Thursday, April 26, 2018

A student's FB post on scientific misconduct in her lab

There are several updates, which appear at the end of the post.

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Read this post (on FB) by Jayita Barua from a week ago. After reading her post, keep a copy for your own record -- just in case her FB post is taken down.

The magnitude of the misconduct in Barua's post is mind-boggling, and the frank way in which she talks about the mental trauma caused by the toxic environment in her lab is truly moving.

It is very brave of Barua to have come out and said all this in an open forum. I hope she will get all the support she needs. From my distance, the least I can do is to spread the word.

I know nothing about Barua's background -- not even the college and the research group she was in, and I stay away from FB. Which means that I am not aware of any follow-up action at her college / university. If you know of any, please leave a comment.

[Thanks to a friend who forwarded it.]

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Update 1 (1 May 2018): G. Mudur of The Telegraph has a story on this case, triggered by Barua's post: CU teacher under data fraud scanner. This story appears in the Metro section, implying that the editors decided that this is of interest primarily to the residents of their home ground, Kolkata.

We learn two things: (a) Calcutta University has formed a two-member inquiry committee to probe this case, and (b) Dr. Anindita Ukil, Barua's PhD adviser, denies having committed any fraud or misconduct. A key quote:

Ukil said Barua was not a regular National Eligibility Test-qualified scholar who earned her own fellowship as most others in her laboratory, but was dependent on a project-based salary.

"She was in our lab for four years and participated enthusiastically in all our activities. She has raised this issue now - after being told earlier this month that she could not be provided any new project fellowship," Ukil said. "Why she has done this is beyond my understanding."

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Update 1a (A little later on 1 May 2018): Barua has an FB post in which she rubbishes Ukil's (implied) suggestion that the impending loss the scholarship might have been the reason behind Barua's allegations.

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Update 2 (2 May 2018): I am a little late to post this, but Nature India too has covered this case (in fact, this story was done even earlier than the one in The Telegraph). In their story, Biplab Das and Subhra Priyadarshini report that:

Barua's PhD guide Anindita Ukil, an assistant professor in the department, denied having forged data or being involved in any kind of scientific misconduct. “All these allegations are entirely false,” Ukil told Nature India over phone. “I have already informed the authorities of the Calcutta University and the matter is under scrutiny,” she said.Barua said she had also informed Prasanta Kumar Bag, head of biochemistry department of the University, and funding authorities – the Department of Science and Technology and Department of Biotechnology – about years of wrongdoing at the lab. Contacted, Bag also refrained from commenting saying that the issue was "under scrutiny by higher authorities".