The Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden is quite busy these days with the affair around their fake professor Ashutosh Tiwari, trying to figure out what actually happened inside their own Department of Physics, Chemistry and Biology (IFM). How could a person with some very shady claims to a doctorate, a publication list consisting mostly of papers in his own private predatory journal, titles and awards from his own fake research institutions and predatory conferences fool the system for years in this way? How could he get the prestigious Marie-Curie fellowship, which in turn delivered him a habilitation degree of Docent at LiU and grant money from Swedish public? In this regard, how could he have just last year been awarded funding from the Swedish Research Council, Vetenskapsrådet (VR) if he wasn’t even employed at LiU or anywhere else since early 2015?
The answer is: with bold chutzpah and even bolder support from certain Swedish professors. First and foremost, from his mentor, the LiU bioelectronics professor Anthony “Tony” Turner, who conveniently accepted a large number of Tiwari-coauthored papers in his Elsevier journal Bionsensors and Bioelectronics, and played a key role in Tiwari being awarded the Marie-Curie fellowship and the docent degree. Others helped along, a recommendation letter from a Malmö biochemistry professor proves a particularly bizarre piece of evidence of how Tiwari’s fraud was interpreted as superhuman genius achievements. Tiwari came to LiU from Cranfield University in UK in spring 2011 with a Marie-Curie fellowship worth €180k for his salary of 2 years. His host for this fellowship was Turner, who holds next to LiU another professorship at Cranfield. The scientific goal of this project was to design a switchable nano-bioreactor, a project description which seems somewhat similar to that of another Marie Curie fellowship, awarded to another postdoc of Turner two years before in 2009, Songjun Li, and allocated to Cranfield University. This issue of possible overlap of these two funded grant proposals is now being addressed by the Research Executive Agency (REA) responsible for managing the MSCA Individual Fellowships and their Anti-Fraud team, as an EU official informed me.
Because of this prestigious fellowship, Tiwari became in September 2013 docent at LiU. Thanks to Swedish Freedom of Information (FOI), I obtained the documents required by LiU regulations for such a qualification. These are for example the following:
1. Statement from the promoter, including the proposal on an external expert
2. Certificate showing completion of studies in teaching and learning in higher education (in particular the course on supervision of research students, including the faculty-specific part).
3. Documentation of research supervision, preferably through an extract from
the Ladok student registry.
On February 13th 2013, Turner proposed to award his protégé with a docent degree, typos his (or maybe Tiwari’s):
I fully support Dr Ashutosh Tiwari being permitted to enter the Docent programme of Linköping University. He won a prestigious EU Marie Curie Fellowship to joing us and then was instrumental in winning a VR grant. He is carrying out first-rate research, supervising students, has organised a number of international events on behalf of Linköping University, has an excellent publication record and has recently designed a PhD course for us. If the he becomes a Docent, it will benefit the University in term of both research and teaching.
Professor Anthony P F Turner PhD, DSc, FRSC
Head of Division
Head of Biosensors & Bioelectronics Centre”
LiU dean Ulf Nilsson explained to me that “to be eligible to become docent you have to have at least one year of co-supervision; that’s primarily to fully benefit from the supervision course“. At that time point in 2013 however Tiwari hasn’t supervised many people (in fact, Turner’s students accused Tiwari of not supervising them at all, but stealing their data and publishing it as his own, in his own predatory journal). The PhD student, whose co-supervision Tiwari was officially doing to qualify for the docent degree, only started his PhD in April 2012 and also he declared not to have been supervised by Tiwari in reality. But Tiwari did complete his supervision course on March 14th 2013, with “satisfactory results”, where he had to write a “written reflection on the topic of research supervision”.
What Tiwari also needed, was an external assessment, to go along with Turner’s promotion statement. And this is where it gets really funny. The assessment was prepared by the biochemist Tautgirdas Ruzgas, professor for Biomedical Technology at Malmö University, and it reads as either a cry for help or a sarcastic attempt at trolling from a bedazzled scientist who cannot believe LiU was about to embarrass itself by making an utter fake a member of their academic teaching staff. Here it begins, in English:
“Ashutosh Tiwari (born 78) defended PhD thesis “Chemical study of plant seed gums” at University of Allahabad, India, in 2005. His PhD certificate and CV do not specify the science subject of PhD thesis. However, judging from the thesis title, master and bachelor education the subject of the PhD thesis is, the most probably, materials chemistry, physical chemistry, organic chemistry, polymer chemistry or similar with the gravity in chemistry”.
Many were surely wondering what that piece of paper was which Tiwari presented as his 2005 PhD certificate from Allahabad. But Sweden being Sweden, noone dared to check it for authenticity or to ask Tiwari to show his dissertation, for fear of sounding rude or aggressive. Ruzgas’ letter gets even better with next paragraph.
“After PhD defence Ashutosh Tiwari joined National Physical Laboratory, India, and after some years had a postdoc stay at University of Wisconsin, USA. He visited a number of other universities in Japan, China, UK, etc. From CV it is difficult to judge the durations of these stays since for a period of eight years after the PhD defence Ashutosh Tiwari accounts for about 22-year academic/professional experience. This is probably mistake in the CV or he must have hold different positions at different universities at the same time”.
