February 24, 2012

Shame on you, CNR Rao

Plagiarism is a continuing bane. Young novelists with a Harvard pedigree do it, newspapers do it; sometimes newspapers plagiarize themselves with hilarious results. (If you catch them at it, that is).

Cricket-related examples that I ran into a few years ago: You left out dazzling, and Congratulations, Virender Sehwag.

The latest example to hit the news has nothing to do with cricket. It's from a paper co-authored by the eminent scientist CNR Rao. There's plenty of coverage in the press, and comment elsewhere by far more informed folks than me, so I won't try to duplicate it. (For example, see Abi's two posts The Rao Row and Prof Rao responds, and Rahul's three posts on his blog).

I'm only writing this to vent some steam: I'm just appalled by CNR Rao's reaction to this episode. If he had said nothing, it would have blown over as a relatively minor transgression that even the journal concerned was essentially willing to overlook. But instead, Rao chose to speak to PTI about it. And he says, first of all:

"This should not be really considered as plagiarism, but an instance of copying of a few sentences in the text."

Just what does that mean? In my dictionary, the word is defined as "the practice of taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own." How does copying of a few sentences from another paper evade this description?

But if CNR did not quite cover himself with glory with that remark, he digs himself further in the mire with these:

"I myself had written to the Editor that it was best to withdraw the paper … I did not directly produce the manuscript which I normally do."

CNR is implying here that he didn't read the paper that carries his name on it (first), and that when he apparently did read it, he himself thought it wasn't worthy of publication. Both of which reflect extremely poorly on an eminent scientist.

But CNR sinks below mire, and into despicability, with one final remark. The "copying", he said, happened "because of X" (X being the student whose name appears on the paper). Instead of having the courage and decency to take the blame himself, CNR chooses to blame, by name, the student: thus likely leaving a permanent black mark on a young scientist's career.

Shame on you, CNR Rao. I can only hope you are the exception in Indian science, not the rule.


srikanth said...

i think you have no idea what exactly happened..............
its seems like replica of what news papers reported. work published by Prof.Rao in a journal is novel and ideas were original. in introduction while citing previous work in that field,(student) copied few sentences from other journal(Ghosh, S., Sarker, B. K., Chunder, A., Zhai, L. & Khondaker, S. I. Appl. Phys. Lett. 96, 163109 (2010). dont comment what ever comes to your mind with out knowing things.............

this is the paper by Prof. Rao if you want you just go through it....

Chitara, B., Panchakarla, L. S., Krupanidhi, S. B. & Rao, C. N. R. Adv. Mat. 23, 5419–5424 (2011), )

Anonymous said...

dear misguided srikanth:

"in introduction while citing previous work in that field,(student) copied few sentences from other journal" is precisely what the problem is! this is plagiarism, by definition.

Anonymous said...

Much ado about nothing. I prefer rahul sids version.
Dilip you are guilty of "making news".