Previously I reported on my site about the Indian nanotechnology researcher Prashant Sharma, whose collection of blatantly manipulated papers seems to grow daily on PubPeer. The article prompted two scientists from Sweden to contact me about a certain Sharma associate who was only briefly mentioned there: Ashutosh Tiwari, a former employee of the Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden. Tiwari built an entire industry of predatory publishing and conferences, which hosted many among the material science research elite, all from a small rented office in the industrial area of Linköping. Tiwari’s genius trick was to play at the vanity and greed of certain academics: all he had to do to get them to participate at his conferences and to help divert public money via conference fees into his pocket, was to offer a luxurious holiday-style venue (like a cruise ship) and hand them some ridiculous made-up awards, diploma and medals.
As it looks, Tiwari never was professor in Linköping or possibly anywhere else, in fact he arrived at LiU in 2011 as Marie-Curie postdoctoral fellow, assigned to the lab of Professor Anthony Turner, Editor-in-Chief of Biosensors and Bioelectronics, who somehow published a number of fraudulent papers by Tiwari’s associate Sharma and eventually became an invited speaker, co-organiser and even advertiser for Tiwari’s conferences. Even Tiwari’s doctorate is not certain: around 2015, Linköping University was investigating the validity of his PhD degree. Now, LiU finds itself unable to give me a straightforward answer about their scientist’s academic credentials. It is not even clear when Tiwari’s employment at LiU ended: my source says 2015, Turner says in summer 2017.
Yet to the scientific community and even his colleagues working at LiU, Tiwari presented himself since 2011 as “Associate Professor” of Linköping University, at Turner’s Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM). The Sweden-based Indian scam artist, whose scientific career began with data manipulation (as the evidence below proves), was and still is running many businesses:
- a phony Vinoba Bhave Research Institute (VBRI) in Allahabad, India (just where Sharma is located, working however at the really existent Indian School of Mines). This Tiwari-led research “institute” invites applications of PhD students and postdocs, but uses fraudulent photos to pretend it actually exists. The institute now has a Swedish branch, the Insitute of Advanced Materials, led by director Tiwari and located in a small rented office in Linköping
- a predatory publishing outlet VBRI Press, located in the same office in Linköping, which used to be even DOAJ-listed, though its editorial team of young women is fake, with their photos stolen off internet, while VBRI press’ only peer reviewer is Tiwari himself
- a so-called International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM), also located in the same mailbox in Linköping, which only purpose is to organize predatory conferences, preferably on luxury cruise ships. The conference fees for Advanced Materials World Congress, European Advanced Materials Congress, American Advanced Materials Congress etc flow to the same VBRI mailbox owned only by Tiwari and his wife.
The fake institute in Allahabad
This is Vinoba Bhave Research Institute (VBRI) in Allahabad, India, led by its director Prof Ashutosh Tiwari, as shown in Google Maps or on Facebook. The institute announced in 2016 on its Facebook page, next to this impressive photo:
“Openings for 10 PhD and 05 postdoc positions in the VBRI, www.vbriindia.org!! VBRI is seeking a highly motivated and enthusiastic candidates to join bilateral international PhDs and postdoc program in the Vinoba Bhave Research Institute to work on advanced materials for energy, environmental problems, drug delivery, sensors, biosensors and bioelectronic devices, etc. Please send your application with CV and 2 page work plan to firstname.lastname@example.org until 30 November 2016!! Visit us on www.vbriindia.org”
The photo is pathetically fake, it is crudely photoshopped. The central part of this image, showing the “welcome” entrance, appears on the internet page of a child daycare in Spain. Also, the two windows are identical (only mirrored), as are both cloned palms on each side. But maybe Prof Tiwari made a mistake, after all we see him here, on Vinoba Bhave Research Institute Facebook site, with his PhD students learning in the background:
Impressed? Yet this is not really a research centre in Allahabad. This is the actual real library of Linköping University, with a fake LiU professor in the foreground. But this image below surely shows Professor Tiwari educating his humble and admiring international students at VBRI in Allahabad?
The predatory publisher
Tiwari’s other business is his “VBRI press”, or VBRI Sverige AB, which is located at Teknikringen 4A, 583 30 Linköping, Sweden, and employs exactly 2 people: Ashutosh Tiwari and his wife, Sudha Tiwari. The company must be so big that the web page of Mjardevi Science Park where it resides does not dare to provide any information about either VBRI Press, or the Insitute of Advanced Materials with its “enthusiastic and qualified knowledgeable researchers” and “different world class facilities and laboratories”, or the conference organiser IAAM. This is where they all are, see Tiwari’s own photo off Facebook:
All these mighty institutions fit somehow into a little rented office at Teknikringen 4A. The official tenant, VBRI Sverige, registered SEK 1.7 mn profit (~€170 000) and SEK 6.5 mn turnaround in 2016, declaring activities in conference organising and publishing. Several Swedish universities are listed Among VBRI customers, including those of Linköping, Umea and Stockholm.
