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    Narendra Nath said:

    Presentation of Shubra on scientific misconduct in India is part of the nature of highly corrupt society that has been building in the past 20 years or so. Some scientist control the entire science area permanently for years together. They preside over or members of Expert Committee of all the aid granting government agencies. On the other hand we claim to have increasing number of scientists on the scene. Coupled with bureaucracy, scientist who have themselves done hardly any R & D, become heads of Govt. agencies that disburse funds. Even some of them are awarded Scientist Emeritus positions on retirement when they have never done any research work for the near past o/c occupying administrative scientist positions in Government Grants in aid agencies! Then, we supposedly have a professional society called ‘Society for Scientific Values’. Even that stands highjacked by a President for past many terms just because he was Director of an IIT and is no longer an active scientist for the past 20 years, but remains namesake Emeritus Scientist at a National lab. in his home town at the age of over 75 years.

    There is no hope for any improvement as our entire top Government machinery is deep into corruption of all kinds, as has become evident in the past week by the movement against corruption led by Anna Hazare on the national scene. God runs this country as one US scientist on a visit here told me personally. Well we have depth of spirituality but in practice on ground we are one of the most corrupt nation on the world scenario!

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    Rahul Agarwal said:

    Education on Science and technology is increasing day by day and more and more young generation are choosing their career as a scientist like Subhra. So Go ahead Subhra and I wish for your bright future……………

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    Shivasankari Gomathinayagam said:

    Need of the hour, an article like this. The situation in India is pathetic. When you go elsewhere in the world, every institute will atleast have an Indian working there. Why are they not in India then ?? I ve seen a lot of PI s having published in very good journals during their post doc/pre doc, but after becoming a PI !!

    And ya someone does the work and someone takes the credit !! It frustrates you to the core. I have been a victim ..

    Many of the institutes are living with their past reputation !! Whats the point in increasing the number of the institutes ?? Its high time we realise and do something ..

    We gottu change this scenario soon 🙂 Hope to so 🙂 

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    Prakash Doddapattar said:

    Actually, science has become a business!!! people are more oriented towards just publishing data rather than its application to core science which makes it even more bitter to digest!!

    In India, there is a lot of unhealthy competition in Science.. they need to be more into   collaborative research which woould generally result in mutual benefits not only in sharing ideas but in increasing the quality of science, ultimately in getting good quality paper.

    About taking someone’s credit, they are on the top order but its quite present in most part of the science world.

    It is realy true that there is a huge knowledge pool in India and the researchers are smart but in most of the cases facilities are not supportive not just because of funding problem, but because of the delay in getting the things done, starting from the passing of papers etc. for ordering the scientific stuffs and all.

    Mainly the GURU (PI) must  work selfishlessly. They must know about good scientific practices. Good scientific practice like charity begins at lab/home.

     

    These are few of my views.. 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

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    Revathy K said:

    I feel the pay we get in India to do science is megre when compared to the outside countries!! This makes our people to go abroad for doing good science. Until and unless our government realizes this, its very difficult to hold people in India. The pay difference between a phD and postdoc is just 5K. How are we going to attract people from abroad? How are we going to do a true international science if this is the case? The worse part is, welcome trust fund for an independent scientist has been reduced, for the reason that the fund is higher than the faculty pay!!

    India, if has to be super power, its science and technology should reach a great height!! for which retaining and recruiting high quality people, in home is need of the hour!! Dont we have another Venki Ramakrishnan, another Khorana, another Ramachandran, another Raman in home? definitely yes, provided they have given oppertunity in the right time at the right place under the guidance of a selfless great mind!! In that way am bit lucky to be in one of the great institute in India. And wish to see every Indian Institute to be Centre for Potential Excellence. Its possible if people like shiva can come back home to do their service in home after their degree!!!

    As shiva says an article indeed for the time now.

    How many of you know ibio Science? (http://www.indiabioscience.org/)

    This organization is started by NCBS faculties and is becoming an independent organization of its own now. The idea is to bring back our home people to our nation, and to say the research oppertunities that exists in our home. Apart from that it also encourages public private collaborations. If you have any thoughts you can post in the same website.

     

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    Suresh VR said:

    I have been watching a particular “senior scientist” get funding from these government agencies for terrible projects without any track record in those areas, publish papers that are not worth publishing in journals whose editors are known to her and give out degrees to her students without any data worth speaking about.  

     

    All of us have wondered about this and have become very disgusted with the situation. Is this the story about the Emperor’s new clothes or the one about how Ratnakar was reformed to Valmiki by Narad? Is it about people being too afraid to open their mouths and criticize because they may be seen as being too stupid to appreciate the “great science” supposedly being done by an “eminent scientist” who has been given random awards? 

