G. S. Mudur has a story in The Telegraph, and Abi has a follow-up blogpost, about another case of big-gun plagiarism. This time the faculty member involved is Ashutosh Sharma of IIT Kanpur, an Infosys Prize winner.
Briefly, it turns out that several sentences, and two figures, in this paper are highly similar to text and figures in an IIT-K student’s M.Tech. thesis. That student (now a Ph.D. student at IISc Bangalore) is not an author and is not acknowledged anywhere in the paper.
Some time ago Mudur contacted me about this case, to which an anonymous mail had alerted him. He also forwarded me Sharma’s belligerent response, saying this student had worked in his lab, taken notes from Sharma’s student (the first author of the paper, now a faculty member elsewhere), and used them in her thesis without permission. I said that it is difficult to proceed unless the student speaks up.
It turns out that it was the student who first contacted both the first author and Sharma about this plagiarism, back in December 2011. According to Mudur (and, based on Sharma’s email that he forwarded me, I can believe it) their initial reaction was to try and browbeat her into silence, by threatening plagiarism accusations against her. Even now they are asking for an acknowledgement in her thesis to Sharma’s lab. But they have no proof of these plagiarism accusations, and the student maintains that it was her own work. Her advisor at IIT-K entirely believes her. I see no reason not to, either.
Regardless of the truth, I find the response of Ashutosh Sharma utterly despicable. Suppose he is telling the truth and this text and these figures, in the student’s thesis, did originate in his lab (a claim that does not seem very credible, from the accounts in Mudur’s article — but never mind, suppose he is right). He should have tried to clear it up at that point — not quietly lift the material back into his paper without acknowledgement! And, now that he has been caught at it, this attempt to blame and browbeat the student is truly disgusting behaviour. And his insinuation that it was wrong of her to discuss things with his students reveals a lot about him.
The bright side is the support that the student has received from the faculty member whom she actually worked with at IIT-K — as well as from Abi, on her current campus.
Update 24/3/2012: Abi clarifies that Sharma and several members of his lab, including the first author of this paper, are in fact acknowledged in the student’s thesis. That makes Sharma’s reaction even harder to understand. If you haven’t already, go read Abi’s posts (both of them) and Mudur’s article: they go into much more detail than I do.