Plagiarism cloud over CNR Rao

Some lines in a paper published by Rao and three others match another work; scientists blame student.

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Plagiarism cloud over CNR Rao

The Indian scientific fraternity has once again come under fire as reports have emerged of plagiarism on the part of a couple of eminent scientists, including Professor CNR Rao, the scientific adviser to the prime minister.

Scientists Rao and SB Krupanidhi (chairman, Materials Research Centre, Indian Institute of Science), and students Basant Chitara (IISc) and LS Panchakarla (Jawaharlal Nehru Centre for Advanced Scientific Research) are said to have plagiarised parts of a paper they published last year in the journal Advanced Materials.

Rao could not be reached for comment as he is currently on a visit to Japan. Krupanidhi said the matter was “highly exaggerated”.

But while Krupanidhi vouched for the legitimacy of the paper published by Rao and him, he admitted that some lines had been lifted from a paper published in the journal Applied Physics Letters in 2010.

“We received indication from the editorial office (of Advanced Materials) stating that a couple of lines of text exactly matched with an earlier published work in Applied Physics Letters,” Krupanidhi said. But he claimed that the mistake was made by an IISc student. “These sentences were part of the introduction of the paper, which was written by our student, that neither of us paid attention to,” he said. “We contacted the original authors by phone and email, and explained the situation and expressed our regret.”

According to Krupanidhi, while Rao wanted to pull the paper from publication, the journal’s editors deemed it unnecessary. “The editorial committee subjected our paper to scrutiny by a technical committee and replied to us, stating that since the paper contained original technical contribution, they have accepted the paper,” he said.

Krupanidhi also tried to downplay the apology tendered by the Indian scientists in Advanced Materials. “Seeing as the paper was already published in the online format, they could not make the necessary changes to the published journal,” he said. “So as a policy of the journal, they wanted us to send a correction in the form of a line of apology to appear separately to avoid any future confusion and hence we did the same.”

As for the IISc student, Krupanidhi said no action would be taken. “We teach students how to write papers but sometimes they forget to make the changes,” he said. “People make mistakes. There will be no action taken against the student.”

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