Great minds think alike?

Abstract of “Optimization of ionic conductivity in doped ceria”, Andersson et al., PNAS, 2006:

Oxides with the cubic fluorite structure, e.g., ceria (CeO2), are known to be good solid electrolytes when they are doped with cations of lower valence than the host cations. The high ionic conductivity of doped ceria makes it an attractive electrolyte for solid oxide fuel cells, whose prospects as an environmentally friendly power source are very promising. In these electrolytes, the current is carried by oxygen ions that are transported by oxygen vacancies, present to compensate for the lower charge of the dopant cations. Ionic conductivity in ceria is closely related to oxygen-vacancy formation and migration properties. A clear physical picture of the connection between the choice of a dopant and the improvement of ionic conductivity in ceria is still lacking. Here we present a quantum-mechanical first-principles study of the influence of different trivalent impurities on these properties. Our results reveal a remarkable correspondence between vacancy properties at the atomic level and the macroscopic ionic conductivity. The key parameters comprise migration barriers for bulk diffusion and vacancy–dopant interactions, represented by association (binding) energies of vacancy–dopant clusters. The interactions can be divided into repulsive elastic and attractive electronic parts. In the optimal electrolyte, these parts should balance. This finding offers a simple and clear way to narrow the search for superior dopants and combinations of dopants. The ideal dopant should have an effective atomic number between 61 (Pm) and 62 (Sm), and we elaborate that combinations of Nd/Sm and Pr/Gd show enhanced ionic conductivity, as compared with that for each element separately.

And the abstract of “Determination of dopant of ceria system by density functional theory”, Muthukkumaran et al., Journal of Materials Sciences, 2007:

Oxides with the cubic fluorite structure, e.g., ceria (CeO2), are known to be good solid electrolytes when they are doped with cations of lower valence than the host cations. The high ionic conductivity of doped ceria makes it an attractive electrolyte for solid oxide fuel cells, whose prospects as an environmentally friendly power source are very promising. In these electrolytes, the current is carried by oxygen ions that are transported by oxygen vacancies, present to compensate for the lower charge of the dopant cations. Ionic conductivity in ceria is closely related to oxygen-vacancy formation and migration properties. A clear physical picture of the connection between the choice of a dopant and the improvement of ionic conductivity in ceria is still lacking. Here we present quantum-mechanical first-principles study of the influence of different trivalent impurities on these properties. Our results reveal a remarkable correspondence between vacancy properties at the atomic level and the macroscopic ionic conductivity. The key parameters comprise migration barriers for bulk diffusion and vacancy–dopant interactions, represented by association (binding) energies of vacancy–dopant clusters. The interactions can be divided into repulsive elastic and attractive electronic parts. In the optimal electrolyte, these parts should balance. This finding offers a simple and clear way to narrow the search for superior dopants and combinations of dopants. The ideal dopant should have an effective atomic number between 61 (Pm) and 62 (Sm), and we elaborate that combinations of Nd/Sm and Pr/Gd show enhanced ionic conductivity, as compared with that for each element separately.

I am unable to access the full text of the second article, but I am told that it continues to be very similar to the first. It shows the cutting-edge nature of research at Anna University, that they independently came up with identical results to the Swedish group, a bare few months after the Swedes published their paper. Surely it must be independent work: it beggars belief that the Anna University group would have copied their work, verbatim, from a paper published in a high-profile journal like PNAS in the very same year — if we admit such possibilities, the sky is the limit and beyond anyone’s imagination. Right?


(The similarity, apparently, was spotted by students at IIT Madras, and is being investigated by the journal).




UPDATE – As a commenter on Abi’s blog observes, coverage of the story has appeared in Sweden here. Unfortunately I don’t know Swedish, and the online translators seem much less capable than the German-to-English translators, for example. So I’d welcome a translation. Using Intertran, I get this gem:

Chefredaktören Barricades Carter am typing in one mejl to DN that the tube themselves if a of they grossly nominal of plagiarism he has looking. A amendment am arriving within short in magazine. Article find still publish p nätet , but Barricades Carter am typing forth that sheepish , Am leaping , analysing if and how the able tas away frn their ghastly. Barricades Carter deem that the is believable that a ors several of they s call authors to plagiatet is innocent. Vacant Mathews , doctor wide Indirect Gandhi centre for atomic research in India and a of they four scientist as mention as author , am grabbing divide frn article in one mejl to DN. The do also Roshan Bokalawela , doctor wide University perceive Oklahoma in America. They television second authors am not having kunnat ns of DN. A of them assert in one mejl to they Swede authors that he was getting outline frn a scientist in Nepal.