     

    Or is it about people who, like Ratnakar’s family, don’t really care how and what is being done as long as they get their reimbursement for travel and get to go sightseeing in another town when they leave their own cities for committee meetings or due diligence visits arranged by her? Does it make a difference to the deterioration of scientific values and the demoralization of the few fools who are sincere enough to WANT to do research to publish and do research instead of just going through the motions? 

     

    Whom does one approach—the people who are willingly blind to all this or the people who don’t care and perhaps are getting their shares out of government funding? There is so much emphasis on the “young scientist”, especially the ones under 30 years of age whom the government is wooing to bring them back to the country and seat them in certain places because they look good for the image of Indian research. The old ones travel around and heap awards on each other and give each other Padmabhushans, Padmashris, Bhatnagar awards…. 

     

    Even if they are caught in plagiarism or fraud allegations, the government- or institute-appointed committees spend some time looking busy and then exonerate these characters. They even give them important positions after the mayhem has quieted down. But where do the researchers in the middle go? This layer gets crushed between the upper powerful slice and the lower photo/brochure candy. Even though there are funds, they won’t reach this layer easily. 

     

    Collaborating with people, especially the ones on top, would improve one’s chances of getting money for research but also curtails one’s freedom and demoralizes the sandwiched researcher as the senior researcher controls the submission process and hinders it if not given the lion share of the credit for lending their name to the work.  The aforementioned senior scientist routinely stops faculty from submitting manuscripts and proposals to funding agencies if she is not made corresponding author or principal investigator. Even over the age of 60 years, their careers seem to be more important than even those of researchers half their age and they never hesitate to trample on the careers of junior scientists. 

     

    In their rush to get their hands on government money for research, many Indian universities fall over themselves to force all faculty to do “research.” Proposals are supposed to be sent to research committees in an attempt to improve chances of funding by getting valuable input. Unfortunately, this leads to rampant and deliberate plagiarism as proposals begin to “circulate” and in some cases, inadvertent plagiarism as proposals remain in the minds of those who begin thinking along those lines because of this opportunity to read someone else’s proposal. The problems are many. 

     

    Even knowing that scientific misconduct is happening and there’s data fabrication and bending of evidence to suit people’s hypotheses leaves one feeling very helpless because there’s no one to take any action. In fact, bringing attention to fraud is injurious to one’s career and health in India. All this simply ruins the image of science, hinders progress and gives onlookers (especially students and younger researchers) the wrong idea that it is not scientific research that makes one’s career, it’s how well you bend the truth and the system to your convenience. Since we are also teachers, this makes us useless. 

     

    Because these senior scientists have been around and have a stronger network of contacts which includes journal editors (if they are not editors themselves), they manage to publish their papers easily. For younger researchers, this process is a lot harder without the names of these seniors. Journals (under well known publishers’ umbrellas) are beginning to turn away manuscripts right after submission by giving the excuse that they don’t have enough publication space. At least these don’t waste more than ten days of authors’ time. But others send the manuscript out to review after getting preferred reviewers’ names from authors at the time of submission and these reviewers sometimes come back with comments and questions that suggest that these reviewers did the reviews in the last minute without reading the manuscript carefully. 

     

    The proposed changes and the questions are not well thought and they don’t fit into the objectives of the study being described in the manuscript. It is very disheartening to spend time on research, writing up manuscripts, submitting them in the desired format to journals and then have them turn authors away like airlines turn overbooked passengers away, or wasting even more time with useless reviews. Journals ask authors whether or not they have submitted the same work to another journal and prohibits them from doing so for some period of time should the work be published in that journal. 

     

    I have always been an opponent of sly practices by some of these scientists where they lie during the submission process and say they are not submitting the work to any other journal and go ahead and quietly send it to two or more journals. A colleague justified this as being similar to a job search. One didn’t send one’s CV to just one employer because even pumping up that employer’s ego by that act of flattery would not improve one’s chances of being hired if that person had already made up their mind to give someone else the job. So why this foolishness in research? After facing all of these hurdles with such frivolous reasons from journals and seeing others’ students without data getting degrees and well-connected people get funding and publish useless work in these journals which then run out of publication space, I wonder who is the idiot: myself or these crooks. 

     

    A review of journals to resubmit our manuscript to showed me how many journals have cropped up over these years. Even though impact factor is a misleading or inadequate criterion to consider in judging the worth of a journal, some journals are so new and each geographical region has begun to throw up journals for its own researchers to bypass the hubris and exclusiveness displayed by the more well established, “higher impact” journals. Maybe it’s the way it goes: if we don’t get what we like, we better like what we get. 

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      Suresh VR said:

      I had listed some pointers for research scholars (“research scholars beware!”) and some recent conversations with colleagues and some job-seeking friends and acquaintances made me sit down and try and list out some points for research scientists (also postdocs, scientists abroad who are interested in returning to India) who are seeking jobs (industry AND academia) in India. I write mostly about the life sciences because that’s where I am. Some of the problems I describe would obviously be universal but I may not get the details right for the other disciplines.

