An Indian 'experiment' from the 1990s is worth recalling for its resemblance to the shenanigans of a few Saudi universities. It is all the more remarkable since the institution that tried the experiment is now one of the top institutions in India.
The scientist who broke this story is Dr. S.R. Valluri, former director of the National Aerospace Laboratories, Bangalore. In an op-ed in The Hindu (dated 2 November 1995) entitled Whither Ethics in Science, Valluri questioned the ethics of various actions of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR), Bangalore. [I can't provide a direct link since The Hindu archives don't go so far back.] The op-ed criticized JNCASR (and its leadership) on several counts, but here are the parts that are relevant to the issue at hand:
Were it not for the serious nature of the implications, one can only observe with amusement the efforts of the Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research (JNCASR) in Bangalore to project an image of instant excellence and achievement. The centre has been attempting to achieve this image of "making rapid strides" by identifying some scientists from other institutions as its honorary faculty, and including in its annual report (January '95) a list of their publications, without mentioning there itself, their places of full time employment and where the work was actually done, thus making them appear as if they are the centre's own achievements.
It is tantamount to a whole scientific institution being less than truthful in matters of science.[...] [T]his practice violates the very ethics and culture of science. ... By this practice the centre's own credentials have come under a cloud.
... One ... wonders how the scientists concerned could have countenanced the omission, in the listings in the centre's report, of their affiliations with their own parent organizations which have been nurturing them. This denial of the credit by the centre is less than fair.
To give them benefit of the doubt, we have to assume that the scientists concerned acquiesced without examining its implications. Such things are happening as the senior scientific community has not cared to give enough thought to evolving and putting into practice a self-regulating code of ethics for the practice, management and administration of science in India.
[Snip, snip, snip]
The JN Centre deserves all the financial support it needs for its full time staff to work inhouse purposefully. But flaunting borrowed finery and basking in reflected glory has unfortunate implications for the cause of science and even for their own image considering the reputation of the scientists who are associated with the centre. [...]
The op-ed goes into some detail about some of the other actions by JNCASR, which, as I said, need not concern us now. It drew a response from the late Prof. Raja Ramanna; since I have not read that letter, I'm not quite sure why he chose to get involved. But Valluri got a chance to reiterate his points in a follow-up letter (published in The Hindu on 28 November 1995). Here's the relevant part of his rebuttal:
... I stand by what I have said in my article. ... The clarifications given by Dr. Ramanna are extraneous to the points I have raised in my article.
I have specifically raised three questions in my article. One is directly concerned with ethics in science. In instances I am personally aware, the honorary faculty [at JNCASR] did mention their places of full time employment and did indicate their honorary association with the JNCASR, and did acknowledge the financial support that they received from it. the JNCASR, however, deleted all reference to the place of full time affiliation of its honorary faculty, while taking credit for their research by listing their publications in its Jan '95 annual report (pages 38 to 56). It could have been considered accidental and not taken seriously if it happened once or twice. But that it was deliberate is indicated by the fact that about 200 listings or more belong to this category. It even took credit for the work of at least one honorary fellow who did not receive any support and who did his work entirely in some other organization. By such a practice, while the JNCASR takes credit for such research, it implicitly denies the same to the parent institutions which have been really nurturing the honorary faculty, while they may have received some financial support from the JNCASR also. In matters of science, such practices are unethical, as credits in progress of science are built on historical records. If everybody indulges in this practice, chaos will result.
In both his original article and in his rebuttal to Ramanna's response, Valluri does not mention the name of the the man at the helm of JNCASR at that time: Prof. C.N.R. Rao. It was clear, however, that Valluri placed the responsibility for the ethical violations on JNCASR's leadership. When Prof. Rao's autobiographical memoirs -- Climbing the Limitless Ladder: A Life in Chemistry -- were published sometime ago, I was curious to see how he dealt with this dark episode in his career as a top scientific administrator. This is what I found on p. 92:
One or two scientists made personal attacks on me at that time ... Another criticism was that in one of the early reports of the Centre, the Academic Coordinator had also included the publications of some of the honorary professors. No one expects a new centre to become famous from papers of others, but the criticism was that the Centre was using the reputation of others to become famous instantaneously. All this was far from the truth. ... Fortunately for me, all my colleagues including Raja Ramanna came to my defence at that time. I also made sure that subsequent reports of the Centre did not list papers of honorary professors even if their research was supported by JNCASR.
I'll just state that Rao appears to have misread Valluri's critique as a "personal attack." Valluri was careful to point to specific acts of "omission and commission" with a view to forcing a course correction. That his criticism was right -- and stingingly so -- is proven beyond doubt by the fact that Rao "made sure that subsequent reports of the Centre did not list papers of honorary professors."
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All in all, this unholy experiment offers an excellent test to check if an institutional policy / action is right. The leader just has to ask, "Would it survive if Dr. Valluri decides to write an op-ed about it?"