Another case of misconduct at a private Indian college: Plagiarism at Nagpur College of Engineering

K. S. Jayaraman of Nature India reports on a blatant case of plagiarism at the G. H. Raisoni College of Engineering in Nagpur. Not only did a doctoral student, Parag Puranik, copy material from an American scientist but the Director of the institute, Preeti Bajaj, added her name as a co-author but she denies any knowledge of the admitted plagiarism nor does she take any responsibility.

Director Dr. Preeti Bajaj

Unfortunately the habit of senior academic staff merely adding their names onto papers written by their juniors seems to be quite prevalent. And – as in this case – where they provide no guidance, exercise no quality asssurance and probably do not even read what has been written by their students but are quite happy to add another publication to their list, they exhibit the worst kind of parasitic behaviour.

In yet another case of misconduct, scientists of a large PhD-granting research university in India have confessed having plagiarised a paper from an American scientist. The institute G. H. Raisoni College of Engineering in Nagpur, Maharashtra has named one of its doctoral students Parag Puranik for copying material from a paper by Lior Shamir, assistant professor of computer science, at the Lawrence Technological University in Southfield, Michigan. The co-authors of the paper, which include the director of the institute, say they had no knowledge of this blatant copying.

American computer scientist Shamir was shocked to notice that an important paper he published in 2006 was recycled and copied not once but thrice by a group of researchers at the Nagpur institute. “I became aware of it recently after I received an anonymous e-mail,” Shamir told Nature India.

Shamir said he wanted to complain about this to the head of the Nagpur institute but found to his dismay that the director of the institute Preeti Bajaj was herself a co-author of the offending paper. Shamir also did not contact the editor of the proceedings that published that paper since the “editor and general chair of the conference (where the paper was presented) was also Bajaj and another person (Ajith Abraham), a co-author of that same paper.”

Shamir’s original paper describes an award winning method that enables computers to automatically identify various colours. “It describes how fuzzy logic can be used to mimic the human perception of colours, and produce an automatic colour identification that is similar to the way colours are perceived by people,” Shamir explained. ……

Alerted by the e-mail, Shamir searched literature to discover that a paperpublished in 2009 by Bajaj and colleagues at the Nagpur institution “expresses the exact same method” that he had published in 2006. “While it is possible that two people can come up with same ideas even without knowing each other, in this case there is a clear case of plagiarism as not only the text but also the figures have been copied,” Shamir said.

According to Shamir, the worst plagiarism is probably the figures. Figures 4 and 5 in Bajaj’s paper, except for labels, are fully identical to Figure 2 and 3 in his paper and all pixels are exactly at the same place. “Images that I created were copied with minor (yet obvious) editing using Photoshop or similar image editing tools without any reference to the source,” he adds.

The Director Dr. Preeti Bajaj does not cover herself with much credit.

Shamir says his search of the literature revealed two more of Bajaj’s papers that are very similar to his original paper. …. Asked to comment on the allegation, Bajaj expressed surprise. When told that she herself was a co-author of the papers Bajaj said, “There are any number of co-authors. We normally expect the first author to take responsibility,” she said in a telephone interview.

Later, in a confession letter to Nature India, doctoral fellow Puranik admitted that he had copied material from Shamir’s paper of 2006 despite the fact that his co-authors had asked him to write it in his own words. “My Guide and co-authors do not have any role in this. I assure you that in future such mistakes will not occur,” he said in the letter.

This is a remarkable admission. It suggests that his supervisor and the Director were perfectly well aware that he was copying his material from someone else but that they had “asked him to write it in his own words”. Almost as if the copying of other people’s research results is encouraged provided that it is re-worded to appear as original work and escape plagiarism charges.

Bajaj conceded that the first author had copied from Shamir’s paper in their 2009 paper without her knowledge. She said she had fired Puranik, her doctoral student, after the plagiarism charges came to light. 

However, she and Puranik maintained that the two other papers were original works. Bajaj says she gave the co-researchers the concept to use ANFIS and to compare results of fuzzy and Particle Swarm Optimization (PSO) with it, without the knowledge that Shamir was also working on it. Bajaj says on similar work across the globe, two people may get similar results and so “you cannot have objection.” Puranik said he had done advance work in fuzzy image segmentation with PSO.

Talking as the director of the institute she said Puranik was otherwise “very hard working and has done really good work on PSO.”

I am quite sure that Dr. Bajaj has great pressures to withstand from the owners of the institution and that the number of publications is one of her key performance indicators but I am afraid that she is not very credible when she denies any knowledge of the copying of others’ research results and the subsequent plagiarism. But the bigger problem would be if she saw nothing wrong in her own actions or lack of actions.

Related: Previous posts about private Indian Universities

Kalasalingam University takes action against misconduct 

Biotechnology Advances retracts 3 papers from India for plagiarism 

Capitation fees: The stench of corruption in the Indian body academic 

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2 Responses to “Another case of misconduct at a private Indian college: Plagiarism at Nagpur College of Engineering”

  1. Dolly Says:

    Adding Director of the institution is a very common practice in India. At some places the position of the directors name in author sequence is also fixed. I know a case where a director is a Animal Breeder by profession but he is a coauthor in the paper published in area of Microbiology, just because he is Director of Institution. Even when he can not even understand a single word in that paper.
    This is just insane.

  2. P. Bhargav Says:

    From her conversation, it is evident that Dr. Bajaj does not know what is plagiarism and its after effects. Having three such papers with her name in all of them and different students, exposes the true underworld princess of plagiarism. Shame to Nagpur and India.

    Please check all other papers and let the world know how they do research.

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