      Right in the beginning, let me say certain things outright: there is a certain negativity in what will follow based on the reality that I have seen and heard. All see it, many experience it and some, seeing that this mostly happens to others, believe that being positive and “working hard and smart” are answers to beating this negativity. Maybe. If this optimism works for you and everything’s fine, don’t waste time on this post. I have always wondered why there is no easy way to bring about transparency and accountability to the research scenario, why we cannot just apply the same blackballing practices to crooked employers like we apply to unfair and crooked business enterprises by sharing our experiences publicly like on http://www.mouthshut.com.

      However, let me also say this: things need to change in India. They won’t change if we keep crying about things and “learn to adjust” to the existing mess. They won’t also change if those, who can reap benefits from the existing scenario, simply bury their heads in the sand and turn a blind eye to the misfortunes of their colleagues. Life sciences research in India, whether in industry (actually discovery research in Indian pharma is a bit of a mirage in my opinion) or academia, suffers from many problems.

      Possibly the low number (and poor distribution) institutes that have typically been engaged in such research in India have contributed to this rarefied atmosphere and the lack of a proper system. In 2012, there is no body that officially regulates research integrity. The somewhat stupid rule that university faculty SHOULD have PhD degrees to teach has made many universities (especially these deemed ones) take candidates who are Master’s holders (either their own graduates or other universities’) and force them to register for PhD degrees.

      Regardless of whether they have the necessary facilities or the faculty to mentor these candidates and the often enormous teaching load these candidates carry, these people get PhD degrees after the requisite 2-3 years from registration. The market now has these PhD graduates who either stay on in the same university or move to others. Amidst this chaos and plentiful but meaningless postgraduate scholarship arrive researchers who are trained in better set-ups abroad and whom the Indian government encourages to return to India and whom the foreign immigration laws and economies also urge to consider returning to India.

      I don’t mention here those who graduate from the institutes of national importance here in India because they are often absorbed into their own institutes or by the new ones being set up under the mentorship of their parent institutes. Besides, these people actually know the way things work and get “adjusted”.

      Funding is being pumped by these government agencies and the distribution of funds also is a rather tricky (and sticky) one, tending to stick to the already established scientists and their protégés. The general saying (especially by funded scientists) is that more than 50% proposals submitted to various agencies ARE funded (a better statistic than the ones abroad) and that proposals need to be well written and sound to attract attention and be approved for funding. But the reality is often something else. I can’t help with such things. So what do I want to say here?

      I have always sat in on interviews, watching and listening to potential research scholars and to faculty aspirants and to interview panel members, how to gauge what is what. A candidate puts everything on their CV and submits it for perusal by interview panels and selection panels. Many candidates lie. Candidates who saw someone do HPLC and use a spectrophotometer a few times, write “Well-versed with chromatographic and spectrophotometric techniques” in their CVs. Many come to teach these things when they have never even touched these instruments or perhaps seen them in real life.

      On the other side are the lies that interview panels and universities say. Candidates’ lies can be detected during the course of a thorough interview. If they aren’t, the candidates can be liable for termination or at least, made to undergo so much misery that they wish they hadn’t joined. Or both parties can come to comfortable terms with these lies and no one bothers. But in cases where the interviewer is hiding things, it becomes a lot harder to tell for candidates unless they have inside information (this is where my title, “research scientists beware!” comes in).

      Caution should be exercised regardless of the age, gender, apparel, educational qualifications, country of training, birth and citizenship, resemblance to favorite relatives etc of the interviewers and hiring scientists. Another very important note, even if the people interviewing you or referring you to the actual hiring scientist / authority are award-winning, so-called eminent scientists who are well-known nationally and internationally, don’t let your guard down (no specifics can be given).

      1) Many companies and even institutes will reimburse you for some mode and class of travel (such as second A/C train journeys) and offer you their local hospitality free of cost. However, many don’t reimburse travel these days and may or may not even pay for the local hospitality there. This seems to be the way they work. This may or may not be indicative of how these employers will behave with you after you’ve joined. But one universal problem is that many people (employers, HR) do not know how to read a CV.

      For example, I know people who were invited for interviews for positions in one area of the R&D unit even though they worked in another. They were invited out to fly to the facilities where they learned where the confusion lay. These companies reimbursed them partially or fully (as the case was) so that this merely because a learning experience and a humorous anecdote.

      But I also know someone who was invited to travel to that university for a faculty position in one department without any reimbursement. However, on submitting their certificates before the interview to the HR who had contacted them to set up the interview, it was discovered that the candidate had gone for a PhD directly after their Bachelor’s degree. The question of whether it would be all right for the candidate to teach Master’s level courses when they had no Master’s degree was raised in the interview room after the candidate had taken the trouble to reach there even though this could have easily been detected from the CV. In the first instance, the candidates could have asked the HR outright before setting out for the interview whether the positions they were being invited to interview for were in XYZ field. In the second instance, it was a lot harder to guess that these people hadn’t seen or understood the educational qualifications.

