Maligned scientist gets clean chit from panel

Prof Gopal Kundu, the 2004 winner of India's highest honour in science—the Bhatnagar award—and his colleagues have been exonerated of data manipulation charges by a committee chaired by Prof G Padmanabhan, former Head of the Indian Institute of Science at Bangalore.

On February 23 , the Journal of Biological Chemistry (JBC) withdrew a paper by Kundu and his colleagues at the National Centre for Cell Science amid allegations of data manipulation. The Government then appointed a seven member committee which in a report to the Department of Biotechnology reiterated that the allegations were baseless.

Padmanabhan told The Indian Express that the journal did not analyse the researchers' raw data, but instead relied on image analysis of published figures. He said the committee planned to appeal to the journal to rescind the withdrawal.

Prof M K Bhan, DBT Secretary said that they had received a copy of the report and published it in the 'Current Science' journal (June 10). "We will take a decision on the issue within two-three weeks," he said.

Meanwhile, India's ethics watchdog, the New Delhi-based Society for Scientific Values, had charged the committee with "possible complicity" in attempting to save the reputation of an award winning scientist.

"I once again want to reassure the scientific community that my committee did not take the investigation lightly, but put in all efforts to evaluate the truth on the basis of data available. It was also evident that even if some minor flaw had escaped the committee's attention, the conclusions of the two papers would not in any way be affected," Padmanabhan wrote in his exhaustive report.

"I was concerned with the career of bright young scientists and a host of students, but not at the expense of condoning a fraud," he added.

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