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Role of systematic reviews in detecting plagiarism: case of Asim Kurjak

BMJ 2006; 333 doi: (Published 14 September 2006) Cite this as: BMJ 2006;333:594

The case of Asim Kurjak - ISUOG Statement of 2002

Some of the Rapid Responses to the article by Iain Chalmers (1)
concerning plagiarism by Prof. Kurjak and Dr. Kupesic of Dr. Blaas’ PhD
thesis (2), and numerous e-mails, from (mostly Croatian) colleagues, make
it clear that further descriptive information needs to be published about
the issue, particularly as it seems that Asim Kurjak is publicly denying
some of the facts presented in Iain Chalmers’ paper (according to the
Norwegian newspaper, “Adresseavisen” on 18 September 2006, that published
a facsimile and translation of a text in the Croatian newspaper “Jutarnji
List” dated 16 September 2006).

I am writing this letter as President of International Society of
Ultrasound of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ISUOG) during the period of 1998
– 2002.

The book Fetal and Neonatal Neurology and Neurosurgery, 3rd edition,
2001. Eds Levene M, Chervenak F, Whittle M. (Churchill Livingston) was
published in the fall of 2001 and arrived on my desk in October 2001. The
plagiarism of Dr. Blaas’ PhD thesis and other work by Dr. Blaas et al. (3,
4) in Chapter 4, Ultrasound of first trimester CNS development: structure
and circulation by Kurjak and Kupesic (5) was then discovered by Dr.
Blaas. Blaas and I reported the plagiarism to the publisher in a letter
dated January 20, 2002. The publisher forwarded the information to Kurjak
and Kupesic in a letter dated February 6, 2002. In a reply letter of
February 14, 2002, the publisher informed Blaas and me that the world-wide
distribution of the book would be frozen. Kurjak and Kupesic responded
with a letter to the publisher dated February 26, 2002, recognizing that
“there is merit to the complaint” and apologizing to the publisher as well
as to Blaas and me. Soon thereafter, the publisher decided to withdraw the
book from the market. In May 2002 the publisher decided that the book of
858 pages would be completely reprinted with a new chapter by Blaas and me
replacing the previous chapter by Kurjak and Kupesic. Thus, it is
incorrect that the book had not been published and that we are dealing
with plagiarism “in a ‘not even born’ Chapter!” as stated by Prof. Gian
Carlo Di Renzo (6). Further, Prof. Di Renzo argues that Chalmers’
hypothesis that “systematic reviews may detect plagiarism” (1) is not
supported by the example of Kurjak’s plagiarism of Dr. Blaas. Prof. Di
Renzo’s argument is incorrect: it was through systematic review that the
numerous phrases Kurjak lifted from Blaas’ Lancet article (4) were

Chapter 4 by Kurjak and Kupesic, Ultrasound of first trimester CNS
development: structure and circulation, consists of an introduction, a
section on ultrasound and Doppler assessment of early brain development, a
section on early cerebral circulation, a section on 3D ultrasound and a
conclusion. The section on ultrasound and Doppler consists of 412 words,
340 of which (83%) are directly copied from an article by Blaas and Eik-Nes (3); the section on 3D ultrasound consists of 1261 words, 1155 of
which (92%) are copied word for word from Dr. Blaas’ thesis The embryonic
examination (2) along with extensive passages of 453 words from Blaas’
Lancet article (4). Thus, it is incorrect, as proposed by Prof. JM Bajo-Arenas (7) that the problem consisted of a
relatively minor failure fully to acknowledge Blaas’ contribution and that
the case was a mere “error of judgement”.

Kurjak, Kupesic and Blaas were all members of ISUOG. Because I as a
President of ISUOG was a co-author of some of the plagiarized text, I
wrote to the President Elect Karel Maršál on February 15, 2002, asking him
to manage the complaint raised by Blaas against Asim Kurjak and Sanja
Kupesic. Prof. Maršál chaired the Executive Committee (Stuart Campbell,
Joshua Copel, Kypros Nicolaides, Gianluigi Pilu, Lawrence Platt) that
evaluated the complaint. The information was presented to the ISUOG
Executive Committee during a conference call on February 25, 2002, and in
an e-mail to the complete ISUOG Board on March 22, 2002. It was concluded
that this was a clear case of plagiarism and, after further e-mail
communication, the Board decided to suspend Prof. Kurjak and Dr. Kupesic
from all their ISUOG functions and from the Editorial Board of the journal
“Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology”, and to exclude them from ISUOG
membership for 3 years (Karel Maršál, personal communication). In the
meantime, before the decision of the Board was announced, Prof. Kurjak and
Dr. Kupesic sent a letter to Prof. Maršál as Chair of the Executive
Committee on March 22, 2002, in which they withdrew their membership in
ISUOG. Their letter was discussed by the Executive Committee at its
meeting in London on April 29, 2002. The Executive Committee decided to
accept the resignation, to remove Kupesic from the Editorial Board of
“Ultrasound in Obstetrics and Gynecology”, and to declare Kurjak and
Kupesic ineligible for ISUOG membership for three years.