Indeed, which one of us didn’t accidentally claim to ourselves a 22 year academic experience where your PhD was only 8 years ago, and your MSc degree diploma dated just two more years back. Thing is, whose academic experience did Tiwari assign to himself really? His nameis not that rare in India, in fact there are even professors by the name of Ashutosh Tiwari in Utah, in Michigan, in Sheffield and even one in Cranfield, all working on nanotechnology, material science or biochemistry related subjects. Did the LiU nano-biosensor specialist under Turner’s auspices really present only his own academic publishing achievements when obtaining that Marie Curie fellowship and other types of grant funding? It is now for LiU, VR and Marie Curie Actions to investigate. Back to the Ruzgas’ letter, for the pièce de résistance:
“Scientific production of Ashutosh Tiwari is impressive. After PhD defence he has published more than 60 articles in scientific journals. During the last years (2009-2012) he publishes more than ten publications annually, including papers in scientific journals and book chapters. E.g., in 2012 he published eight scientific papers and 16 book chapters. He also acted as an editor of ten books on nanomaterials, biomaterials and their biomedical applications. The majority of publications are in the journals with impact factor between two and seven, which is usual for journals reporting on applied research in chemistry and physics. Impressive is also Tiwari’s involvement in the organisation of conferences and the contribution with invited talks. This undoubtedly indicates his ability to identify, formulate and communicate research problems and results. Ashutosh Tiwari serves as an editor-in-chief of scientific journal Advanced Materials Letters.”
Step by step. A postdoc churning out 10 papers a year, with 60 papers in 8 years, is this really a sign of a genius or the biggest red flag one can wave at you? What kind of academic culture is it to confuse the number of published papers with actual quality of actual research? Again, are those really the papers of this particular Ashutosh Tiwari? And with those which are really his, is it really such a minor issue that they mostly appeared in an obviously predatory journal Advanced Materials Letters which Tiwari himself is editor-in-chief of? Should every postdoc now set up own fake journals to boost one’s own publication and citation record?
This is an example of data manipulations in papers Tiwari published in “proper” journals, and used to obtain his Marie Curie fellowship (as flagged on PubPeer):
As for Tiwari’s teaching merits, Ruzgas had this to say:
“Teaching engagements of Ashutosh Tiwari can be illustrated by his involvement in giving lectures and seminars at the courses such as Introduction to biosensors (Introduktion till biosensorik) at IFM, Linköping University. There he has also developed PhD course on Integrated Biomaterials for Medical Devices […] The topics coincide well with the research profile of Ashutosh Tiwari. Tiwari is also responsible for the examination at this PhD course. The evaluation of the course by students is lacking, because the course started just recently. However, taking into account that Tiwari has delivered several invited lectures at scientific conferences after his PhD defence as well as that he was organising several scientific conferences it is very reasonable to assume that Ashutosh Tiwari has sufficient ability to handle lectures and seminars with high responsibility, including planning, implementation, assessment and feedback.
Ashutosh Tiwari has acted as editor of 13 books some of them devoted to broad audience including students. This should be counted as a extremely valuable contribution in concluding on the pedagogic merits of Ashutosh Tiwari”.
Oh, if they just waited for student evaluation of Tiwari’s teaching. Otherwise, these below were the conferences Tiwari spoke at before he applied for docent degree, from his own CV:
Maybe they were really something very big and international, Ruzgas and LiU professors were certainly very impressed. Are you?
And so Tiwari became docent. He never was a LiU professor, but it didn’t stop him from calling himself one, and in fact even Turner called him professor, in public and on many occasions. Yet in March 2015, Tiwari’s employment at LiU ended. Which did not prevent him from organising predatory conferences using LiU affiliation and even parading the university as organiser. The fake professor used to haunt IFM until December 2017, as evidenced by the photographs taken by his partner in predatory publishing and conference business and IFM researcher Mikael Syväjärvi. The LiU investigation was announced following my reporting just as Syväjärvi and Tiwari were in India, on conference business.
Tiwari may have left employment at LiU in March 2015, but he did not leave Turner, who made sure his protégé’s predatory conferences and publishing businesses got proper advertisement. In fact, IFM’s Activity Report of 2016 presented the fake professor as a real associate professor at Turner’s department. Below excerpts from that report.
Another Tiwari mystery is how he managed to be awarded research funding while not being employed at LiU or anywhere else anymore, except at his own predatory business outlet VBRI. Because last year, Tiwari and Syväjarvi became partners on a large VR grant (4.3-2016-6014), as LiU announced on February 26th 2017:
“New grant in Strong research environments
Mikael Syväjärvi is partner by carbon allotropes growth process on epitaxial graphene with Uppsala University, Kiel University and the Biosensors team
headed by Ashutosh Tiwari at Linköping University in combinations of hybrid nanomaterials as stimuli-enabled energy materials for smart bioelectronic
devices. 18 projects were selected from 222 applications. The total budget is 24 million SEK over 6 years”.
The VR registrar informed me there was in fact another grant proposal, submitted by Tiwari in 2017, which was not funded (4.3-2017-4698). Obviously, a self-employed person outside of academia cannot apply for public research funding. Tiwari’s applications to VR after 2015 were possible simply because he lied. He claimed he still works at LiU in the two CV he submitted to VR (here and here).
However, you cannot submit such a VR application behind your former university’s back. The prefect of the department has to sign it, and the prefect of IFM used to be until the end of last year Ulf Karlsson. The same one whose full support Turner was boasting in his Christmas message. Why did Karlsson approve Tiwari as grant participant, and waved through the lie about his non-existent LiU employment? This is now for the LiU investigation to find out.
Update 13.01.2018. As Tiwari’s and Syväjörvi’s conference records disappear from internet, here some backups. Scientists in the field should check if their names were listed in organising committees, without their knowledge or approval (as it apparently happened to Alexandr Talyzin, see comment below)
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