Baldev Raj, a distinguished scientist and the Director of National Institute of Advanced Studies in Bengaluru has been accused by his peers of authorship misconduct. This after it was found that Raj had published a significant number of research papers, despite his official administrative duties.
Raj, it has been alleged, has 714 Scopus tracked publications of which 388 (54%) he authored between 2004 and 2011 when he was director of the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR).
Scopus is a database of peer-reviewed literature: scientific journals, books and conference proceedings.
“He authored an astonishing 77 articles in 2011, the last year as Director,” reads a blog by an Assistant Professor of NIAS, Shoibal Chakravarty, whose contract was terminated in June and is currently serving his notice period at the institute.
This meant that Raj averaged 48.5 publications during his time as the director.
Unlike his academic peers in his field or subfield, his efficiency of publishing research papers has only increased despite being tasked with different administrative duties in the later years of his time at IGCAR.
The study by Chakravarty states that unlike Raj all previous directors of IGCAR or BARC had all published less than 30 research articles during their tenure.
Interestingly, even among previous directors coming from similar Material Science and Chemistry backgrounds, Raj’s figures are remarkable, notes the blog.
“The productivity increases nearly eightfold from 10 publication per year to peak at 77 in the last year of his tenure. Raj’s productivity stands out compared to other highly productive directors from similar Material Science and Chemistry backgrounds,” Chakravarty wrote in his blog.
Incidentally, the above data has been used in a working paper written by Chakravarthy and his colleague Gopi Rethinaraj at NIAS titled ‘Unethical Authorship is Research Misconduct’
In this paper, the duo alleges “authorship misconduct” on the part of Raj and calls for an investigation.
“These results and corroborative qualitative and anecdotal inputs from some of Raj’s former and current co-authors at various institutions provide prima facie evidence for a strong case of plausible authorship misconduct throughout much of his professional career. Any serious researcher will find the high productivity and the astonishing productivity growth while holding senior administrative positions rather suspicious. It is imperative that concerned authorities launch a transparent and impartial investigation into what appears to be a startling case of authorship abuse and potentially other forms of research and professional misconduct,” the paper reads.
Responding to the allegations, Raj questioned the motive of the study carried out by Chakravarthy and Rethinaraj.
In an email statement to TNM, Raj said, “After systematic assessments and thorough reviews at NIAS, Dr Shoibal has been given three months to wind up his work and leave NIAS, Dr Gopi has been slightly better as assessed by Review Committee. He was shown some compassion for his administrative work for NIAS inspite of unacceptable performance. He is given one year to improve and guaranteed full support of NIAS to pursue his academic work. In light of the above, please ask them to explain purpose of the study when their motives are more than visible.”
He also added, “I have worked for most distinguished institutes and most eminent individuals in India and worldwide and built these individuals and institutes to level of eminence. You may like to speak to persons in these institutes about my ethical standards. Publication authorship is ethical commitment between authors and to my mind ,no one has a right to comment on this. Only authors are responsible for ethics. My publication record is eminent but not unachievable by scientist. Many in the country and the world have better performances to me. In science, there is only humility and commitment to excel, and exceed. My complete life is in public place and is known to all who have interacted with me at various levels (sic).”