Government considering panel to probe scientific misconduct

Government considering panel to probe scientific misconduct

New Delhi: The government is thinking of setting up a regulatory body to look into cases of scientific misconduct, such as plagiarism.

“Yes, such a proposal is there on the anvil but it’s too early to comment on how it would pan out," a senior official in the science ministry, on condition of anonymity, said.

The proposed body, the official added, could consist of members from the Indian Academy of Sciences, Bangalore, the National Academy of Sciences, located in Allahabad, and the New Delhi-based Indian National Science Academy, the leading science academies in the country.

It was unlikely, the official added, such a body would have any legal teeth.

“But a government panel that stamps a research as fraudulent will certainly have a lot of weight," the official said.

Most researchers seek to publish their findings in scientific journals, which ultimately take a call on whether to publish or retract any publication.

The US, for instance, has an Office of Research Integrity, which is part of the government, and investigates allegations of scientific misconduct.

“Given that India is rapidly progressing in science and technology, it’s certainly beneficial to have a body of this nature," said M.S. Sinha, executive secretary of the National Academy of Sciences.

“We have requested the Prime Minister’s Office, no less, to set up an independent authority that will look into cases of scientific misconduct," said K.L. Chopra, former director of the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur, and president of the Society for Scientific Values. “But that was nearly four to five years ago. Nothing came out of it."

Chopra’s society is a body of independent scientists who conduct their own investigation into allegations of scientific fraud. “As of now, we have eight other investigations lined up, and our limited resources don’t help a speedy redressal," Chopra said.

The Society for Scientific Values is a voluntary body and the results of their investigations have no legal binding.