ACADEMIC THIEVES, FORGERS, GOONS AND CHEATS
I just happened to see an article published recently in one scientific journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology which shocked me. I suddenly realised this is robbery! The author of the said paper had nothing to do with that research work. I remember when I was in medical college that I had arranged for this entire project in joint collaboration of some other department of basic sciences for carrying out this research. My team under my active guidance prepared the entire research protocol and was working on this project. It was related to oxidative stress in some challenging condition. Amidst I took a voluntary retirement and so the project was then after guided by the person who was second in command then. She became the guide of the postgraduate student and this entire project was completed. The student passed her post-graduation degree exam. Amidst, some administrative reshuffle took place in the department and the person who feigned authorship of this article became the head of the unit. He has hardly any publication or academic contributions. In fact he despised anyone doing research and ridiculed them publicly. The same gentleman saw the strength in this work and shamelessly ordered the student to write a research paper on the basis of the results from that study. He robbed the entire work and got it published on his own name as the main author as if he did this work. This was a naked robbery carried out from people who sweated and toiled day and night for this work.
I have seen and have been victimised by this type of naked robbery of work all throughout my academic career. I remember vividly having carried out a research work on Burns in Pregnancy. It was a landmark research-paper bringing out some totally new insights into the matter. It got published in one national journal as original research without any modifications or cuts. Amidst I applied to an international funding agency to fund further research in the matter. I was shocked to receive a reply of rejection because when that agency went to my university report this research paper was shown under the name of one of my seniors and not me. She was nowhere near the research. Her name too did not figure in any of the authors of the paper. She was the person who would compile reports to be submitted to the university. The entire process would be so opaque that we would never ever know what has gone to the university. I immediately sent a letter to the funding agency indicating the publication of this paper in the journal and the proof of authorship. By that time however it was too late as the funds had already been allocated to another research project. I sent a complaint letter to the then vice-chancellor of the university who quickly ordered an enquiry into the matter – and who enquired the matter - A bigger thief, a known manipulator and a close friend of the lady who robbed my work. (He is no more – may his soul rest in peace) He prevailed upon the vice-chancellor to close the matter with his comments on the report: “Matter too trivial for any action to be taken!”
ACADEMIC FORGERS AND GOONS:
I remember sometimes ago a huge scam burst out in the academic world of medical sciences in India. A professor absolutely scandalously got a dissertation forged by his postgraduate student for submission to the university. He seems to be encouraging his students to do so regularly stating “What is there in a dissertation? It has no value”. Implying - Do forgery! Imagine a teacher teaching his students like this. Teachers are expected to be role-models and peers who are followed by the students. Is this the legacy we leave behind? The gentleman concerned was immediately dismissed from his teaching post and now he has become sort of a goon in some semi-academic fraternity organisation throttling voices of dissent and terrorising anyone opposing him. The tragedy is that so much are people afraid of him that even the important and key office-bearers of that organisation bow down to his petrifying demands. Result – the entire organisation has been sued in The High Court for some problem created by this goon and is on the threshold of facing a severe censure and embarrassment in very near future.
This malady is not confined to one country. It seems to be universal. Some years ago a big cheating came out in the open in one of the royal colleges. The chief of that royal college had claimed in a case report that he and his team removed a pregnancy from the tube (ectopic pregnancy) and implanted it in the uterus. It grew in the uterus to a full term live pregnancy. There can’t be a bigger bluff than this. It got published in their prestigious journal and soon he was caught. Though summarily dismissed the cheater continues to be a big name in that country shamelessly.
I am currently writing a book on a subject in which I have invested more than two decades of my academic life. While trying to seek references on this matter I found that many authors had published their research in more than one journal – and what was shocking was that these were all supposed to be very reputed journals. As most of the journals take an undertaking for the authors that their work has not been previously published or published elsewhere, the onus is on the authors to be honest. Most of the times, they craftily design their papers. The results are broken down into different parts each of which becomes a research paper for publication. Essentially the work nevertheless remains the same. I was surprised to see this being done by many reputed names in the subject and was universal all throughout the world.
HARASSMENT OF THE TALENTED:
For academic and research world it is not rare to be let down by peers, get victimised and hounded by colleagues and seniors. In this matter the case of Subhash Mukhopadhyay is very well-known. Dr Subhash Mukhopadhyay was an Indian physician from Calcutta in India. He was educated at the Scottish Church College and later, at the Calcutta Medical College which was then affiliated to the University of Calcutta. His life and death has been the subject of countless newspaper reviews and a Bollywood film directed by Tapan Sinha entitled Ek Doctor Ki Maut (Death of a Physician). He created history when he became the first physician in India (and second in the world after British physicians Patrick Steptoe and Robert Edwards) to perform the first In vitro fertilisation resulting in a test tube baby “Durga” (alias Kanupriya Agarwal) on October 3, 1978. Facing social ostracization, bureaucratic negligence, reprimand and insult instead of recognition from the West Bengal government and refusal of the Government of India to allow him to attend international conferences, he committed suicide in his Calcutta residence in 1981.
This path of academics and research in the entire world is very tough and challenging for the talented. No doubt they do get recognition and honours on many occasions. But there is always a fear of being robbed by white-collar robbers and thieves and hounded by sophisticated goons. Is there a way out? Probably being more positive and working still harder can be of great satisfaction.
As Swami Vivekananda did when as a student in school he was asked to shorten someone else's line without erasing it, he went and drew a line longer. Rather than bowing down to these challenges, drawing our own line longer than the others who try to shorten our line is the difficult but most satisfying solution that I can see.