A professor from the department of laboratory medicine at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) here had to retract his article after major portions of his work were found lifted from a 2004 review article by a UK scientist.
The review article, ‘Genetic Diversity in Hepatitis C Virus (HCV)’, published in Reviews in Medical Virology in 2009 by additional professor Muhammad Irshad had to be withdrawn from the web journal in December 2009.
The journal editor had found at least 20 over laps including figures from another review article titled ‘Genetic Diversity and Evolution of Hepatitis C virus - 15 years on’ published in Journal of General Virology in 2004 by Professor Peter Simmonds, who is with the University of Edinburgh since March 2001.
“It (duplication) wasn’t done intentionally and importantly the review article has been retracted from the journal,” said Dr Irshad.
“I think the problem arose because there are no defined guidelines on writing review articles. The student assisting me probably overlooked the requirements.”
AIIMS director Dr RC Deka said, “I have no idea about this duplication. No one in the institute has brought it to my notice.”
“Proving plagiarism is an arduous task and several committees have to be set to examine the veracity of the claims. If the charges are proven, appropriate action will be taken.”
Dean Dr Rani Kumar also claimed she wasn't aware of the controversy.
“We can’t take action unless there is a formal complaint from the original author. And so far, we have not received any.”
“It is indeed shameful, if this has truly happened. It brings a bad name to the institute and to the small section of people who are doing good work,” she said.
Dr Pushpa Bhargava, former president of Society of Scientific Values, an independent body of scientists acting as a watchdog of Indian scientific community, said, “The biggest problem is there are no laws or any directive from the government to deal with scientific misconduct in academia in India.”
“In more than 90 per cent cases of plagiarism, the culprit goes scot-free.”
Dr Bhargava said, “Given the ethos of science, the institute has every reason to take action on the person found guilty of plagiarism.”
In October 2007, six professors at AIIMS were in the dock for publishing the same research material in two different medical journals, which also amounts to academic fraud. But no action was taken.