Independent cases of plagiarism have hit three different Indian Institutes of Technology with scientists accused of stealing credit for others’ research, shocking the academic community and raising concerns about scientific ethics.
IIT Kharagpur physics professor R.N.P. Choudhary has lost his position as head of department after a junior faculty member A.K. Thakur accused him of not sharing research credit with him.
A research paper jointly authored by professors of IIT Delhi, Jamia Millia Islamia and the Inter University Accelerator Centre (IUAC), published in 2009, has been retracted by editors of the journal Nuclear Methods and Instruments. The retraction notice says the “authors have plagiarized parts of a paper that had already appeared” in another journal.
Two review articles coauthored by a senior IIT Kanpur professor Ashok Kumar have also been retracted by the journal Biotechnology Advances.
“All these cases, tumbling out one after the other, are shocking. I think they are symptomatic of larger questions of scientific ethics... the scientific community needs to introspect,” a IIT Bombay professor said.
Choudhary accused Thakur of levelling false allegations due to personal tensions. “He did not contribute at all to the paper that he is claiming credit for,” Choudhary told HT.
But IIT Kharagpur sources said a probe team found greater merit in Thakur’s allegations than in Choudhary’s defense.
IUAC professor D.K. Avasthi accused his co-authors — Anup Ghosh of IIT Delhi, Pawan Kulriya of IUAC, Sharif Ahmed of Jamia and Shashi Chawla of Amity University — of publishing his name as an author without his consent. “My contribution to the research was limited to the fact that my laboratory was used,” Avasthi said.
IIT Kanpur’s Kumar accused the editor of Biotechnology Advances of “personal problems” with him for the retraction of the article. “Since the journal insisted, I agreed to a voluntary retraction. But... they have retracted the article unilaterally using inappropriate language in their retraction notice,” Kumar said.