Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The need for a research regulator

Over the years, the Society for Scientific Values (whose membership includes quite a few heavy-weights in Indian science establishment) and its supporters (such as Dr. S.R. Valluri, former director, National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore) have been asking for a quasi-judicial regulator to deal with allegations of scientific misconduct.

Their demand has also received some support from quite a few people holding important positions in the government / scientific establishment. Here's a partial list, starting with the most recent utterance and working backwards:

  1. Goverdhan Mehta, Member, Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister:

    The SSV has long been urging the government to create a mechanism to investigate science misconduct. “I think this is a legitimate demand,” said Goverdhan Mehta ...

  2. T. Ramasamy, Secretary DST, and Goverdhan Mehta, Member, Scientific Advisory Committee to the Prime Minister (April 2009):

    Goverdhan Mehta, member of the Prime Minister's science advisory council, agrees that a body similar to the Office of Research Integrity in the US is needed. 'This issue has been discussed by members of the science advisory council and we have entrusted the responsibility of setting up a watchdog agency to the Department of Science and Technology (DST) and it should be created soon.'

    'The agency will be called the Office of professional ethics and will be run by distinguished Indians, not just scientists,' DST secretary Thirumalachari Ramasamy told Chemistry World.

  3. C.N.R. Rao, Chairman, Prime Minister's Scientific Advisory Council (March 2008):

    India is to consider creating a national body to investigate plagiarism and misconduct in science after a string of high-profile frauds.

    C. N. R. Rao, who heads the national science advisory committee, told Nature that he will discuss the proposal at his next meeting with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

  4. The Indian Academy of Sciences, in a report entitled Scientific Values: Ethical Guidelines and Procedures (December 2005).

    It is recognized that some incidents involving unethical behaviour are best handled locally. However, many types of misconduct like plagiarism are of special importance as they have an adverse effect on the credibility of the entire scientific community. Ideally, there should be a centralized scientific body to handle all issues pertaining to scientific ethics. In the absence of such a national body, the Academy has generated a regulatory mechanism, applicable to the conduct of its Fellows, and hopes that other institutions will follow similar procedures until a centralized body becomes functional.

I'm sure there have been many, many others. Isn't it time for them to Just Do It?


  1. Anonymous said...

    isn't i ironic that a person who was part of the mashelkar committee that plagiarised an entire report 2-3 years ago should be heading a committee on ethics?
    in india we go to any extent to suck up to powerful people!

  2. Anonymous said...

    Well if an NIT director plagiarizes people complain. When Mashelkar or Goverdhan Mehta do it, it is a technical error. Will prof abi comment on this issue ?

  3. Anonymous said...

    Goverdhan Mehta also did it ????

  4. Abi said...

    @Anon (6:11 PM): Check the archives of this blog before you ask me to comment on "this issue" which took place over over 2.5 years ago. The label "Misconduct / Fraud" should tell you a little about the kinds of things we have been talking about in this blog over the years.

    All your snark is wasted if all you can do is whine about something else.

  5. Anonymous said...

    There is a central body for the entire world, as a matter of fact. It is called Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE). It is based in London. Unfortunately this Committee is a fraud, see:

    Michael Pyshnov

  6. CHARU said...

    I could see some comments attacking the blog owner Prof.Abi in various discussions. Whether Abi has the guts to talk about the unethical acts of IISC starwalts ?. People aslo you are hypocat , is it correct ? please reply for aggressive commnets against you. The yeoman duty of BLOG FOR SCIENTIFIC discussion has been done you a great serice and task. But clear the apprehensions. But I feel that you are one sided, that is, you are with managers of buraucracy.