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Plagiarism scandal brewing

By N. Gopal Raj

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM Sept. 26. A major scientific scandal appears to be brewing with some of India's leading physicists endorsing information put online describing "a shocking set of instances of plagiarism in theoretical physics by an Indian scientist holding a high official position, together with his colleagues''

The information accusing B.S. Rajput, currently Vice-Chancellor of Kumaon University in Nainital, Uttaranchal, and his associates of several instances of plagiarism has been placed online at the Geocities site (http://www.geocities.com/physics — plagiarism/). Prof. Rajput denies his personal involvement in plagiarism.

Reports on the web site have analysed four papers published in international journals during the last three years in which Prof. Rajput figures as one of the authors. The reports give detailed reasons for suspecting that these papers have extensively plagiarised work of foreign physicists.

The latest instance of such plagiarism is said to have been a paper published in Europhysics Letters earlier this year, with S.C. Joshi, a research scholar, as first author and Prof. Rajput as the second author. Most of the text and equations given in this paper are said to have been plagiarised from the article published six years back by Renata Kallosh, Professor of Physics at Stanford University, in Physical Review D.

Having got away unpunished on earlier occasions, Prof. Rajput and his collaborators had "practically copied my paper'', Prof. Kallosh told this correspondent by e-mail. "I expect that many physicists, working in this field of theoretical physics all over the world will support the information on the web site of Indian physicists, as I do. They may find the situation intolerable and will write letters to the highest authorities in India asking for investigation of the case and justice.''

Responding by fax, Prof. Rajput said he would be taking legal action against the "mischievous web-site''. Prof. Rajput also faxed this correspondent his reply dated September 21, 2002 to the Editor-in-Chief of Europhysics Letters, H. Muller-Krumbhaar. In this letter, Prof. Rajput states: "Since the last eight years I have been working as Vice-Chancellor and several research groups of high energy physics working under my guidance in various universities of my country are including my name (most of the time without my knowledge and without my consent) in their publications''.

But, having attained "all academic heights'', inclusion of his name as co-author did not matter to him and there was no reason for him to follow any unethical practice.

According to Prof. Rajput, Mr. Joshi, when asked for an explanation, had made it clear that his (Prof. Rajput's) name had been included as one of the authors without his knowledge and consent.

"I have no knowledge of the paper which was submitted by Mr. Joshi for publication in your journal ..... In view of a very heavy load of administrative work as Vice-Chancellor, it may not be possible for me to watch the activities of all the research scholars working in different universities under my guidance,'' says Prof. Rajput in his letter to Europhysics Letters' Editor-in-Chief.

Prof. Rajput states that the whole affair had been promoted by Kavita Pandey, a Professor of Physics at the University, who had recently been suspended for several very serious charges against her. He also faxed this correspondent a copy of the letter dated June 25, 2002 from Mr. Joshi to Prof. Pandey, then head of the Physics Department. Therein, Mr. Joshi has stated that the Europhysics Letters paper was a "a small part of the work of my Ph.D. thesis and it is in the form of a letter and full form of this paper is under the process of publication in another international journal''.

He adds: "I am solely responsible for my above quoted papers and the name of Prof. B.S. Rajput has been put only as a formality followed by the research scholar for his supervisor without his formal consent''.

In the same letter, however, Mr. Joshi appears to defend himself, saying that he had recently met Prof. Kallosh. Neither Prof. Kallosh nor the editorial staff of Physical Review D. nor Europhysics Letters had ever raised any doubt or objections about his paper.

But in his e-mail to this correspodent, Mr. Joshi takes a very different line. He agrees that most of the published paper looks like a copy of Prof. Kallosh's work and is profusely apologetic. According to him, it happened as a result of an inadvertent mistake and not deliberately.

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