      2) Check out the websites of employers. What you could look for:

      i) Number of scientists, interns, students etc employed there and for how long. Beware of incestuous workplaces: the graduates are absorbed and form a significant proportion of the workforce in that place. Working in such places may mean navigating a lot of existing alliances and having to prove yourself to not just the employer but also to the people close to them, in other words, the politics will be even trickier than normal.

      ii) Also, in cases where both spouses are scientists in the same field, institutes may hire both to capitalize on the services of either or both. If a couple is working in that institute or department, observe how these individuals behave and are treated (if given the chance). It may not concern you, as a male scientist, at the time of your interview if you see that the wife has a junior designation in spite of similar qualifications as the husband but this may lead to a very different hindsight when you begin to see the other biases and unfair policies that go along with such behavior of the employers.

      iii) Publications or patents or other proof of productivity by ALL employees. For example, in a particular research institute, the director wouldn’t allow the female faculty equal access to students and to publish as corresponding authors. A look at the website would reveal that these women had fewer publications and were always middle authors even on their students’ papers, all of which had the director as the corresponding author.

      iv) This leads to the next issue: who are the first authors and last (corresponding) authors on the publications listed on the website? The director’s name or any other senior scientist’s name as the corresponding author or even as an author does not bode well. It may be that some people are prolific but as a senior scientist and especially an administrator like a dean/director, to be involved in so many projects as to justify their being authors is shady business. The publications appearing on the website may be a fraction of the ones that are not allowed to be submitted because these people will always use their clout to stop manuscripts (and often, research proposals) if they are authors. The trouble that will arise if they are not made authors even if they don’t deserve authorship will be something else altogether.

      3) Talk to people in the institute (if possible) and to those who have worked in that institute in the past. Of course, take everything with several grains of salt. See if these people are reasonably happy with their projects and worklives. How collegial (and congenial) is the environment? Find out about the attrition rate in that place. That people leave for better opportunities and higher pay is a fact of life. But just like jumpers (employees who never stay in a job for long) are viewed with suspicion, beware of employers who are associated with an exodus of employees, either sudden or steady. These reasons like personal reasons, health reasons are all common and official reasons given to disguise the fact that the employers and the workplaces are not worth sticking to.

      4) How many people are sitting in on the interview panel? Who are these people? Obviously, everybody cannot make it to the interview panel. But who are these people? Are they all heads of departments or are there any juniors? Who are these juniors? Obviously these juniors are favorites to have come into the panel, even if they are token members. What kind of people are these? Why do you think they have been taken as tokens?

      5) After the interview, are you taken through the facility where you will be working? Are you introduced to people there or are people being avoided or are they avoiding you and the person who’s taking you around? If they do speak to you or your host, how does their body language appear and are they just busy or do they look guarded? How does your host behave towards the people working in that facility?

      6) Of course, judge the interviewers and others for their behavior towards you and the kind of offer you are given. Don’t be fooled by all these videos and talks by famous Indian heads of institutes and these eminent scientists asking people to return to India to do research because of how wonderful they say things are. If you are still abroad, try to check out places when you visit India periodically and visit places for yourself.

      7) Above all, if you are being treated extraordinarily well to spite someone else, stay neutral by all means (after all, finding out who is innocent and who did or said what can be very time-consuming) but don’t “adjust” to the circumstances and keep quiet if you see instances of misconduct or misbehavior. People who harass and abuse others will often look for and find new targets after they get rid of the old ones, and it may well be your turn after the present set of scapegoats is dispatched. Of course, when you see misconduct or unethical behavior, try to quietly find out as much as you can and see who is involved—directly or indirectly. Ask yourself if it is possible for people on top to actually not know what is going on. Don’t be naïve and report the misconduct to people who are also complicit in the problems or who believe that their names will be tarnished if things come out. Bypass them and go for approaches that will force people to take action to save their face. Saving face after overlooking unethical conduct or other malpractices is a national habit.

      It is necessary to transform the country from one that produces professionals who offer services only to set up other countries’ systems to one that produces professionals who can actually transform their own country into a developed nation by competently offering all the services that are required by this society. We have created a lot of problems for ourselves in the first 65 years after independence without creating more benefits and advantages to compensate for these problems. Whether we will be known for something other than population woes, outsourcing and terrorism issues with our neighbors will be decided by the collective efforts of all those who have seen how bad things can get and that there has to be some finite time for everything—bad and good in this world. Instead of consoling ourselves that this too shall pass and simply wade through the mess, we need to strive to get the same work satisfaction that our education assured us while we are still physically and mentally able to enjoy it.

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