CNR Rao, the Prime Minister's top scientific adviser and one of India's best known scientists, has apologised to an international journal along with three other scientists for plagiarising the work of others, sending shockwaves through the country's scientific community.
Rao and scientists Basant Chitara, LS Panchakarla and SB Krupanidhi apologised to Advanced Materials, one of the world's most prestigious journals in material sciences, for the "reproduction of text from an article" that appeared in another journal, Applied Physics Letters, in 2010.
"The corresponding authors sincerely apologise to the readers, reviewers and editors for this oversight and for any miscommunication," the scientists wrote in their apology.
Their article in Advanced Materials appeared in July 2011 and contained at least four lines that were lifted without attribution.
Rao, chairman of the Prime Minister's scientific advisory council, is travelling and could not be reached. He is a Padma Bhushan and Padma Vibhushan and the winner of many national and international awards.
The four scientists belong to the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) and Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR).
Senior scientists at these Bangalore-based research institutions pointed to a larger malaise in Indian science.
"These things will repeatedly happen as long as top scientists don't take responsibility for the actual writing of the research paper," a head of department at IISc said, requesting anonymity.