On June 3, the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR) began an investigation into the large-scale manipulation and/or duplication of images within the same paper or in different papers by scientists at the Lucknow-based Indian Institute of Toxicology Research (CSIR-IITR).
At last count, 130 papers published in peer-reviewed journals by scientists from the institution have problems with the images. A chief scientist at the institute Dr. Yogeshwer Shukla alone has published 40 such papers.
Time bound probe
“The committee was formed on June 3, immediately after the matter was brought to my attention on May 31. The committee has been given defined time period, with a request to complete the investigations as speedily as possible,” Dr. Shekhar C. Mande, Director-General of CSIR told The Hindu in an email.
On May 31, The Hindu published the first report on 73 papers with questionable images.
The second news item was published by it on June 1 when 33 additional papers with similar problems published by CSIR-IITR scientists were found on Pubpeer website.
Pubpeer allows independent scientists to publish post-publication review of scientific papers.
“The three-member committee will investigate all the papers [from CSIR-IITR] that have been listed in public domain and alleged to have [problems with images],” Dr. Mande said.
The names of the committee members were not revealed to allow the investigations to be as impartial as possible.
Involvement of directors
In response to a question on how the committee would view the issue considering that papers by a former director of the institution Dr. Kailash Gupta and the current director Dr. Alok Dhawan too have problems according to independent scientists who posted on Pubpeer, Dr. Mande said: “The committee has been told personally by me to be objective, fair, and fiercely impartial in their investigations.”
On what action would be taken against scientists found guilty, Dr. Mande said: “CSIR has a zero tolerance policy on the issue of scientific integrity. In the past, such matters have been dealt with very firmly. If anyone is found to be guilty of manipulations thereby leading to deliberate scientific fraud, the person will face suitable disciplinary action.”
Since publishing papers based on manipulated images is not restricted to CSIR-IITR but appears to be a systemic problem, Dr. Mande said “Concrete remedial steps are being taken to address the issue.”