Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Plagiarism Allegations against VCs at Jadavpur, Pondicherry Universities

I completely missed these two other stories about plagiarism allegations against the Vice Chancellors at Jadavpur University and Pondicherry University. Serious stuff!

Mayank Jain in Plagiarism charges fuel demands for removal of Jadavpur University's vice chancellor.

The Telegraph: Jadavpur VC credentials under court scanner.

Arun Janardhanan in The Indian Express: Pondicherry V-C has a problem: CV has a suspect book, two that can’t be traced, and his follow-up: ‘Plagiarism’: Teachers at Pondicherry varsity seek V-C’s removal.

Deepak Pental's Arrest (and Subsequent Bail)

Wow, this came out of nowhere! Prof. Deepak Pental (a professor of genetic engineering at the Delhi University, and also its Vice Chancellor during 2005-1010) was arrested, sent to Tihar Jail, before he got bail later in the evening. The charges against him were filed by a fellow DU professor (but in a different department), and they include forgery, illegal transport of genetically modified material, and plagiarism. For some strange reason, most news outlets have played up the plagiarism angle; the other charges appear far more grave (one of them, apparently, is so serious that one can be sent to jail for life).

Most news stories I have seen today were short on details, since they were reacting to fast-changing events of yesterday. Only a few have managed to go beyond the bare-bones version put out by PTI. Here are the links to some of the better-reported stories: The Telegraph, India Today, and here.

I'm sure we will get a lot more details in the days to come.

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Update: The NDTV debate doesn't offer details, but the comments by K.L. Chopra (from the Society for Scientific Values) are quite damaging to Pental's case.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Google Scholar Turned 10 This Month

Let me start with links to profiles / interviews of Anurag Acharya, the IIT-KGP and Carnegie Mellon alum who co-created this wonderful service along with Alex Verstak. First up, an interview at the biggest scholarly venue of them all: Nature, where Richard Van Noorden interviews him: Google Scholar pioneer on search engine’s future.

Where did the idea for Google Scholar come from?

I came to Google in 2000, as a year off from my academic job at the University of California, Santa Barbara. It was pretty clear that I was unlikely to have a larger impact [in academia] than at Google — making it possible for people everywhere to be able to find information. So I gave up on academia and ran Google’s web-indexing team for four years. It was a very hectic time, and basically, I burnt out.

Alex Verstak and I decided to take a six-month sabbatical to try to make finding scholarly articles easier and faster. The idea wasn’t to produce Google Scholar, it was to improve our ranking of scholarly documents in web search. But the problem with trying to do that is figuring out the intent of the searcher. Do they want scholarly results or are they a layperson? We said, “Suppose you didn’t have to solve that hard a problem; suppose you knew the searcher had a scholarly intent.” We built an internal prototype, and people said: “Hey, this is good by itself. You don’t have to solve another problem — let’s go!” Then Scholar clearly seemed to be very useful and very important, so I ended up staying with it.

The second is a nice profile that I saw on Medium: Making the world’s problem solvers 10% more efficient [the URL text is even better: "the gentleman who made scholar"] by Steven Levy. Here's an excerpt from near the end, where Anurag is asked about his plans, now that Scholar has entered a mature phase:

Acharya is now 50. He’s excited about adding new features to Scholar — improving the “alerts” function and other forms that help users discover information important to them that they might not know is out there. Would he want to continue working on Scholar for another ten years? “One always believes there are other opportunities, but the problem is how to pursue them when you are in a place you like and you have been doing really well. I can do problems that seem very interesting me — but the biggest impact I can possible make is helping people who are solving the world’s problems to be more efficient. If I can make the world’s researchers ten percent more efficient, consider the cumulative impact of that. So if I ended up spending the next ten years going this, I think I would be extremely happy.”

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Anurag's Scholar profile is here. And the Google Scholar blog has been running a series of posts to mark its 10th anniversary: Start from Helping Researchers See Farther Faster, and look for newer posts.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Jack Grove: Germany's Import-Export Model

An interesting article on how Germany views Study Abroad aspects of college education:

Sending half of Germany’s university students abroad for part of their studies by 2020 will give the country a major competitive advantage over other export-driven nations, a leading figure in German higher education asserts.

Sebastian Fohrbeck, director of internationalization and communication at the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), which promotes German higher education abroad, dismissed fears that its plans for “a massive movement of students abroad” represented an “organized brain drain.”.

About a third of German students now undertake some of their degree study in another country, but government ministers are keen to increase this to 50 percent within six years, Fohrbeck told a conference in London, which was jointly organized by the UK HE International Unit, the Institut Fran├žais and the DAAD.


Following the #shirtstorm (and the apology), there has been an outpouring of articles and blog posts on the women-unfriendly culture in academic science in particular, and academia and science in general. Here are a few links:

  1. Janet Stemwedel at Doing Good Science: The Rosetta mission #shirtstorm was never just about that shirt and A guide for science guys trying to understand the fuss about that shirt.

  2. Kelly Baker in Vitae: Science Isn’t the Problem; Scientists Are.

  3. Noah Smith in BloombergView: Economics Is a Dismal Science for Women. Money quote: "Why is it that the sciences look like a feminist nirvana compared with the economics profession, which seems to have a built-in bias that prevents women from advancing?"

Marguerite Del Giudice: Why It's Crucial to Get More Women Into Science

National Geographic:

So what difference does it make when there is a lack of women in science? For one, it means women might not get the quality of health care that men receive.

It's now widely acknowledged that countless women with heart disease have been misdiagnosed in emergency rooms and sent home, possibly to die from heart attacks, because for decades what we know now wasn't known: that they can exhibit different symptoms from men for cardiovascular disease. Women also have suffered disproportionately more side effects from various medications, from statins to sleep aids, because the recommended doses were based on clinical trials that focused largely on average-size men.

Such miscalculated dosages often have not been discovered until the drugs were on the market. Just last year, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration advised women to cut their doses of the sleeping pill Ambien in half, after learning that the active ingredient in the drug remained in women's bodies longer than it did in men's.

Was the oversight in medical research deliberate? No, many scientists say. There was simply a routine procedural bias not to include sex as a variable in scientific research.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Congratulations to ...

I completely missed the Infosys Prize announcement [reason: travel, with little internet access]. When I eventually caught up with the news, I was absolutely delighted see this year's list featuring Prof. Jayant Haritsa, a friend and colleague (and a friend of this blog!), who won the Engineering Prize.

I was also pleased to find Prof. Shamnad Basheer winning the Humanities Prize. I have never met him, but I have been following his work (on and off) through Spicy IP, a blog / forum / initiative founded by him to discuss issues related to intellectual property laws.

Congratulations to all the Prize winners, and especially to Jayant and Shamnad!

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[Aside: It's great to get back to this blog with such wonderful news!]