The Hindu has a news item, and an article by me, about the instances of plagiarism from CNR Rao’s group and, in particular, the instances of plagiarism that were newly reported by an anonymous commenter in a previous post on this blog. Two earlier posts from me (made before I knew the extent of plagiarism) here and here.
My piece is as I wrote it (I believe) but the headline is theirs and is, I think, a little misleading. [EDIT: Or maybe not. Depends how you read it.] There is indeed “no science in cut-and-paste” but I am not alleging that the science itself was plagiarised. I am alleging a failure to cite (or adequately cite) highly relevant prior research. This has happened on at least three occasions: the Advanced Materials paper that first hit the news; the Applied Physics Express paper that I discuss in The Hindu; and the Journal of Luminiscence paper that Prasad writes about. The auhors certainly knew about that research because they plagiarised from it.
While the headline is a bit misleading, the blurb (subheading?) couldn’t have been better chosen. A mechanism to deal with such things is the biggest need today. Some years ago a scientist was found to have published papers with manipulated figures (Western blots), and a committee of top Indian biologists exonerated him because, among other things, they said these were “only control data”. (They also denied that the blots were copies of previously published and unrelated blots, though it was blatantly obvious.) This case is, even with what we know now, milder (nobody has alleged fakery), so I don’t expect that there will be any sort of investigation.
Erratum 9/3/2012: Erratum. I should not have claimed, in my article that the authors of the Applied Physics Letters paper do not cite the paper by Matheu et al. They do, but (again) inadequately in my opinion. This was a mistake on my part.
In the case of the paper plagiarised from Istkos et al, published in J.Luminiscence and reported in Prasad’s article above, they do entirely fail to cite that paper.
UPDATE 10/3/12: There are now well over 60 comments on The Hindu’s site, very few of which are critical of what I say. I think only one criticism (so far) is worth responding to: that I target only CNR Rao in this piece without looking at the larger picture.
Indeed, when I thought of writing the piece I intended to place the issue more generally (hence the various references to that workshop). But as I read the paper in Advanced Physics Express and the original by Matheu et al, it became clear to me that (a) this was a much more egregious case than the Advanced Materials example — much more extensive similarity, and much less chance of Rao’s blaming a co-author; (b) saying all I wanted to say, I was rapidly hitting the length limit and could not really do justice to other cases. Still, maybe I should have waited a day and re-read it (as I usually do) and reconsidered this question. That way I may also have avoided the error mentioned above.
Many readers of this blog know, of course, that I have previously criticised other scientists, much more strongly — including the presidents of the academies and another former director of IISc. But those criticisms were on this blog and in Current Science, not in the mass media (and also, those scientists were much less well known to the general public.) It is interesting to note that one of these cases also involved plagiarism (among many other problems) — not in a scholarly paper but in a report written by the academies and commissioned by a Union Minister; the presidents of the two major science academies were both from IISc; and their response was no better than Rao’s (INSA’s internal response was frankly appalling, while IASc seemed to decide that this problem was INSA’s baby, even though their president too had signed). My views, with a colleague, were published here. There’s more in my blog archives.