arthur Adams. But apparently he discovered the anomeric effect, which means he’s been in the business since at least 1955!)
    “Kenneth Brisham” Actually Jeb Bush.

    1. “Carol Thomson” is George Church!!!

  22. toxmed says:


    First this: “The university ranks among the top five universities in the United States and among the top public research universities worldwide. In 2015 the Webometrics Ranking of World Universities rated the university 64th in the world, 48th in North America and 45th in the United States.”

    In the website’s “Reputation” tab, after shouting out the world rankings, 64th in the world (A la University of Manchester); 48th in North America and 45th in the USA (a la Vanderbuilt), this pure gem:
    “The university has been the subject of several recent scandals. In 2011, the school’s dean of medicine resigned after plagiarizing much of his graduation address. In 2012, the University’s Psychiatry department chair was placed on leave before officially beginning his duties after allegations emerged of an inappropriate sexual relationship with a patient.”
    I am left helpless between hysterical laughter and a need to commit violence on this…

  23. qvxb says:

    I believe Dr. Bestiale was a Visiting Professor at CSU.

  24. David Edwards says:

    So what we have here, is an individual who has fabricated his own entire virtual academic ecosystem, ranging from nonexistent universities to vapourware journals and a veritable Gordian Knot of interwoven citations.

    Just imagine what might have been, had all this effort been directed to real academic research.

  25. ScreezusKreist says:

    The California South University website appears to be offline at the time of writing this comment. One would expect such an institution would have a rock solid server but I guess they’re flooded by applications at this time of the year.

  26. jimbo says:

    Alireza Heidari was one of my classmates in ph.d course, Of course abandoned (fired). I know him very well.

  27. Alireza M. Khah says:

    And do not miss the prior to 2015 Alireza Heidari :

    when he was a student and was more focus on publishing fake and “copy-modify-paste” papers in real journals. Some of his papers are already retracted (I guess those that have serious researches as co-authors) due to plagiarism and probably there are much more of the kind.

  28. M McC says:

    Of concern is others who have latched on to him. Roberto Gatabo has published with this person. The name of the person who registered the fake University is Zahid Yazdanie. The University was accused of selling fake University diplomas.

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