In the last one month, Indian science has seen the lowest of the lows it possibly can ever see. At least 10 science institutes and universities are found to have people who conducted malpractice in research in the form of image manipulation. More than 200 research papers with manipulated images are flagged on a website called PubPeer, rocking the Indian science community. Pubpeer allows post-publication peer review where independent researchers can give comment about a research paper.
CSIR-CDRI had 33 papers flagged for image manipulation/ or duplication, Amrita Centre for Nanosciences and Molecular, Kochi stands at 38; Prof. Avinash Pandey at University of Allahabad has 25 papers listed for image manipulation, Prof. Bhim B. Prasad of BHU has 51 papers listed for image manipulation, Prof. Chitra Mandal, a SERB distinguished fellow at IICB has 35 papers flagged on Pubpeer, 73 papers from CSIR-Indian Institute of Toxicology research are listed on the website, Department of Chemistry IIT Dhanbad has 45 papers listed for image manipulation or duplication. It is, however, important to note that till date it is not clear if the image manipulation changes the overall result of the paper or not and if it changes anything then how many papers will be retracted.
Most of the institutes have ordered for an enquiry and are investigating the whole incident, but is it enough to ask just for an enquiry and then forget about everything. What will happen to these people? Is an individual responsible for such incidents or should we blame the whole system? Are people doing this in smaller institutions as well? What about the people who work diligently, feel about this? These are the questions that need to be answered thoroughly then only we can reach somewhere, otherwise, people will forget an enquiry and we will reach back where we started.
Repercussions of image manipulation on contemporary Indian science diaspora
Science and Technology advances are one of the most important soft powers of India. The whole world recognizes the fact that Indian scientists are the most hardworking and the cleverest people around. However, incidents like this create a doubt in the mind of the people, which doubt will lead to lack of trust in Indian scientists and consequently Indian science. Big research facilities now might think twice before recruiting an India. Papers submitted from Indian science institutes in International Journals might go through stringent scrutiny. Funds released by developed countries for science and technology might also take a hit. But the worst of all whenever an Indian researcher will go out to conduct research he/she will be reminded of these incidents which might be a thing of shame for them.
What will happen to the people indulged in this?
The most important question to raise that in academia people use their research and research papers to climb to the top of the table, but if the papers are manipulated will they be demoted or any strict action will be taken against them. Now, if there is a manipulation of the image in a cancer research paper which changes the outcome of the paper, is it not a betrayal of the trust of a lot of people fighting from cancer and a betrayal of the human knowledge. However I still believe that these academics have a very strong political and research lobby and they will easily get out of this whole situation, moreover, we will also forget and move on with the pathetic state of Indian Science.
- Mritunjay Sharma finished his B.Sc (H) from Kirori Mal College, Delhi University in Chemistry. After that he went to England to study Masters in Polymer Material Science and Engineering from University of Manchester and consequently finished his PhD in Nuclear and Materials Chemistry from University of Manchester
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