Friday, March 14, 2008

IGCAR's verdict in the Anna University case

Remember the Anna   University   plagiarism   case? The authors of the plagiarized paper were K. Muthukkumaran (a student at AU), R. Bokalawela (a student at the University of Oklahoma, Norman), T. Mathews (a researcher at the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research), and S. Selladurai (a faculty member at AU).

Anna University has already taken some action against its faculty member and student. The fate of Bokalewela is unknown. Now, we have some idea about what IGCAR has done; this page on the IGCAR website has a summary.

Bottomline: T. Matthews has been found guilty of a couple of minor crimes (not withdrawing his name from the paper to which he contributed nothing, and not realizing that the student could not have done the research reported in that paper), for which the internal investigation committee has suggested some punishment.

I don't know how long IGCAR will keep the summary at this URL, so I am reproducing all of it below.

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A paper entitled “Determination of dopant of ceria system by density functional theory," by K. Muthukkumaran, Roshan Bokalawela, Tom Mathews, and S. Selladurai; Published online: 18 May 2007 in J. Mater Sci 42, 7461 (2007) has attracted strong criticism of plagiarism from the authors of the paper entitled "Optimization of ionic conductivity in doped ceria," by David A. Andersson, Sergei I. Simak, Natalia V. Skorodumova, Igor A. Abrikosov, and Börje Johansson, PNAS, Vol 103, 3518 (2006)

Dr. Tom Mathews, Materials Science Division, IGCAR figures as one of the co-authors in the Journal of Materials Science paper. At IGCAR, which is a prestigious institute dealing with various aspects of science and technology of fast reactors and associated technologies, we are very keen to get to the truth of this sensitive and serious matter, as it involves the reputation of scientists and organizations.

A two member committee committee comprising of Dr. M. Vijayalakshmi, Head, Physical Metallurgy Division and Dr. K.S. Viswanathan, Materials Chemistry Division and Dean HBNI-IGCAR, had been constituted to investigate various aspects of the Plagiarism issue, that includes the extent of involvement of Dr. Tom Mathews and events leading to the submission and publication of the above paper. This Committee had conducted an enquiry in confidentiality by communicating with the various parties involved, that include the original authors, Editorial office of the Journal, and the authors of the plagiarized paper. They have also had personal interviews with Dr. Tom Mathews, Dr. Selladurai and the student K. Muthukkumaran. A detailed report was prepared taking cognizance of all the available information. The, principal findings of this report, submitted to Director, IGCAR, are given below:

“Based on the information collected from different sources and allowing for uncertainties due inconsistencies in the narrations of the different authors, it cannot be concluded if Dr. Tom Mathews had an active role to play in the conduct of Plagiarism at any stage of the communication / publication of the paper under discussion. The investigating team, however, finds Dr.Tom Mathews certainly guilty of not withdrawing his name from a paper where he has neither contributed nor is in his field of expertise. Furthermore, Dr. Mathews could not have failed to notice that the science discussed in the paper and the language used, are not consistent with what one can expect from Muthukkumaran, based on earlier research efforts and contributions of the student, which Dr. Mathews was well aware.”

The detailed report was also discussed at various levels of the Department of Atomic Energy, and Dr. Tom Mathews was also given an opportunity to explain.

We had also taken into account an independent report prepared by Prof. Kamanio Chattopadhyay, Editor, Journal of Materials Science.

Taking these inputs into account, as also the credentials of Dr. Tom Mathews, and that the above episode is a singular case of aberration in his long scientific career, the IGCAR management has taken the following decisions: (1) Not allowing Dr. Tom Mathews to take any students under his guidance for a period of two years; (2) Scrutiny of his future publications by Head, Materials Science Division and Director, Metallurgy and Materials Group, before sending for publications and (3) Cautioning Dr. Tom Mathews that if plagiarism on any publication with him as an author is proven at any future date, he will be debarred from participating in scientific activities at IGCAR.

In taking the above actions, we are conscious of the need to maintain a delicate balance between the seriousness of the issue and the sensitivities of the people involved. The transparency of our intent and actions, we strongly believe, will help us to build confidence in the overall system and redeem our image in the comity of scientific community.


  1. Gautam said...

    I think this is a reasonable, though possibly somewhat strong recommendation. (It wasn't clear, on the evidence placed in the public domain, that Mathews had actually seen the paper submitted with his name on it.) On the other hand, Selladurai, I would think, got off with what seems like a mere slap on the wrist - no enquiry committee whose findings were made public but just a prohibition on taking students. This despite the fact that the paper was submitted from his email ID and he must have acceded to the transfer of copyright.

    The transparent and careful procedures of IGCAR deserve to be commended, as well as their decision to place the report in the public domain. I do hope similar high profile cases are treated with the same care and transparency by the respective institutions involved.

  2. nana said...

    Hi friends, sorry i saw ur page only recently. I find that there is a great anxiety over the detected plagiarism. I believe that plagiarism is very rampant - more rampant than imaginable. Particularly in countries like India where the written language is poor and students are driven to desperation to complete their degrees. I am sure that for Anna University, this is not the first case of plagiarism. When the university insists on churning out papers every year, the pressure is on the professors of the dept to do it. they inturn pass it over to the students who, in despair blatantly copy a similar work. This is the price the professor has to pay for being part of a sub-standard research university; the price that the student has to pay for having joined under a guide whose has not learnt the ethics of research.