Friday, December 26, 2008

INTERNATIONAL 'RECOGNITION'- THE ART OF GETTING IT



Mysoreans were supposed to have been 'thrilled' on the Xmas day by reading an "inspired" editorial in a local paper that a 'son of the soil' food scientist has achieved the pinnacle of glory by becoming the president of an obscure organization about which practically no one in the country is aware of. Though this person was a member of this organization comprising of 'mutual admiration society' folks from a few countries and was 'elected' president for 2008-2010 more than two years ago, why this news suddenly became a topic for an 'editorial' is a mystery. India is 'blessed' with many so called 'scientists cum politicians' who do not leave any opportunity to 'garner' awards, titles, positions of power and pelm, be in the media if possible every day preferably with their color photographs, be a chief guest, special guest, VIP guest, key not speaker, etc , though their actual contribution to the the development in the country needs a microscope to see.


IUFoST is a conglomerate of many non-governmental national organizations of food science and technology controlled by developed countries and the Indian body AFST(I) had found to its dismay long ago that it does not serve the purpose of national interest to continue as a 'paid' member of IUFoST. IAFoST is an exclusive club promoted by this body to reward those influential in their own country by virtue of their position or those who actively canvas for getting membership of the Academy to bloat their bio-data for personal glorification or boosting their career. Currently there are two 'members' from India who 'got' into this body (no one knows how?) and there appears to be a competition between them as to who will garner more number of awards from wherever they are available. One of these had recently the ignominy of 'retracting' a paper published in the reputed periodical PNAS of USA as it was found to be not based on reproducible scientific data. This was all the more reprehensible because the paper was reported to have been 'peer reviewed' for the periodical by one of the 'famous' agricultural scientists who had set up a research foundation in his own name with the award money he got for his 'achievements' some years ago. It is instances like these which generate skepticism regarding the genuineness of innumerable awards being sponsored by all and sundry. What credibility the food scientists working with them will have amongst the industry, the public and the governments, especially when technologies developed by them are offered for commercialization? Of course Indians are immune to getting shocked at these episodes as even the national and state awards have become a laughing stock due their politicization lately. Any thing is possible in an era when degrees and awards can be purchased at a price from some of the organizations that operate all over the world.


Before publishing such 'inspired' reports, the media have the responsibility to verify and corroborate the claims. Being in Mysore no body would have missed the sorry spectacle of this newly acclaimed international food scientist being sent back from Delhi without allowing to take over as Secretary to GOI under mysterious circumstances and his going out of circulation for almost 6 months. Scientists are supposed to be humble with high humility and pursue truth even under adverse circumstances. Here we have examples in the field of food technology the very anti thesis of such virtues expected from a honest scientist. The credibility of food scientists and technologists is at stake and it is the collective responsibility of them to reassert and reclaim the lost ground because of the blemishes of a few amongst them who can go to any extent to turn focus on themselves sacrificing the interrests of their organization and colleagues.


Just like the 'beauties' being trained by many specialized schools for achieving the much coveted Miss World or Miss Universe titles, probably the pioneers like those mentioned above, with wealth of experience in notching up one award after another through their well horned skills can even think of setting up a training center at the evening of their life when no more awards are there for picking!. This Center can help future scientists with uncontrolled satiety for ' name and fame' through short cuts by transferring the art and skills they have in attracting international recognition at any 'cost'! Here are prayers for the redemption of Indian food science and technology from the clutches of "Award Seeking Pioneers".


V.H.POTTY
http://vhpotty.blogspot.com/

27 comments:

Anonymous said...

The paper retracted from PNAS divulges the worst form of scientific dishonesty wherein no work was carried out but a research paper generated by imagination and published in PNAS!!! Pl. read the paper published for the methodologies claimed for the conclusion and the retraction statement. I think Dr.Prakash should desist from talking science!!

Anonymous said...

I have read the PNAS paper and also the retraction statement. My god a research paper was published without conducting experiments!! what has Dr.Prakash, Director CFTRI done to India!!! generated a few dishonest Ph.Ds; misused DBT funds (pl. see acknowledgement section of the paper); brought to disrepute to CFTRI and Dr.M.S.Swaminathan ( communicated the paper for publication in PNAS)who trusted him!!! Like the Bombay atack is there a planned attack on CFTRI?

