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Alleged scientific fraud by SVU professor

N. Gopal Raj

Banned from undertaking examination work, research guidance

Elsevier had retracted 13 articles by Chiranjeevi

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A chemistry professor of Sri Venkateswara University (SVU) in Tirupati has committed scientific fraud, according to a report published in Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), a magazine of the American Chemical Society.

Documents from the university, copies of which were obtained by the magazine, showed that P. Chiranjeevi was found guilty of plagiarising and/or falsifying more than 70 research papers published in a variety of Western scientific journals between 2004 and 2007, the C&EN report said.

“Some journal editors left reeling by the incident say that it is one of the most spectacular and outrageous cases of scientific fraud they have ever seen,” added the report by the magazine’s news editor, William G. Schulz.

Registrar of the university Y. Venkatarami Reddy told The Hindu that disciplinary action had been taken against Professor Chiranjeevi on the basis of a report from a three-member enquiry commission appointed by the university.

The university’s Executive Council, in September, 2007, banned him from undertaking examination work and research guidance. He was also debarred from securing further promotions as well as being appointed to administrative positions in the university. Students doing M.Phil and Ph.D. under his guidance would be transferred to other guides, Dr. Reddy said.

Elsevier, a leading publisher of scientific journals, has stated that it retracted 13 articles authored by Professor Chiranjeevi that appeared in five journals from its online database ScienceDirect.

Exact copies

Suspicion was first aroused in May last when Purnendu K. Dasgupta of the University of Texas at Arlington in the U.S., as editor of the journal, Analytica Chimica Acta, handled a manuscript submitted by Professor Chiranjeevi. The reviewer to whom he sent the paper pointed out that it was a duplicate of an earlier paper published in Analytical Sciences by other authors. But for the change that one chemical element was substituted by another, the papers were almost exact copies, according to an e-mail from an Elsevier spokesperson.

Doubtful articles

When the editor of Talanta, another of Elsevier’s analytical chemistry journals, was alerted about the case, he found that five doubtful articles by Professor Chiranjeevi were published.

The report published by C&EN states that Dr. Dasgupta eventually contacted D. Gunasekar, head of the chemistry department at the university, at the time. He told Dr. Dasgupta that the instruments cited in Professor Chiranjeevi’s papers did not exist in the department. An official letter of complaint from Dr. Dasgupta, along with a letter from Elsevier’s legal department, led to the university’s investigation.

Dr. Dasgupta told C&EN that Professor Chiranjeevi continually proclaimed his innocence and blamed unknown persons for submitting falsified papers under his name through e-mail addresses he did not recognise or use. But the university’s investigation found that Professor Chiranjeevi used the same e-mail addresses in papers that he stood behind as authentic, the C&EN report, quoting an unnamed source in the university, said.

According to the source, the professor was trying to blame his students.

Repeated efforts by The Hindu to contact Professor Chiranjeevi proved futile.

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