Tiwari’s VBRI press publishes the journals Advanced Materials Proceedings and Advanced Materials Letters, which only incidentally sound like the highly respected Advanced Materials, published by Wiley. The latter VBRI outlet is “The official journal of the International Association of Advanced Materials (IAAM)”, which is in turn Tiwari’s own invention, located at same rented office in Teknikringen 4A, Linköping. Advanced Materials Letters is Open Access (OA), and declares to be “associated with DOAJ“, the whitelisting organisation of OA journals. This is even not a lie, because DOAJ did use to list this journal:
As for publishing fees, the journal declares: ” Page Charges: As per journal policy”. Meaning, the boss will charge authors on a whim, whatever he sees fit.
Tiwari cleverly used his VBRI press for self-promotion, to publish own papers and to boost own citation index. But before he moved as Marie-Curie Fellow to Turner’s lab in Linköping, Tiwari ingratiated himself with that LiU professor in 2010 with a pathos-bloated anniversary article published in the first issue of Advanced Materials Letters. The article even admired the alleged activities of Prof Turner on fund-raising for start-ups in the notorious tax paradise Cayman Islands.
I spoke to a former VBRI Press insider, who told me this about Tiwari’s publishing enterprise:
“Though his journals claim to be peer-reviewed, there was no peer-revision process, the submitted papers were directly going to e-mail addresses controlled by Tiwari. He instructed his assistants to revise the papers based on his comments only. Also, he was regularly asking authors to cite papers from his journals as well as his own research papers in several other journals as part of the revision process. This is how he gets high h-index for himself and his journal’s impact factor”.
How did Tiwari solicit papers for his journal? These were his two charming managing editors, both blonde, both young, both fake.
The photo of “Adeline Nilsson” belongs to an Australian lawyer, while the photo of “Sophie Thompson” is rightfully owned by Australian singer Delta Goodrem. An internet search further confirms that Mrs Tiwari doesn’t have to worry about her husband staying at work late, as the two young managing editors Ms Nilsson and Ms Thomson only exist in the fantasy of Mr Tiwari. Apparently, the big man got even more ambitious and engaged an actual astronaut to type his spam emails:
Did Anthony Turner notice that Tiwari invents young female “managing editors” to solicit papers he alone then peer reviews? The LiU professor is after all listed as “honorary editor”, whatever it means. With Turner, one does wonder how he managed to overlook Tiwari’s scams and deceit for 6 years.
All aboard for a predatory conference!
In spring 2017, a large number of scientists working in material science received an invitation to attend “European Advanced Materials Congress“, on a cruise ship between Sweden and Finland, 22 – 24 August 2017. Why should they go there and waste their research funds, paying of up to €1000 for registration, which does not include the costs of the cruise trip itself? Well, because for example Nils Mårtensson, Uppsala University professor and Chairman of the Nobel Prize Committee for Physics was there!
Unlike with your amateur predatory conferences, this guest of honour was for real. Here is Prof. Märtensson giving a video interview, naively advertising for Tiwari, his phony IAAM and his predatory conferences. Update 15/19.12.2017 the YouTube and the Facebook copies of the video were removed by Tiwari right after this post was published, but there are other records, and I made backup.
Tiwari’s conference speakers list is usually quite impressive, it features editors of internationally respected journals and professors well-known in their field, e.g. Luis Liz-Marzán, Editor-in-Chief of journal ACS Omega, or Zhong-LIn Wang, Editor-in-Chief of journal Nano Energy, or Robert Hurt, Editor-in-Chief of journal Carbon. Whatever lured them to Tiwari’s private symposium, is a mystery, but it is worth noting that dozens of awards and medals are handed out each conference. Here they are, on this YouTube channel, interviewed after Tiwari presented them with some utterly useless IAAM award or medal he just made up (and in some cases, even awarded himself with, like ‘The Nano Award’, ‘Innovation in Materials Science Award’ and ‘Advanced Materials Medal’). Successful, highly educated grown-up (mostly) men, all of them, excited about having been given a shiny thingy. That little it takes to bamboozle a scientist, apparently.
That Congress announced 800+ participants, but not all of them might have been there. As an insider told me:
“Tiwari was adding his friends and colleagues to the program in order to artificially raise the number of registered participants. Those people of course never showed up in the conference.”
A Swedish scientist who once fell for one of Tiwari’s conferences, told me:
“I did not know I was going to a conference privately organized by Tiwari. I (like all others) went to the conference organized by Swedish University. Linköping University was stated as one of organizers on all web pages and that is what provided the conference with credibility. I never checked what is “VBRI Press” or IAAM and Tiwari at that moment was just one of several organizers. I remember well how I watched the video invitation by Anthony Turner, and I even checked who he and the other organizer, Mikael Syväjärvi, were. They all were employed by LiU and their names were listed on the LiU pages. Then I saw many names known in Scandinavia in the conference committee and list of invited speakers, one of the speakers was even my co-author. It looked credible. I even considered submission of proceedings paper, the journal by VBRI Press had some impact factor at the moment even if rather low. I had an impression that VBRI Press is serious organization publishing books and journals, organization somehow connected to LIU.”
