Fudged findings: The Increasing Plagiarisation Of Research


A recent study published in the Journal of Medical Ethics in the USA has revealed that Indian scientists are the worst offenders in faking research. Thirty-four per cent of the research papers out of the 50 withdrawn relate to some kind of fraud, including cribbing of findings, concocting data or fudging. A senior Indian scientist at the National Institute of Science, Technology and Development, New Delhi, has alleged that some of our senior scientists are involved in fraud and that no action has been taken against the offence.
Such deceptive practices are also prevalent elsewhere in the world as a short-cut to quick success. Of the 800 research papers retracted by scientific journals in the past 10 years, the USA ~ with 260 retractions ~ topped the list, according to the stated review. A recent survey of more than 80 universities in the UK has revealed that “academic misconduct” is on the rise across the country with over 17,000 cases being recorded during the academic year 2009-10. Thousands of students have been caught for plagiarism.

Germany’s defence minister had to resign recently for his plagiarised doctoral degree which was withdrawn. He had copied his thesis from other sources. The London School of Economics is investigating allegations that Muammar Gaddafi’s son had plagiarised his 2008 PhD thesis.

Apparently, there is far stricter scrutiny than in India. Punishment is severe: usually the accused scientist’s career is ruined. In India, however, such dubious practices have by and large gone unchallenged though not unnoticed, not to mention punishment. Several instances of blatant plagiarism have corrupted our scientific community, and such unethical practices are continuing unabated.
Recently, a research paper jointly authored by professors of IIT, Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia and the Inter-University Accelerator Centre, published in 2009, was retracted by the editor of the journal, Nuclear Methods and Instruments. It was alleged that the authors had plagiarised parts of an earlier published work. Two review articles co-authored by a senior professor of IIT, Kanpur, have also been retracted by the journal, Biotechnology Advances, as the authors have plagiarised from earlier papers.

The director of Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology, Delhi, had to resign in the wake of charges of plagiarism. The allegation was probed by the Society for Scientific Values. Six AIIMS professors were earlier accused of plagiarism for fraudulently publishing the same research material in two different medical journals.

An associate professor in the department of Material Science at the University of California, Los Angeles, recently found that his research paper on nanoelectronic devices, published in January 2009, had been copied by the two faculty members of Pondicherry University and published as a chapter in a book in their names. One of the authors expressed regret and had agreed to withdraw the chapter. The university had initiated an inquiry.

In its 150-year history, Calcutta University had cancelled the PhD degree of an evening college teacher as a large part of his thesis had been found to be plagiarised by the University Syndicate.

Earlier, a Reader in the physics department was sacked by Delhi University for plagiarism. He was found guilty of copying certain research papers. The American Mathematical Society had also accused a professor of mathematics of Delhi University of plagiarism while reviewing his research papers. In another instance, the submission of two virtually identical dissertations by two Delhi University students in two different departments had shocked the academic community. The two thesis were almost carbon copies with minor differences. Their respective supervisors had certified the work of their students as original.
The authorities took action against one of them who had copied the research material of the other. A PhD student of JNU’s “School of Computer and Systems Sciences” was charged with plagiarising the thesis for his doctorate degree by copying word by word from an earlier publication. He was not awarded the degree.

The vice-chancellor of Kumaon University, who claimed to be a top physicist having 300 research papers to his credit, was accused of plagiarisation for lifting verbatim from published papers. In 2002, he submitted a paper titled, “Super-symmetric Hypermultiplets in String Theory”. One section was lifted from a 1994 paper by Seiberg and Witten, another from papers by Bilal and Ferrari, and a third from a 1998 paper by Bergman and Fayyazuddin. It is only after three Nobel laureates from the USA had complained that a panel was formed to probe the charge. It was headed by a former Allahabad High Court judge.
A professor of the Cardiology department of Safdarjung Hospital, New Delhi, was once accused of plagiarising the thesis of a post-graduate student of the department. It was alleged that the article published by him in the journal of Associate Physicians of India is a “word to word” copy from the student’s original thesis.

Two professors of Poona University, belonging to the microbiology and chemistry departments, were suspended for plagiarising a research paper of one Ms Bruce G Adams, which was published in Analytical Biochemistry earlier. Both were also held guilty of plagiarising a research paper of two foreign authors published in 1984 in the journal of Applied Biochemistry and Biotechnology.
The fossil fraud, in which a Punjab University geologist was involved, has tarnished the image of the country before the international scientific community.
(The names of Indian scientists have been withheld).

Y P Gupta
The writer is ex-principal scientist, IARI, New Delhi

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