Shiva Ayyadurai, recently the subject of controversy regarding a report he wrote for CSIR (previous post on the subject here), has written an article (free registration required) for Nature’s website putting forward his side of the story.
Well, it’s hardly a story — it’s a polemic, filled with unsubstantiated allegations of fraud and chicanery, hurled from his safe harbour in Boston; his most extreme allegation is a suggestion that CSIR resorted to arson at their own headquarters to hide financial wrongdoing.
I was recently at a meeting where I met several scientists from CSIR, and several others who know the director-general; and, as a local newspaper reprinted the recent New York Times article that, again, portrayed the Ayyadurai side uncritically, the topic came up for conversation. Now, it is safe to say that this was not a Samir Brahmachari Fan Club. “He does not listen to anyone” was one of the more flattering things said about him. Nevertheless, there was zero sympathy for Ayyadurai, and in fact I heard some rather unsavoury (but also unsubstantiated) things about his behaviour while he was with CSIR. (With enemies like Ayyadurai, who needs friends?)
And, by the way, I don’t think it counts as “harassment” to ask someone to vacate their cushy government house in the heart of Delhi when they cease to be an employee. With the standard house-rent allowance (30% of his reportedly substantial salary) Ayyadurai could easily have rented a comfortable house privately: why didn’t he? Of course, if he had done that, and been fired, he could not have complained that the government was no longer paying his rent.
It seems to me that, if CSIR really wanted to get nasty, they should sue Ayyadurai for libel based on his Nature article — in England. English laws permit libel suits by foreigners against foreigners if it can be shown that the material was readable in England; in this case, since Nature is a UK company, this should be easy. And even if Ayyadurai has a case, defending himself would not be a pleasant experience. Just ask Simon Singh. (I’m not recommending that CSIR do this. I am saying that if they did, that, not asking him to vacate government housing, would be nasty and vindictive. But not less so than Ayyadurai’s own behaviour.)
But — to repeat what I asked in my previous blog post on the subject — I would like Samir Brahmachari to clarify exactly in what capacity Shiva Ayyadurai was hired in the first place, and why. His qualifications are meagre (yes, he has a few MIT degrees, but thousands of people do; and he ran a little-known e-mail company in the Boston area. That’s about it, as far as I can tell.) His website is one of the most crudely self-promoting that I have seen. What, Prof Brahmachari, impressed you about him?
And I’d like to know why the media, from the Hindustan Times to the New York Times to Nature, is unquestioningly allowing him a pulpit.