Anonymous said...

Capsaicin synthase protein was purified and based on N-terminal amino acid sequence,probes were made to identify the gene. The gene isolated was expressed in a bacterium, the protein was obtained and when assayed for Capsaicin synthase activity- it showed such an activity. The substance of the PNAS paper was that. Now the paper was retracted because the gene claimed coded for protein kinase!! So the authors never purified a protein or made probes based on N-terminal sequence; never did any assays for Capsaicin synthase enzyme with the protein over expressed in bacteria!! but what they did was publish a paper in PNAS becsue Prakash thought the whole scientific community can be fooled. After all he has friends around in the press and elsewhere to eulogise him for his dishonesty. God bless them!! My comment must be published in your blog becsue I want to see the reaction of these so called friends of Dr.Prakash who have let down the Country.

Anonymous said...

In the present context of Indian Science which is unable to make any headway in many pioneering areas, this "retraction of PNAS paper", only adds to the woes of Indian Science. I hope the realisation will dawn atleast now, wherein the perpetuators are not allowed to go unpunished.

Anonymous said...

This epidode of retraction of a scientific paper by CFTRI scientists from the prestigious journal, PNAS-USA, has brought shame to CSIR and the whole nation. It is perhaps tip of the iceberg that points to the kind of research being carried out by "award winning" scientists of CFTRI in the garb of "high science" using public funds.

Has CFTRI forgotten the core mandate of CSIR? Instead of talking about numbers of patents and papers, Dr Prakash should think of genuine "scientific industrial research"!

Anonymous said...

This newspaper, "Star of Mysore" had splashed big color photographs of Dr V Prakash with a big cover story on his appointment as Director General of CSIR in 2006. But it did not carry any story when he was unceremoniously sent back to Mysore within one week? Does the newspaper have any credibility?

Anonymous said...

CSIR should conduct a high level inquiry into this episode of making dubious scientific claims and retracting the paper when caught red-handed. We don't know how many cases are there which went unnoticed and the perpetrators went scot free.

Anonymous said...

The issue raised by Dr.Potty, being a former CFTRI HOD and who is aware of the goings on in CFTRI is eminently qualified to write about the food technologists heading organisations such as CFTRI who thrive by cheap publicity through local journalists on what they want the people to think as a unique recognition to the achievements of CFTRI under his leadership. This is simply fooling the public through journalists who do not bother to let the people know the reason for the denial of DG post for which he was selected.

Among the "achiements" of CFTRI under his leadership is a recent case wherein a scientist who published a fraudulenlt work in the prestigeous american journal, PNAS, had to retract the paper after someone discovered that the claim of the authors were bogus. This is, in scientific circles , considered a sacrilege and warrants strict punishment for the false claims. The lead author of the paper was in fact rewarded with several awards and an high level promotion based on this work. It is an international discredit to the institute.This will surely be a test case for CSIR to uphold the principles of scientific propriety which means the perpetrators of scientific misconduct will face the consequences.

Anonymous said...

The paper in PNAS (USA) was published in 2006 under reference 103:13315-13320. The Director, CFTRI was thanked for his keen interest in the study. The retraction of the paper occurred on 23 Dec 2008. The paper was retracted because the gene claimed for capsaicin synthase in the above publication was in fact a protein kinase gene. Protein kinase gene codes for phosphorylating enzyme while it is the condensation reaction of vanillylamine and 8-methyl nonenoic acid that occurs for capsaicin synthesis. Thus the two enzymes, protein kinase and capsaicin synthase cannot have a structural homology. The authors also claimed purification of capsaicin synthase using a substrate affinity column (amino H Sepharose bound with vanillylamine). No arguments can be forwarded for a possibility that a phosphorylase could have functioned as a condensation enzyme. Hence the whole paper was a suspect and had to be retracted bringing in disrepute to CFTRI, CSIR and to Indian Science.

Dr.S.Umesh Kumar said...

Sir,
While the comments by the readers of your blog have explained the retraction of the paper from PNAS because it lacked credibility and scientific honesty, I wonder about the repercussions of the patent(3379/DEL/05)claimed for the work published. Apparently the patent was filed in 2005 and the retraction of the publication occurred three years after. Much money has also been spent for this so called "research" that was apprently reivewed at the institute and at Department of Biotechnology that funded the research. Whoever responsible should be made accountable in order to revamp our scientific accountability.