I think that means Barry Carter, chief editor of JMS, is sheepishly leaping around to find out how this happened, will be publishing a retraction soon, and believes that several of the “authors” are innocent; Tom Matthews dissociates himself from the paper; and so does Roshan Bokalawela. But I can’t be sure. And I wonder where Nepal comes in.

Finally, I didn’t intend to make fun of Anna University above — there are some fine people there (but, as Abi says, their future institutional reputation will depend on how they act here). My “sky is the limit” comment was a quotation from here.




UPDATE – I have posted a better translation of the Swedish article.

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21 Comments

  1. All it needs now-a-days is to google for the abstract to see if it is already thought along similar lines in the past. :)-Mike

    Reply
  2. A classic case of “nakal me bhi akal chahiye”.I compared the papers. The Anna University paper is almost a word for word verbatim copy of the PNAS paper but for a few dropped references and replotted figures. There are four authors. It would be interesting to see how this is going to be handled by the university amid all the finger pointing that will follow.

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  3. Shut up u sick!myself anna alumina. Have u got any idea that our professors are failing IITm students in viva-voice?? They are now wanting revenge on us….pl report only true facts in ur blog- Rahul

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  4. anonymous Rahul – thanks, now I need to figure out whether yours was a very funny parody or a serious post. I suppose it is barely possible that an IIT-M student, or other disgruntled soul, engineered the whole thing, using a fake email address (the corresponding author has a yahoo.com address!), to discredit four people he disliked. In fact that’s the only way I can explain how anyone would be stupid enough to plagiarise a PNAS paper that had appeared mere months earlier. Interesting theory, which one shouldn’t rule out.

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  5. Well, if Rahul cares to open the two abstracts, voila, they ARE same. So Rahul, MAY be you are wrong.

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  6. Ha!IIT M is independent and all evaluation is self evaluation. So I wonder which IIT M students are being flunked by which Anna Univ profs in which exams. Trippy!!

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  7. The yahoo address of the corresponding author is really intriguing. It opens a window of possibility that the four authors are innocent victims.Though, Anna University professors failing IIT-M students is something I have heard for the first time. As far as our department goes, I don’t see how Anna University professors “would fail our students.” Contrary to the opinion AnonRahul seems to hold, we don’t think it below our dignity if a student is “failed by an Anna Univ professor”. Also, I think AnonRahul was replying to your statement:”(The similarity, apparently, was spotted by students at IIT Madras, and is being investigated by the journal).”When we see an ugly side of our face in the mirror, its not the mirror or rest of the world that is the culprit.

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  8. why did iitm students have to catch indian profs, that too from neighbor college???why this is really suspicious…there are plenty of copy cats elsewhere…i strongly feel this is a case where iitm fellows have sent in paper with fake yahoo id to frame some ppl-sid

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  9. Dear niketh,just bcoz ur from iitm after getting JEE position does nt mean u can make fun of my univ. we also do good reserch here (i can say you so bcoz i am myself a phd student here in nanobiotech…i also had iitm phd offer)…sometimes even iitm profs consult our profs…also, say me how u will feel if ur favorite prof is also accused untruly???-Rahul

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  10. sorry sir, the last post was for amruth and not for nikethTHE ERROR IS REGRETTED-Rahul

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  11. Rahul,I tried searching for “Selladurai” and this is what I found:http://www.springerlink.com/content/660113m667217431/Selladurai, as a guest editor, has used the same email address as that in the plagiarized paper. Even if one assumes some foul play (which we were considering a possibility), the journal editor would have definitely communicated acceptance of the paper and the publisher asked the authors to verify the proof for any typos or errors. Dr. Selladurai ought to have caught the plagiarism at that stage, had he been innocent.Mr. Rahul and Mr. Sid,I am sorry to burst your bubble: this does not seem like Anna University professors being framed.

