University of Rajasthan Silent Over Plagiarism Complaints Against Professor

Ashok Kumar Nagawat, head of the physics department, was promoted to dean by the vice-chancellor even though the latter knew about, and hadn’t investigated, charges of plagiarism against him.

The entrance to the University of Rajasthan. Credit: Arjuncm3/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

The entrance to the University of Rajasthan. Credit: Arjuncm3/Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0

Despite being widely acknowledged as a serious form of research fraud around the world, plagiarism continues to be rampant in Indian academic circles, and is seldom acknowledged to be problematic at all except in high-profile cases. Its persistence has been attributed to a variety of factors – ranging from researchers being unable to construct sentences in English and choosing to reproduce something they’d read before, to their being under-qualified to pursue original research while simultaneously being pushed to do so. In any case, it has come to be tolerated in the Indian university system.

Worse, opportunities to reverse this unenviable trend are squandered when research ‘leaders’ are indirectly rewarded for plagiarising – as has been the case at the University of Rajasthan, Jaipur. The Wire has learnt that Ashok Kumar Nagawat, the head of the department of physics, was recently appointed dean of the Faculty of Science by the institution’s vice-chancellor despite the latter being presented with substantiated claims of plagiarism committed by Nagawat.

Specifically, a paper published in 2010 with Nagawat as one of its coauthors as well as an article submitted to a conference in 2004 were found to contain plagiarised content to the extent of more than 80%. The research paper, titled ‘Improvement in performance of the VOIP over WLAN’ and published in 2010 by the International Journal of Computer Applications (IJCA), in fact contains a more egregious mistake. The proposed scheme of the experiment described in the paper as well as a significant portion of the results, including the final result itself, were found to have been duplicated from a book published in 2006. This, apart from parts of the introduction having been plagiarised as well.

His coauthors on the paper are listed as Suchi Upadhyay, an M. Tech. student at the time; S.K. Singh, a reader at the Apex Institute of Engineering and Technology, Jaipur; and Manoj Gupta, a coordinator at Suresh Gyan Vihar University, Jaipur. Nagawat did not reply to requests for comment from The Wire.

The IJCA is a known predatory journal. According to Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, who maintains what have become the go-to lists for those wanting to stay away from specious publications, predatory journals are broadly defined as entities that publish research papers without subjecting them to sufficient scrutiny and/or without demonstrating adequate accountability and integrity in their operations.

The article submitted by Nagawat to a conference in 2004, with the exception of a hundred or so words out of close to a thousand, is lifted verbatim from an Old Dominion University magazine, an article on a portal about UFOs, a unreviewed pre-print paper, a review on Skeptic.com and an article from Scientific American. The conference itself was called ‘How to make physics popular?‘ (sic) and was organised by the Rajasthan Physics Association, of which Nagawat was the vice-president at the time as well as a member of the editorial board.

It was also learnt that Nagawat was promoted as dean of the Faculty of Science after the university’s vice-chancellor, J.P. Singhal, was appraised of his transgressions, not before. Sources in the university told The Wire that, to the best of their knowledge, no investigative or punitive actions have been initiated to deal with the complaints. It is unclear what the university has to gain from not acting against Nagawat; emails to Singhal did not elicit any replies.

Nagawat’s case isn’t the only one either. The Wire found that Rajesh Kothari, a professor of management studies and dean of the Faculty of Management Studies at the University of Rajasthan, had plagiarised 61 paragraphs of an article, which had fewer than 70 overall, published in 2007 from another authored by two Austrian researchers in 2002. According to sources within the university, a committee appointed to investigate the issue did not precipitate any investigative or punitive against Kothari, who was eventually exonerated either by the committee or by the vice-chancellor himself. Kothari did not respond to requests for comment.

Some researchers, who asked to remain unnamed, have stated that the authorities’ tardiness in pursuing these complaints have signalled to the university’s younger faculty members that their rise to the top cannot be marred by plagiarism, and to students that plagiarism will not have adverse consequences in its premises – a view echoed by many researchers who have commented on issues of fraud in the past. They also said that the university made no efforts to safeguard the rights and opportunities of complainants, disincentivising them from speaking up.

This isn’t the first time senior members of institutions have found their names on papers and articles with plagiarised content.

Recently, Appa Rao Podile, vice-chancellor of the University of Hyderabad, admitted to having plagiarised in some of his papers when The Wire presented him with evidence to that effect. After that, Chandra Krishnamurthy, the vice-chancellor of Pondicherry University, was removed by the ministry of human resource development on the orders of President Pranab Mukherjee after it was found that she had fabricated some of her qualifications as well as plagiarised in many of her papers.

Even so, swift action is seldom in the offing – if it is in the offing at all. This is because the problem doesn’t lie with maladroit researchers alone. It also involves institutions that lack the means to produce original and good research, forcing academicians to pen fake articles and submitting them to fake journals in order to secure promotions that are for some reason pegged on producing research. As Pushkar wrote in The Wire on June 23, “At this time, it becomes necessary to recognise that publishing in fake journals is not the only kind of research fraud that is taking place.”


Instances of plagiarism

By Ashok Kumar Nagawat

Paper: Improvement in Performance of the VoIP over WLAN, International Journal of Computer Applications, 0975 – 8887, Volume 12, No. 4, December 2010. Link

Original sources:

  1. VoIP quality aspects in 802.11b networks, Viktor Yuri Diogo Nunes, September 2004. Link
  2. Capacity Improvement and Analysis for Voice/Data Traffic over WLANs, Wang, P. et al, IEEE Transactions on Wireless Communications, Volume 6, No. 4, April 2007. Link
  3. On the performance enhancement of wireless LAN – a multi-polling mechanism with hidden terminal solution, Fang, Y. et al, IEEE Global Telecommunications Conference, Volume 1, 2005. Link (paywall)
  4. Advanced Wireless Networks: 4G Technologies, Savo G. Glisic, ISBN: 978-0470711224, p. 823-824.

Conference submission: Motivating students to understand new trends in physics, Second Annual Conference and National Conference on ‘How to Make Physics Popular’, 2004, p. 19. Link

Original sources:

  1. The Personal Matter of Physics, Quest, Old Dominion University, Volume 2, Issue 1, p. 21. Link
  2. Event-symmetric space-time, Philip Gibbs, Weburbia Press, 1998, p. 11-14, 63, 66, 68, 111. Link
  3. What is a skeptic? (Skeptical)
  4. Dark Energy Astrology: New New Theory Trumps New Theory, Michael Shermer, skeptic.com, May 17, 2004. Link
  5. The Shamans of Scientism, Michael Shermer, scientificamerican.com, June 1, 2002. Link

By Rajesh Kothari

Article: (see pages on the left)

Original source: The Near-Miss Management of Operational Risk, Mürmann, A. & Oktem, U., University of Pennsylvania, 2002. Link