Dr.S.Umesh Kumar

Dr.N.S.Vasanthi said...

Through RTI, I had (from 17 March 2007) explained to the Department of Biotechnology and the Vigilance Commission, Government of India about scientific and financial dishonesty practiced at CFTRI for which Dr.V.Prakash and some of his trusted soldiers harassed my family and me. The PNAS paper was retracted because it carried dishonest science. As one of your readers commented, this is only the tip of the iceberg. Probably we can expect many such instances because scientific dishonesty was at its pinnacle in CFTRI during the last one decade. The editor of the local Newspaper must know that he cannot mask truth by writing an editorial!!

Anonymous said...

Before we talk about this shameful incident of retracting paper, how come these scientists first of all are allowed to work in this kind of pure agricultural biotechnology area at CFTRI - which is meant for research in "Food Technology", more specifically, "POST-HARVEST Technology" ? Food industries are in fact crying for help in dealing with their problems in areas like food processing, preservation, storage, packaging and product development and their quality and safety. Isn't this a case of diverting funds and manpower to areas unrelated to the mandate of CFTRI? There are umpteen institutes under ICAR and biotechnology departments in universities which are meant for this kind of research.

Anonymous said...

"Yaddah yaddah hi dharmassya"....

Since Dr Potty has been a senior scientist at the institute and is aware that the fastest growing sector even in this recession is food processing and all aspects of retailing involved in food, I am sure he realizes that the full potential of CFTRI cannot be met with the present director at the helm.
It is only requested that Dr potty start a signature campaign to get rid of Dr Prakash and save the institute and salvage the tattered careers of food scientists. Since Dr Prakash is a bhatnagar awardee he may continue till 65 years, i.e. till Nov 2016! It may be very late to save the institute by then.
Dr Potty will be surprised how many will support him from within the institute and industry.

The food industry needs my institute as much as the institute needs the food industry

please for the sake of the many voiceless middle level scientists: "please save my institute!!!

Anonymous said...

The PNAS paper retraction came on 23 December 08. The star of Mysore editorial bragging on Dr.V.Prakash's self claimed "achievements" was flashed on 25 December 08. This man, Dr.V.Prakash, has destroyed a premier Indian laboratory and is attempting to distract the public attention. I am sure like us, you as a CFTRIan is also anguished. Could we, on behalf of the Indian citizens, request you to send each of these details (your blog + the comments)to the Prime Minister Of India? There is a need for urgent correction and we all look at you.

Anonymous said...

CFTRI boasts of ISO certifications of all sorts and it is surprising how they could not be any help in preventing this kind of scientific frauds. Crores of Rupees are spent every year in getting the ISO audits done by private agencies and wasting hundreds of valuable scientist-hours in going through the rigmarole. No reputed institution of higher learning (e.g., TIFR, IISc, MIT-Boston, Stanford-Palo Alto) has ever thought of going for ISO certification! Only Dr V Prakash of CFTRI could think of it. Is that all to decorate letterheads and other stationery? Is that all to get some free press publicity?

Anonymous said...

Bravo Dr Potty! You have at last fired the first salvo! I am sure it will become an avalanche of sorts in exposing these pseudo-scientists who only crave for awards and publicity.
By the way, all the awards (there are nearly 100) excepting one or two chota-ones garnered by Dr Prakash are given to him only after he became Director of CFTRI. Is it that power breeds awards in scientific circles?

Anonymous said...

You said it Dr Potty! The credibility of food scientists and technologists is at stake.

Anonymous said...

The 'famous' agricultural scientist who peer-reviewed this retracted paper was under a similar cloud in the 70's when he claimed unusually high levels of lysine content in certain wheat variety he bred!

Anonymous said...

Hello, CFTRI! Industry wants solutions not awards!

Anonymous said...

I would appreciate if "Star of Mysore" reproduces this article of Dr Potty and the accompanying comments and gives a rejoinder to live up to its motto of "comment is free but facts are sacred".

Anonymous said...

Hey, comeon, Mr Ganapathy! You are such a sport you won't take it lying down!

Anonymous said...

Why didn't the same local newspaper write an "inspired" editorial when a Central Government report blamed failure of existing food research institutions (read CFTRI of Dr Prakash, since that is the only one) to start a similar institute, NIFTEM in Delhi?

