Nov 1, 2009

Beware, academic terrorist are on the prowl

When I was a student of agriculture, and this was quite long ago, it wasn't unusual to find academic papers published in scientific journals under multiple authorship. In fact, some research papers had more than six authors but usually three or four were quite common. And invariably you find that the name of the Head of the department of the research unit was a mandatory co-author on almost all the research papers that would be published during his or her tenure.

I remember a research associate in the Plant Breeding & Genetics department in the university where I was a student had put up his research paper to the Head of the department. He didn't hear from him for some days, and so one day made an effort to go personally and enquire. The Head of the department fished out his paper from the piles of the papers stacked on his table, read through it, asked a few questions, and then politely said: "Yes, you can now put my name as the second author."

I don't think any researcher had the courage to refuse co-authorship to the Head of the department for what was essentially solely his/her (the researcher's) prerogative.

I thought over the years and more so at a time when research institutions/universities have become more swanky and technology is believed to be an instrument to check malpractices as well corruption, this kind of 'academic terrorism' would have been a thing of the past. Well, I wish it was. Despite all the sophistication in science and the claims of academic independence, 'academic terrorism' has in reality worsened.

Gone are the days when scientists would only be terrorised with co-authorship of the research papers, now scientists cannot even dare to venture into areas where it hurts the commercial interests of the private companies. Your research has to be confined to the four walls of the institution, I mean has to be within the confines of the parameters that the university has informally laid out.

Try to questions the normally accepted scientific claims, the initial round of punishment begins by transferring you to an outreach research station. And if you still do not fall in line or mend your ways, you had it. Over the years, hundreds of agricultural scientists have been victims of such a kind of academic terrorism. Many of them have been literally hounded out, and have since retired.

They paid a heavy price for standing up to the utmost ethics and traditions of science. They are the unsung heroes of agricultural sciences, and I feel sad that we have not only failed but failed miserably to recognise these brillaint and courageous minds. If we had done so, I am sure farmers would have long ceased to commit suicide. Their meaningful research would have come to the rescue of the beleaguered farming community.

Ah ! Walk into an agricultural research institute now, and the first thing that strikes you is the stiffling research environment. Scientists cannot talk, they speak in a hushed-hushed tone. The directors of the research institutes, with barely a few exceptions, operate more or less like the managers of the private companies. The deputy director general of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), the umbrella organisation of farm research in India, appear to be mentally programmed to sing the virtues of Genetic Engineering technology. In fact, some of them are there because they have a job to perform on behalf of the biotech companies. In journalistic parlance, they have been planted.

If you think academic terrorism is only limited to agricultural research, you are mistaken. Economics and management discipline is the worst. Whether it is Harvard, Yale or Cambridge or the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to name a few international centres of excellence or the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs), the Economics departments of the Indian universities or for that matter economic research centres in India like the National Centre for Applied Economic Research (NCAER), Indian Council for Research on International Economic Relations (ICRIER), the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT) to name a few, are all suffering from the worst kind of academic terrorism.

If all these institutes were really free in their academic thinking, the world would not have witnessed economic meltdown, and at the same time the world wouldn't have been driven to a tripping point when it comes to global warming.

How much I wish the US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also teaches and preaches at these institutes, in addition to telling only the political leadership in Pakistan, on how to fight the worst kind of terrorism that mankind is witnessing, which not only corrupts the present breed of scientists and economists but also leaves behind a destructive scientifc and economic legacy by programming the mindset of future generations.

Although, the whistle-blowers in Indian science suffered in silence, a few courageous scientists in the West certainly stood up and of course paid a heavy price. Sometimes back, I had written about these few bravehearts under the title: Ever heard of Hood Robins? If you missed reading it, here is the link:

Lately, another scientist in Argentina is being victimised. This is what GM Watch tells us: GLYPHOSATE WHISTLE-BLOWER COMES UNDER SUSTAINED ATTACK
A revealing interview (originally in Spanish) with Prof Andres Carrasco has been published following his research that showed the devastating effects of the herbicide Roundup on human embryos. Carrasco is having to cope with a vicious campaign of vilification in Argentina, involving Monsanto and its cohorts inside and outside of government. There are echoes of what happened in 1999 with Arpad Pusztai.

Expecting a reaction, "but not so violent", the researcher was threatened, and had to defend himself against a smear campaign. It was even claimed that his research did not exist. Carrasco contests these charges and renews his own charges against the multinational chemical industry. Bravo, and I salute Andres Carrasco. I wish Indian scientists and economists could draw inspiration from him.

A group of concerned scientists has circulated a statement of protest on the internet which in a short period of time has received more then 600 signatures from Argentina, Mexico, Brazil, the US and Europe. If you think you should sign, please click on the link below or write to


Surender Dalal . said...


Anonymous said...

आदरणीय देवेंद्र जी आपने अकादमिक आतंकवाद का सटीक विश्‍लेषण किया । इसके लिए हार्दिक धन्‍यवाद । अकादमिक आतंकवाद की जड़ में पश्‍चिमी देशों ( अमेरिका, यूरोप) का अंधानुकरण है । भारतीयों के मन में यह धारणा गहरे पैठा दी एवं पैठ गई है कि ज्ञान का सूरज पश्‍चिम में ही निकलता है । यह धारणा अभी तक हमारे मन-मस्‍तिष्‍क में समाई हुई है । यही कारण है कि हम मौलिक खोजों के बजाए पश्‍चिम के अंधानुकरण में लगे हुए हैं । इसे कृषि, विज्ञान, प्रतिरक्षा, पर्यावरण आदि सभी क्षेत्रों में देखा जा सकता है । इसे कृषि क्षेत्र के एक उदाहरण से समझा जा सकता है । बुंदेलखंड में पानी की कमी है । इसीलिए वहां सदियों से उन फसलों की खेती प्रचलित थी जो कम पानी पीती थी लेकिन 1990 के दशक
में आईसीएआर के वैज्ञानिकों ने बुंदेलखंड में सोयाबीन की उन फसलों की खेती को प्रचलित किया जो अधिक पानी मांगती थी । इसका परिणाम यह हुआ कि बुंदेलखंड की कोख सूख गई । परंपरागत फसलों की खेती उपेक्षित होने से अब वहां के किसानों के पास पलायन कर दिहाड़ी मजदूर बनने के अलावा और कोई चारा नहीं बचा । आज आप दिल्‍ली के किसी निर्माण स्‍थल पर जाएं तो वहां बुंदेलखंड के श्रमिकों की बहुलता मिलेगी । इस प्रकार अकादमिक आतंकवाद ने किसानों को घर-बार छोड़कर झुग्‍गी-झोपड़ियों में रहने व मजदूर बनने पर बाध्‍य कर दिया ।

रमेश दुबे
कृषि विषयक स्‍वतंत्र लेखक

Research Papers said...

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