IIT Dhanbad retraction saga: ‘Investigation will be completed shortly’

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IIT Dhanbad has already initiated an investigation into unethical practices by Dr. Rashmi Madhuri and Dr. Prashant Sharma. The investigation will be completed shortly and the board will take a decision depending on the extent of guilt, says the Director.

Fourteen papers published in reputable international journals by Rashmi Madhuri and Prashant Sharma from the Indian Institute of Technology (Indian School of Mines), Dhanbad have been retracted for image duplication. The first retraction was in February this year and seven more papers were retracted in March and April. Four more papers were retracted on May 30. The retracted papers were published in two journals — Biosensors & Biomaterials and ACS Sustainable Chemistry & Engineering.

Dr. Madhuri is Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Chemistry while Dr. Sharma is Assistant Professor in the Department of Applied Physics. Dr. Madhuri is the corresponding author of all the papers.

“Investigation [into this issue] had already started before I came in as the Director in March end. Needless to say that we take such issues very seriously… the board will take a decision depending on the extent of guilt. The investigation will be completed shortly,” said Prof. Rajiv Shekhar, Director of IIT Dhanbad.

On PubPeer, a website that allows users to discuss and review scientific research that has been published, researchers had raised concerns about image duplication and manipulation in at least 38 research papers published by these researchers including the 12 papers that have been retracted. All the reused images were earlier published in their papers.

In an email sent to The Hindu in December last year, Dr. Madhuri had accused scientists posting on Pubpeer of defaming her and called it academic cyber-crime. “This is a new kind of “acedamic cyber-crime/scam” in which some young researchers [of] Indian origin are targeted by small group of people as Indian scientists are soft targets,” she said.

“It is worth mentioning that it is just a coincidence that most of the articles were published in last two-three years, whereas the work is the result of very hard work of our group (which has more than 10 PhD and postgraduate students), in [the] last six years,” she added.

Dr. Madhuri did not respond to phone calls or reply to a mail sent to her.

Published in The Hindu on June 1, 2018

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