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  12. I am posting from a mobile phone so can’t link but read the second comment on abi’s blog in the post where he links the swedish article. If true it is staggering.

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  13. Many unanswered questions. For one, what are we to make of the fact that two of the authors have now disassociated themselves? I would have thought that before an article was published, *ALL* co-authors have to sign a copyright release form. If this is right, then Bokalawele and Mathews need to clarify what exactly happened.Muthukkumaran’s e-mail is bizarre. Essentially, he claims that he was done in by another researcher (allegedly, one Ashok Kumar) who wrote the article without signing it himself. From what I understand, the two articles are identical except for an added reference and a complete fictitous element, Tp. So, that means Muthukkumaran contributed nothing to the article: none of his alleged theoretical calculations are there in the plagiarised article. If he contributed nothing, then why did he sign onto the article?Note also that the corresponding author is Selladurai. If Muthukkumaran is correct, then it means that Selladurai signed onto the article without having contributed anything. (I would not be surprised if this is what happened: I have heard (unverified) stories that many supervisors in Indian universities do exactly this with respect to work done by their students.) If so, then Selladurai needs to be severely reprimanded.And the claim of Muthukkumaran that PNAS is not available anywhere within vicinity – surely, IIT-Madras does subscribe to it? The distance from Anna U to IIT-M is not great: one can do it via a somewhat long walk, I’d say.Rahul, since there are accusations (from one sharing your name) that this is a scam engineered by some IIT-M students, could you clarify how your source found out about this plagiarism? You needn’t take names.

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  14. Suresh – I have my own take on the purported Muthukkumaran letter and the position he finds himself in. I will post about it separately. I may be completely wrong about it, it is only based on my reading of that letter.I think most journals ask only the corresponding author to sign the copyright release form (and an e-mail is enough). Many journals these days don’t even require copyright assignment.PNAS is available online for free to everyone in India. But perhaps Muthukkumaran never tried to read it. It’s not particularly relevant — if he didn’t suspect the work was plagiarised, why would he look at PNAS specifically? And if he did suspect it, a search for abstracts is enough.I don’t also think it is relevant whether it is IIT-M students who “discovered” this or somebody else. It has already been known to the relevant people for 2 months. Anyone in the field could have spotted it — and, probably, many did.

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  15. Suresh commented that”I would have thought that before an article was published, *ALL* co-authors have to sign a copyright release form. If this is right, then Bokalawele and Mathews need to clarify what exactly happened”Not necessarily true. Springer, the publishers of J Mat. Sci allows one of the authors (presumably the corresponding author) to sign the copyright on behalf of all other authors.http://www.springer.com/east/home/materials?SGWID=5-10041-70-35692639-0click on copyright transfer statement.Sridhar

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  16. I can’t resist thinking of a story that i read some time ago…In that story, a “young reasearcher” is made to include his boss in all the papers. His boss used to take all the credit without contributing anything. Fed up, “young researcher” copies a recently published, by well known person, article. Naturally, his boss puts his name and gets caught.Very filmi, but possible. PS:- The story is not mine. I read it somewhere and can’t remember author’s name!

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  17. I am very happy to see this. The researchers at Anna University have shown that this work is true science, since it’s perfectly reproducible!

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  18. pls dont defame ppls just like that…

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  19. Mr. AnonRahul, I can understand that you are hurt, considering someone from your college has been caught doing something quite unacceptable. But, before you go all out trying to justify the guilty parties, why don’t you spare a thought for the Swedish researchers who spent four years writing that paper? Hard work that our friend Mr. Muthukumaran and co. just completely ignored, whether knowingly or unknowingly!And, I guess that the whole point here is not IITM vs Anna University, but we got to take a strong stance against plaguerism.

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  20. Hey… Anyone for a course on professional ethics?Be there… Every Tuesday.. CRC 102… 2:15pm to 4:30pm!

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  21. I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don’t know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.Sarahhttp://blanket.ws

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