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Potty, Thanks for the initiative of this blog. But I think the purpose of starting this blog for "Food Technology" is loosing its value as it is going too personal against Dr. Prakash. It is better start a new blog, called "mysorejoker.blogspot.com", as he is very fond of using the word joker frequently to refer his seniors or juniors.;>)

Anonymous said...

In the wake of the retraction of the paper from PNAS-USA due to fabrication of scientific data, credibility of CFTRI work has taken a severe beating among international scientific community. To restore that, CFTRI management has to demonstrate to the world that it does not take such instances lightly.
CFTRI has to show that it has certain control systems and deterrents in place to prevent recurrence of such frauds. If the same work has been used for filing patents, PhD theses and other Reports, they should be withdrawn to erase imprints of the work in all scientific literature.
Finally, a message should be sent across the world scientific community that the scientists responsible for fabrication of data were made accountable. Practices internationally followed in cases of violation of scientific ethics - like easing the culprits of all scientific responsibilities and withdrawing otehr previleges - should be adopted and implemented.
Any impression of shielding them will further erode credibility of CFTRI.

Anonymous said...

Sir,
I would like to draw your attention to some collected essays under this blog, http://foodresearchmanagement.blogspot.com/
A nuclear explosion in the Pokharan desert or a ‘Chandrayan’ cannot camouflage the rot in the Indian Scientific Research.
Going by what other luminaries of Indian Science has to say (please see the quotes below), it seems, what you have said in your blog is, unfortunately, true even in the wider spectrum of Indian Scientific Research as well.
Here, if outright plagiarism does not fetch these ‘so called acclaimed scientists’ their dubious ‘recognitions and rewards’ they have no hesitation in pampering local yellow tabloids with taxpayers’ money for cheap write-ups about them. Governments with caste leanings see only the colour of their caste in these ‘scientists’. Aren’t these scientists who inspired our Hon’ble Minister of Science and Technology, Shri. Kapil Sibal’s to write his ‘Nano’ poem on ‘nano thoughts’ in ‘nano minds’. Wonder how he will succeed with these ‘acclaimed scientists’ in his declared mission to attract young, fertile and intelligent minds to pure science research?

Even Raman was opposed to building of large national laboratories, which he feared would eventually become ‘mausoleums of science’ and mockingly referred to it as the outcome of the “Nehru-Bhatnagar Effect”.
“We’re producing an army of techno-coolies.”
The result is a mountain of junk papers, with a very low citation index.
-C.V. Raman

“Science here is characterised by a pervasive mediocrity. There is a lack of originality and of the courage to challenge absurdity in all spheres - individual or at the policy level - and to defend truth. There’s widespread plagiarism and the denial of credit where it is due. There’s complacency, self-glorification and cronyism in our scientific community too.”
-Pushpa M. Bhargava (Former founder-director, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad)

“creating CSIR, which has only bred incompetence and inefficiency at the expense of our universities, was our biggest mistake”. No wonder J.B.S. Haldane, the famous British biologist who emigrated to India, parodied it as the Council for the Suppression of Independent Research!(CSIR) The 58-year-old CSIR, which runs 40 scientific laboratories in the country, too has not escaped this slow descent into undistinguished mediocrity. In the entire history of CSIR, only three out of over 20,000 papers published by its scientists have been cited more than 100 times against a world average of one out of every 250. Then our scientific institutes are run in a dictatorial fashion. Scientists claim there is little democratic freedom for junior researchers. 15-point code says, among other things, that scientists shouldn’t “cook” results, pad their publications list or “yield to social or political pressures”. The code for institutions calls for protecting whistle-blowers by “institutionalising dissent”
“Scientists like M.N. Saha and P.C. Ray, who were in favour of a more democratic approach to science, were sidelined by czars like Homi Bhabha, P.C. Mahalanobis, S.S. Bhatnagar and D.S. Kothari, who between them drew up the blueprint of Indian science.”
-P.V. Indiresan, (former director of IIT Madras and currently the president of Indian National Academy of Engineering)
“Indian science today is an arid wasteland with little to recommend and less to hope, there is a complete lack of direction and a total inability to plan or even comprehend future trends and compulsions.”
-R.N. Sharma, (National Chemical Laboratory, Pune)

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