Tiwari’s past patron Turner indeed did his share of advertising for those conferences, here he even described his “co-chair” as “Professor Ashutosh Tiwari”. One needed to expand beyond the Baltic cruise ships, so he and Tiwari decided to set up an annual conference to take place in the Caribbean. Here is Turner, inviting his peers to join him at the “American Advanced Materials Congress – 2016, Miami, USA during 04-09 December 2016 which is going to be held on the Royal Caribbean Cruise “Navigator of the Sea””.
Turner explained to me in an email why Caribbean cruise conferences are actually very inclusive, even if the cheapest cabin bed there may still appear to be a bit too pricey for, say, a PhD student:
“On the questions of holding conferences on ships, there is a long Russian tradition of doing this which has inspired this idea. In practice, due to the packages on offer, this can be less expensive than other venues and result in similar delegate fees to other conferences”.
The next Caribbean symposium at high seas was scheduled to take place this December 3rd – 8th 2017, on the same cruise ship. Turner, who is listed as co-chair, and who arranged an auto-reply email that he is ” out of the office now until 11.30 on Monday 11 December, attending a Symposium” however insists that he was not on board and that the message referred to a meeting at Linköping Hospital:
“You are misinformed, I was not on a “Caribbean cruise” as you state, but working in Sweden for Linköping University during this period”.
Another conference co-organiser at LiU used to be Mikael Syväjärvi, who is also editor of the other VBRI Press journal, Advanced Materials Proceedings. But he, like Turner, might have meanwhile parted ways with Tiwari, because, as Turner declared:
“Dr Tiwari, left my Division at Linköping University in June of 2017 and so what he chooses to do with his time is no longer a concern of mine”.
The duped Swedish symposium participant who spoke above now gave me his retrospective insights about the Tiwari Symposium experience:
“The conference was actually organized in a standard way. Yes, the excessive number of awards was unusual, and not all of them looked to be well deserved. But some good speakers were there as well. So, for myself I rated the conference somewhat below average by the level of talks but did not consider myself fooled at the moment.
My questions are now to LiU- why did they allow Tiwari to collect money for this conference using his private company (that was not obvious to anyone)? Why they did not protest when he continued to pretend he was Professor, while they knew very well that his IAM “institute” is fake and that he is not Professor of their University? Why didn’t they report him for fraud to police? Why did they allow him to represent Swedish science internationally by providing affiliation and even serving as co-organizers in 2015-2016? Why did they not prevent their own LiU professors from supporting a more recent cruise ship conference in 2017 when it become completely private business of one guy pretending to be director of fake “Institute of Advanced Materials”? Why did they watch respected people like Nils Mårtensson being fooled and why did they not warn him and others? This would have stopped the conferences and Tiwari’s fraudulent business”.
Tiwari’s conference activities now happen without the association with Linköping university. He even invented a new young lady to spam scientists with invitations: Cristine Prudzic, Congress Administrator. Here are some upcoming cruise ship conferences organised by Professor Tiwari, if you are interested:
Advanced Materials World Congress, Singapore, February 2018
(the Strait of Malacca from Singapore – Penang (Malaysia) – Singapore by the Royal Caribbean Cruise Ship)
Advanced Energy Materials Congress, Stockholm , 26-28 March 2018
(Stockholm (Sweden) – Helsinki (Finland) – Stockholm (Sweden) via Mariehamn, Aland by the Viking Line Cruise.)
Humble beginnings, with data manipulations
Before Tiwari’s career in predatory publishing, conferences and general swindling took off, he did what his Allahabad associate Prashant Sharma currently does: he manipulated data in order to build himself a publication list. This is an assembly sent to me by a whistleblower. It is probably just a sample.
1. [on validity of Tiwari’s PhD degree, – LS] Ashutosh Tiwari has submitted a PhD diploma when applying for employment at Linköping university. Whether this is a valid diploma should be addressed to the issuing institution (see enclosed cv).
2. According to our records he was employed as forskarassistent (research fellow) from 2011-04-01 to 2013-03-31 and then employed on a fixed-term contract as universitetslektor (senior lecturer) from 2013-04-01 to 2015-03-31. There are no contracts after that.
3. [on why Tiwari presented himself as Professor in public, incl. to his LiU colleagues,-LS] If he has done that it is clearly not correct. Ashutosh Tiwari holds the title of “docent” (see cv) which is similar to habilitation which is sometimes translated as “associate professor” but it is not a position, much less a professor position.
4. [on Sharma’s and Tiwari’s fraudulent papers published in Turner’s Biosensors & Bioelectronics, -LS] That question is not for me or Linköping University to answer but should be addressed to the publishing house.
5. [on LiU subsidies for Tiwari’s Caribbean cruises 2016 and 2017,- LS] As far as we can see there have been no travel reimbursements to Ashutosh Tiwari after his employment terminated in 2015.
Update 17.12.2017. Dean Ulf Nilsson now decided to act on the accusations raised in the comment section below this article:
“I have started investigating those claims that could constitute scientific misconduct”
Update 22.12.2017. as Tiwari frantically deletes his social media and other internet records, I offer this file as compilation of Tiwari’s conference scams, its victims and perpetrators.
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