CSIR Director-General Dr. Shekhar C Mande in response to a Facebook comment said that the CSIR-IITR case is “being investigated speedily”. His comment came after I posted the third article citing 24 additional papers (taking the total to 130) containing manipulated and/or duplicated images.
Today, the Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) finally broke its silence and came on record saying an independent committee is investigating the issue of image manipulation and duplication in 130 papers published by scientists at the Lucknow-based CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR).
In response to a comment made today on Facebook by Prof. Jaya Sivaswami Tyagi from AIIMS, CSIR Director-General Dr. Shekhar C Mande said that the case is “being investigated speedily”.
Responding to my tweet, CSIR said: “CSIR known for its ethos & ethics in pursuit of S&T, has dealt with issues of plagiarism firmly in the past. The alleged issues in papers from IITR are being investigated by independent committee & necessary action will be taken.”
The response from CSIR came after I tweeted wondering if funding for CSIR-IITR should be suspended. And on Facebook I had earnestly asked if science journalists can ever trust the claims made in papers published even in peer-reviewed journals after 130 papers from CSIR-IITR were found to have manipulated/duplicated images.
On May 31, Dr. Yogeshwer Shukla, a chief scientist at the Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR), Lucknow, who has to his credit 40 papers containing manipulated and duplicated images, emailed me saying: “I have been informed that this information of Pubpeer is being addressed by a committee at our institute.” His comment was in response to Leonid Schneider’s blog ‘For Better Science’ where he had written about the 25 papers of Dr. Shukla.
My first article published on May 31 in The Hindu and in my blog was about 73 papers published between 2004 and 2017 carrying manipulated and/or duplicated images. The second article was about another 33 journal papers with similar problems highlighted on Pubpeer website by independent scientists. It was published on June 1 both in The Hindu and in my blog. And the third in the series was posted today when I found an additional 24 papers from CSIR-IITR with similar image problems.
I am indeed happy that CSIR is looking into the case and I hope to hear something positive at the earliest. And I hope the committee has really neutral members who will look into the issue very impartially. Because what is at stake is not just the credibility of the concerned scientists, the director of the institute and CSIR itself but the trust that science journalists like me place in papers published by researchers from CSIR institutions.
Once an institution loses the trust of science journalists, which is almost the case right now at least in the case of CSIR-IITR, it is very difficult to regain it. CSIR in general and CSIR-IITR in particular must note that justice must not only be done, it must also be seen to be done.