How to cheat your way into a successful (?) scientific career


Not even the Swedish democratic-socialist paradise is quite perfect. Climb up the academic hierarchy, get a cozy position, and then you too can be hoodwinked into bypassing more worthy candidates to promote glad-handing frauds like Ashutosh Tiwari.

The Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden is quite busy these days with the affair around their fake professor Ashutosh Tiwari, trying to figure out what actually happened inside their own Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM). How could a person with some very shady claims to a doctorate, a publication list consisting mostly of papers in his own private predatory journal, titles and awards from his own fake research institutions and predatory conferences fool the system for years in this way? How could he get the prestigious Marie-Curie fellowship, which in turn delivered him a habilitation degree of Docent at LiU and grant money from Swedish public? In this regard, how could he have just last year been awarded funding from the Swedish Research Council, Vetenskapsrådet (VR) if he wasn’t even employed at LiU or anywhere else since early 2015?

The details are amazing. As a post-doc, he created his very own personal journal, appointed himself editor (how prestigious-looking!), and started churning out papers that he “peer-reviewed” himself and approved for publication…and at least some of those papers are full of faked data. Then he got himself a position at a good university and even got promoted on the basis of his voluminous publications.

He even got an external reviewer to submit a review that qualified him for a docents degree. Either it sailed over his mentors’ heads, or it was a formality that was rubber-stamped, because it is an incredible document.

What Tiwari also needed, was an external assessment, to go along with Turner’s promotion statement. And this is where it gets really funny. The assessment was prepared by the biochemist Tautgirdas Ruzgas, professor for Biomedical Technology at Malmö University, and it reads as either a cry for help or a sarcastic attempt at trolling from a bedazzled scientist who cannot believe LiU was about to embarrass itself by making an utter fake a member of their academic teaching staff. Here it begins, in English:

“Ashutosh Tiwari (born 78) defended PhD thesis “Chemical study of plant seed gums” at University of Allahabad, India, in 2005. His PhD certificate and CV do not specify the science subject of PhD thesis. However, judging from the thesis title, master and bachelor education the subject of the PhD thesis is, the most probably, materials chemistry, physical chemistry, organic chemistry, polymer chemistry or similar with the gravity in chemistry”.

Yeesh. Tiwari is clearly a crooked fraud, and the bulk of the blame has to rest on his shoulders. But his supervisors and administrators at Linköping University should not be left off the hook. They failed in their responsibility to vet their colleagues and have some standards for the quality of their work. Calcified hierarchies and self-serving panjandrums roosting in them are the bane of progress.

Damn, but I missed an angle. I should have named my blog The Journal of Pharyngula Studies, PZ Myers, ed.

Comments

  1. Ogvorbis wants to know: WTF!?!?!?! says

    I should have named my blog The Journal of Pharyngula Studies, PZ Myers, ed.

    The Dark Side, tempt you it will. Once you start down the dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny, consume you it will. If you end your training now, if you choose the quick and easy path as Tiwari did, you will become an agent of evil

  2. says

    Maybe this “Swedish Research Council” that funded him is a branch of James Dobson’s Family Research Council? That would at least explain the blatant disregard for evidence, scientific rigor, reality, etc. if nothing else.

  3. jrkrideau says

    Long ago, I heard the story of a shiny new Ph.D showing up for the usual dog and pony show and someone catching on the possibility of an impostor when if became clear he had no idea of name of his new wife who was a good friend of one of the faculty.

  4. says

    “Not even the Swedish democratic-socialist paradise is quite perfect”

    Even if tongue-in-cheek, repeating the myth helps perpetuate it. Yes, I would prefer to live in Sweden than in the States, but several other countries are better, and even arguably more social-democratic, even if the ruling party is called something else.

    tl;dr: Sweden used to be good. It’s still better than the States, but that is setting the bar pretty low.

  5. martinrundkvist says

    My experience of 24 years in Swedish academia is that nepotism and local favouritism are far bigger problems than fraud. 60% of professors are still at the departments where they presented their PhD theses. It’s very far from a meritocracy, but it’s quite not the Wild West either.

  6. says

    Hmm. That’s one thing US academia improves on. The attitude I experienced was that generally, you don’t stand a chance of getting a faculty appointment in the same institution where you do your postdoc. When I was seeking a post-doc, in the long ago days, I was discouraged from doing one with someone who was a former student of my grad advisor — there’s a great deal of concern about academic incest.

    A measure of a lab’s intellectual success is their ability to sow students all around the country, rather than keeping them in-house working on the same projects.

  7. says

    “That’s one thing US academia improves on. The attitude I experienced was that generally, you don’t stand a chance of getting a faculty appointment in the same institution where you do your postdoc.”

    Such policies are in place at many places, sometimes in the form “don’t do your postdoc in the same country where you did your doctorate”. Yes, incest is bad, but not hiring someone who is by far the best candidate just because he is already at the same place is just silly. This leads to hiring someone who is not the best candidate, or playing games like spending 15 years at one place, then moving for two years to somewhere else—without selling the house one started building after the move—only to come back a couple of years later as the highly sought external candidate. Giving someone a job because of connections is bad (which is why I am against nepotism but also against such measures as part of dual-couple–career stuff), but so is hiring an external candidate as a matter of principle. There should be one rule: hire the best person for the job.

  8. David Marjanović says

    Maybe this “Swedish Research Council” that funded him is a branch of James Dobson’s Family Research Council?

    Nope, Vetenskapsrådet is real. Or used to be.

    I’m still baffled he got a Marie Curie fellowship…

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