On April 30, 2002, ISUOG issued a statement which was sent to me as
President of ISUOG. The Executive Committee decided at that time not to
make the statement public. The statement read:

ISUOG Statement re complaint of Scientific Misconduct by Harm-Gerd
Blaas against Asim Kurjak and Sanja Kupesic ‘Ultrasound of first trimester
CNS development: structure and circulation’ – Chapter in ‘Fetal and
Neonatal Neurology and Neurosurgery’, 3rd edition, 2001 (Churchill

‘In full consideration of the complaint, relevant publications and
the response from Drs Kurjak and Kupesic, the ISUOG Board has concluded
that the publication of this chapter constitutes plagiarism of the
previously published original work of the complainant and that the
complaint is justified. It is therefore the decision of the Board to
accept the resignation of Drs Kurjak and Kupesic as members of ISUOG, and
their withdrawal from ISUOG’s forthcoming World Congress. Drs Kurjak and
Kupesic will be ineligible for membership of the Society and associated
benefits for a further three years'.

London, April 30, 2002

In a letter dated March 1, 2002, Blaas and I informed the Dean of the
Medical School in Zagreb, Prof. Boris Labar, about the plagiarism. A
response was never received. It is our hope that Chalmers’ paper will
prompt the University of Zagreb to evaluate the complaint and present
their conclusion in the public domain.

I respect the kind words Aris Antsaklis (8), Zlatan Fatusic (9) and
Oktay Kadayýfcý (10) have expressed about Kurjak in their letters to However, having read their praise of Prof. Kurjak I remain
puzzled by the fact that a researcher of the quality and ability being
claimed for Kurjak would need to copy almost two thousand words from a
pioneer’s articles in order to describe the basic components of what he
claims is his own 3D ultrasound research. I must be excused for asking why
Kurjak found it necessary to copy so extensively if the extraction of
knowledge presented in Kurjak’s Chapter 4 really was based on his own


1. Chalmers I. Role of systematic reviews in detecting plagiarism:
the case of Asim Kurjak. Br Med J 2006;333:594-6.

2. Blaas H-GK. The embryonic examination. Ultrasound studies on the
development of the human embryo [Thesis]. Trondheim: Norwegian University
of Science and Technology; 1999.

3. Blaas H-G, Eik-Nes SH. Ultrasound assessment of early brain
development. In: Jurkovic D, Jauniaux E, editors. Ultrasound and early
pregnancy. New York–London: The Parthenon Publishing Group; 1996. p. 3–18.

4. Blaas H-G, Eik-Nes SH, Berg S, Torp H. In-vivo three-dimensional
ultrasound reconstructions of embryos and early fetuses. Lancet

5. Kurjak A, Kupesic S. Ultrasound of first trimester CNS
development: structure and circulation. In: Levene MI, Chervenak FA,
Whittle M, editors. Fetal and Neonatal Neurology and Neurosurgery. London:
Churchill Livingston; 2001. p. 39–44 [Withdrawn in 2002].

6. Di Renzo G C. Unfair media attack against Prof. Kurjak. Rapid
responses for Iain Chalmers, BMJ 2006;333:594-6., 17 October 2006.

7. Bajo-Arenas JM. Professor Kurjak. Rapid responses for Iain
Chalmers, BMJ 2006;333:594-6. 11 October 2006.

8. Antsaklis A. Our opinion – Society of Perinatal Medicine of Bosnia
and Herzegovina. Rapid responses for Iain Chalmers, BMJ 2006;333:594-6., 3 November 2006.

9. Fatusic Z. Response to recent article concerning plagiarism -
case of Asim Kurjak. Rapid responses for Iain Chalmers, BMJ 2006;333:594-
6., 8 November 2006.

10. Kadayýfcý O. Respect to Asim Kurjak. Rapid responses for Iain
Chalmers, BMJ 2006;333:594-6., 8 November 2006.

Competing interests:
None declared

Competing interests: No competing interests

01 December 2006
Sturla H. Eik-Nes
National Center for Fetal Medicine, St. Olavs University Hospital, 7006-Trondheim, Norway