Interview: Scientists found guilty will face suitable disciplinary action, says Shekhar Mande

IITR Building 1_0-Optimized

The committee formed on June 3 has been given a defined time period, with a request to complete the investigations as speedily as possible, Dr. Shekhar C. Mande, Director-General of CSIR tells me. The committee has been asked to be objective, fair, and fiercely impartial in their investigations as a former CSIR-IITR director and the current director too have published papers with manipulated and/or duplicated images.

On June 3, the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) began an investigation into the large-scale manipulation and/or duplication of images within the same paper or in different papers by scientists at the Lucknow-based Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR). At last count, 130 papers published in peer-reviewed journals by scientists from the institution have problems with the images. A chief scientist at the institute Dr. Yogeshwer Shukla alone has published 40 such papers.

“The committee was formed on June 3, immediately after the matter was brought to my attention on May 31. The committee has been given a defined time period, with a request to complete the investigations as speedily as possible,” Dr. Shekhar C. Mande, Director-General of CSIR told me in an email.

On May 31, I published the first report on 73 papers with questionable images. The second post was published on June 1 when 33 additional papers with similar problems published by CSIR-IITR scientists were found on Pubpeer website. Pubpeer allows independent scientists to publish post-publication review of scientific papers. Yesterday, I identified 24 more papers on Pubpeer taking the total to 130.

“The three-member committee will investigate all the papers [from CSIR-IITR] that have been listed in public domain and alleged to have [problems with images],” Dr. Mande said. The names of the committee members were not revealed to allow the investigations to be as impartial as possible.

In response to a question on how the committee would view the issue considering that papers by a former director of the institution Dr. Kailash Gupta and the current director Dr. Alok Dhawan too have problems according to independent scientists who posted on Pubpeer, Dr. Mande said: “The committee has been told personally by me to be objective, fair, and fiercely impartial in their investigations.”

On what action would be taken against scientists found guilty, Dr. Mande said: “CSIR has a zero tolerance policy on the issue of scientific integrity.  In the past, such matters have been dealt with very firmly.  If anyone is found to be guilty of manipulations thereby leading to deliberate scientific fraud, the person will face suitable disciplinary action.”

Since publishing papers based on manipulated images is not restricted to CSIR-IITR but appears to be a systemic problem, Dr. Mande said “Concrete remedial steps are being taken to address the issue”.

Published in The Hindu on June 4, 2019

5 Thoughts

  1. DG-CSIR is not revealing the names of the three-member committee because these are most certainly those among academy members and Bhatnagar prize awardees etc who have participated in sham inquiries like that of Gopal Kundu or some other clan-consortium. After all, if the committee members are truly honest, not known for clannish behavior, not members of the research committee that awarded grants to the culprits, then what is there for them to fear? Actually, the best committee should have an SC judge, no Administrator, a fake Nationalist, but a scientist of international repute like Nobel laureate Prof. Ramakrishna, Prof.T.Ramasarma, Prof. N.V. Joshi, etc.

  2. All this talk by the DG CSIR about the sanctity of clean science is worthless when his own paper is under cloud of manipulation. He should first resign or step aside and not be part of any investigation, although there aren’t many honest, unbiased scientists left who do not practice favoritism for their clans, while those honest ones who exist are disliked for their straight talk!

    1. There are several people who have commented on Pubpeer on this paper, including Dr. Elisabeth Bik. And it appears there is ambiguity about image duplication and/or manipulation.

  3. It is a prime time to appoint honest and dedicated scholars as Scientists.
    Manipulation, buttering and corruption starts from the day of application screening to the advertised post. A person who is appointed by means of manipulation can not forget the basic root.

  4. Only one can pray that atleast the crusaders of truth and only truth remember their woe to uphold truth and should not indulge in white-washing the truth. One should remember that CSIR is a primer scientific institution of the country and it has a heavy burden of safeguarding intigrity of scientific community!

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