The Ghost Writer in Academics?

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The title is quite evident of what i intend to say here. Ghost writing or honorary authorship have been a rampant problem in academics. I came across an increasing article in Science, calling for an end on giving such Honorary authorship in papers. They cite quite an interesting statistic for the percentage of honorary authors in six leading medical journals in 2008:

25% of research reports

15% of review articles

11% of editorials

What’s shocking is that the coverage of the journals! Only medical journals were used and that too the top-tier ones.However, they did find a significant decline in inappropriate authorship from 1996 to 2008 but such kind of authorship still remain a problem. This time honoured custom of publishing papers with honorary significant authors is highly unethical. As the principle reason of doing so, is to boost the chances of such papers to be accepted by those top-tier journals. This represents an interesting circular problem for the editors themselves.  An interesting follow up study would be to do it across a five year period and take top 10 journals in biology. I suspect the figures would be a lot high.

On an interesting note, sometime ago i came across an article by Jerry Coyne in his blog-Why Evolution is True, about the age-old but dying practice of the PI not putting his/her name on papers. According to him –

So while I have the chance here, let me repeat my mantra to professors and graduate students: If you’re a student, your advisor isn’t automatically entitled to put his/her name on your paper.  Providing funding and advice is not sufficient reason.  And if you’re a faculty member, don’t slap your name on your students’ papers if all you’ve done is given them advice and money.  They lose by it, for the work will often be attributed more to you rather than the student (this is known as “the Matthew Effect“). I deplore the proliferation of gratuitious multiple authorships as a strategy for scientists padding their c.v.s.”

In light of this, what do you all think? Should the PI’s not put their names onto such papers where they have just discussed/provided grant money to the students? OR, do you think for such thing to come to fruition, major changes need to take place?

More on this-

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/337/6098/1019.full#fn-2

http://www.bmj.com/content/343/bmj.d6128

http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/mohamed-noor-profiled-in-the-scientist-and-a-note-on-authorship/

http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=150927

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What about the autonomy of Indian Universities???……A silly hope, i say!!

The latest blunder from the HRD ministry was to deny Vishwanathan Anand an honorary doctoral degree. The objection was–Viswanathan Anand is not an Indian. Now, this seems to be quite odd, as Vishy is more Indian than those people who doubt his Indianness!!!!!

Certainly the government babus are known for creating bureacratic wrangles, but the question which i would like to point out not this but the fact that when the Vice-Chancellor and the academic board of a distinguished university has selected a person of international renown to be conferrred an honorary doctoral degree, what right do the government babus, HRD ministry has to overrrule them. Are they more competent than the whole University Academic Board??

The moment one asks this question, another springs up — What about the autonomy of Indian Universities??? The recent strike by some profs from IIT’s was an indicator that the so-called beacon of Indian education–The IIT, when even they cant decide their smallest internal problems without the HRD ministry saying so, how can the other Universities hope to do so?? Right from hare-brained ideas of Kapil Sibal of hiring Contractual Profs to reservation of 40 percent cap on promotion to professors, it shows rather appallingly how the Indian education system is still bound by the chains of bureaucracy.

And to top it all, Kapil Sibal hopes that in this increasingly dissapointing education-research system of India, we will get Nobels!!! Call it a silly hope or a fool’s dream……

Boycott The Commonwealth Games!!!!

Its unnecessary to say how shoddily CWG preparation is going on OR how much corruption has seeped into it… As over a month now every major newspaper or TV has brought into light all the nefarious deals, but what is important right now is to say NO.

The first NO should be said to the “JUGAAD” attitude of us, which has led to many problems. The acceptance of a shoddy work over a well thought, planned exercise is becoming a ritual for us Indians. Swapan Dasgupta rightly brought out this matter recently in a newspaper article-(http://blogs.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/right-and-wrong/entry/why-praise-jugaad-it-s).

“The Indian optimists(read  politicians…) will have a different take on CWG. They will agree that the authorities entrusted to do the job have underperformed, but a nagging faith would be left that at the end of the day, Indian jugaad will salvage national honour”

The second NO should be to the hushing up of the financial deals of CWG, as the current government intends to do. The rational behind Sonia Gandhi’s statement that any investigation should be done after the conclusion of the games bears no logic at all. Why on earth should not Indian people wait for the government’s Jugaad and not want the details of the 28000 crore fiasco??

The third NO should be by the so called sponsors themselves. Quite a few industry bigwigs have lent their company’s names for the CWG. Instead of releasing nation-wide pamphlets about how we should try to hush the corruption matters and look about to instill FAKE Indian honour (read…Sahara Pariwar’s nation-wide notices in major newspapers about this), they should try to withdraw their support from CWG.

Chetan Bhagat rightly points out (http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/home/sunday-toi/all-that-matters/Please-dont-cheer-the-2010-loot-fest/articleshow/6453682.cms)–” The indian culture is such that we are ready to cover up injustice on account of fake sense of honour that needs to show everything is in order”.

I stand by him in urging the Indian public—-“Please dont cheer the 2010 loot-fest”.

Ring-a-ring o’roses

Children for centuries have sung a nursery rhyme which has sinister undertones-

Ring-a-ring o’roses,
A pocket full of posies,
A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down.

This song apparently arose in the London streets in 1665 during an epidemic of plague.

“Ring o’roses” refers to small, red rashlike areas on people with plague, or the Black Death.
“Pocket full of posies” was a reference to the fact that from ancient times people believed that evil smells were the poisonous breath of demons who afflicted them with the disease.
“A-tishoo! A-tishoo” During the plague sneezing was a symptom of plague victims.
“We all fall down”. As indeed, thousands of people did-dead.

An estimated 25 million people died during the infamous epidemic of the Black Death, which Europe.

Banku Babu…

Banku Babu is a rather unheard character among all of Satyajit Ray’s creations. In 1960’s he wrote a short story titled Bankubabur bandhu in Sandesh which later on became a script for a movie titled The Alien. He was called upon by Alan Wilson in Hollywood (through a common friend, Arthur C. Clarke) to help start the movie to be starred by Marlon Brando and Peter Sellers. But the project derailed prematurely and he returned back to Calcutta disillusioned. However, when Steven Spielberg produced the movie Alien, it was clear to many people including Clarke & Ray that the story was lifted straight through the original script of Ray… But Spielberg till date has denied all the allegations…

But Ray was quite disillusioned due to this, and this was the prime reason he never went back. Banku babu, in a way represents his frustration. Frustration with people who jack-lifted his story, refused him credit and left him disillusioned. So, the title Banku Babu represents the frustrations, musings of a common man in a crazy world like ours–for Ray then was indeed a common man in Hollywood!!!

Hello world!

This is the first serious attempt to create a blog of my own. I have read many blogs on different subjects ranging from pot-pourri of bloggers’ musings to strictly subject specific in the past few months. And, i must say that i have been quite impressed by the range of blogs/comments in all of them. They represent one unique thing which the web-o-sphere has granted us–independence to air our own thoughts, a platform to share!!!

I write in the name of a common man. For till now the only space which he/she got to express his own views, frustrations was either the editor column of a newspaper or the sanctity of one’s own home. As hardly anyone in the great Indian bureaucracy ever listens to the common man! Ironically enough it’s that same common man who sits in the official chair in some other office on another day and ignores other people….other common people like him/her….

Hence, I intend to express my musings through this  blog.