I have just been alerted about this letter (pdf) in the March 10 issue of Current Science:
A greater shock awaited me when I entered a name that was discussed widely in the pages of Current Science last year, primarily as a test of the veracity of the database. Two pairs of citations were picked up. The first pair appeared to be legitimate, consisting of an original paper in one journal and a review article by the same group in another journal on the same theme. The second pair of publications was more alarming since it appeared to be a clear case of duplicate publications by the same group. The first paper ... was published in 2004 and the second3 in 2006. What was not apparent from the site without further browsing was the fact that the second paper had already been withdrawn from the journal precisely due to prior publication. The journal that published the 2006 paper had a bland erratum in fine print in 2007, stating ‘This article was withdrawn due to prior publication in an alternate publication by the authors’. It does not state who withdrew the paper, the authors or the journal. Shockingly, however, the erratum gives a link to the 2006 paper and one is able to view the full text, without any indication that the paper had been withdrawn. This information can be found only by chance. It appears that many journals also do not wish to take the responsibility for making a mistake. Incidentally, the 2004 paper2 was part of the controversy discussed at length in Current Science last year. The group was accused of misconduct and later exonerated of using part of the data in that paper to represent different sets of conclusions in another publication4 in 2005, which was subsequently withdrawn by the journal. Interestingly, the withdrawal of the 2006 paper happened when the controversy was raging in the pages of Current Science and found no mention anywhere at that time. As on 21 February 2008, the official NCCS website continues to include both withdrawn papers among its list of publications.
Wow. Just wow! This bit of smart sleuthing is by Prof. S. Mahadevan, a colleague, who goes on to echo sentiments similar to my own:
we in India have no formal mechanism to address such issues. What is to be done if we discover an unethical act? Whom do we approach? Whistle-blowers are exposed, their confidentiality violated. Independent watchdog organizations are accused of ulterior motives and maligned. Our science academies are mute spectators during most of these discussions. There appears to be a great desire for damage control rather than getting to the bottom of the issues and resolving them fairly. This is in stark contrast to what happens elsewhere, including our Asian neighbour Korea. The ability of the Indian scientific community to institute fair and transparent mechanisms to handle allegations of scientific misconduct will be a measure of its maturity. Where are the Luke Skywalkers, Princess Leias and Han Solos of Indian science?
Some of you may remember that the Kundu case was covered quite extensively in this blog. Let me link to these posts: here, here, here. The clinching evidence -- and a very good summary -- is available at Rahul's site: here.