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.

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Predatory conference organisers, celebrating in March 2017 near Singapore. From right: Tony Turner, Ashutosh Tiwari, Hisatoshi Kobayashi, Mikael Syväjärvi. From latter’s public Facebook profile.

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):

“Dear Professors,

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.

Yours sincerely,
Professor Anthony P F Turner PhD, DSc, FRSC
Head of Division
Head of Biosensors & Bioelectronics Centre”

screenshot-drive.google.com-2018-01-10-21-44-18

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”.

screenshot-drive.google.com-2018-01-10-22-48-28
IFM faculty recommends Tiwari for Docent degree

 

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”.

screenshot-drive.google.com-2017-12-16-12-13-56

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):

image-1514733235775

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?

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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.

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Syväjärvi is displeased and is not pussy-footing around.

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”.

screenshot-www.swecris.se-2018-01-10-22-57-24
Tiwari’s past and current research grants

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).

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From Tiwari’s CV submitted together with a grant application to VR. He claims to still work at LiU

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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10 thoughts on “How scam artist Ashutosh Tiwari played Linköping University

  1. I received this message from Alexander Talyzin, Senior Lecturer at Department of Physics, Umeå University:

    “Thanks to your investigative publication I discovered my name on the list of “local” organizers for European Advanced Materials Congress, August 2017. I never provided my consent for that and wasn’t aware of the fact. My message to the chairman of conference was not answered. Therefore, I downloaded the file with list of organizing committee members and reported this accident to LiU on 18th of December. I am aware that at least some of other local and international “members” were also added to the lists of conference organizers without their knowledge. I received reply from LiU. They ensured me that the issue will be carefully investigated. Note that I attended previous conference in 2016 and agreed to be listed as a member of organizing committee for “Global Graphene Forum”. The tweets which you and some other people recently forwarded to me can be considered as a sign that the investigation had started. I hope that LiU will provide further information about the subject once they complete their investigation”.

    Talyzin also provided me with a conference brochure for this European Advanced Materials Congress, which took place on a Baltic cruise ship in August 2017. The conference was organised by Tiwari and Zhong-Lin Wang, professor at Georgia Tech in USA and EiC of Nano Energy, published by Elsevier (Tiwari and his associate Prashant Sharma authored a number of papers in this journal)

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  2. Both Ashutosh Tiwari and Dr. Mikael Syväjärvi are waiting for opening ceremony of VBRI(?) office in New Delhi. Next step of predatory research works?

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  3. I will now share 3 different out-of-office auto-replies of Tony Turner. The last one is revealing.
    8.12.2017:

    “I will be out of the office now until 11.30 on Monday 11 December, attending a Symposium and working in Malmö.
    Please note that I now work half-time in Linköping and will only be available there on alternate weeks.
    If you have an urgent issue, please contact Anette Andersson on [contact removed, -LS]
    With very best regards,
    Tony Turner
    Biosensors & Bioelectronics Centre
    https://liu.se/en/employee/anttu13
    Phone: 013 28 26 04″

    14.12.2017, the day my first Tiwari article was published:

    “I will be out of the office now until 11.30 on Monday 8 January 2018, taking a vacation. May I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New year!
    Please note that I now work half-time in Linköping and will only be available there on alternate weeks.
    If you have an urgent issue, please contact Anette Andersson [contact removed, -LS]
    With very best regards,
    Tony Turner
    Biosensors & Bioelectronics Centre
    https://liu.se/en/employee/anttu13
    Phone: 013 28 26 04″

    13.01.2018:

    “I will be out of the office now until 09.30 on Monday 15 January 2018, working in Malmö.
    Please note that I now have 50% leave of absence from Linköping and will only be available here on alternate weeks.
    If you have an urgent issue, please contact Anette Andersson [contact removed, -LS]
    With very best regards,
    Tony Turner
    Emeritus Professor of Biosensors & Bioelectronics
    https://liu.se/en/employee/anttu13
    Phone: 013 28 26 04″

    The last emails is signed with Emeritus Professor (and the website lists him as such), which suggests Turner has retired after his Christmas holidays. He is 67.
    Turner might be busy at Malmö with the company Innovosens, where also Tiwari’s external evaluator Ruzgas is associated with since 2017

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  4. The link available in his auto reply clearly says that (under current position heading) he is in Editorial & Advisory board of Advanced Materials Letters, the journal run by Ashutosh Tiwari. If Prof. Tony Turner retired from LIU, the damage may created to LIU by him and fake prof. Ashutosh Tiwari can be resolved?

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  5. TIWARI and VBRI Finances and earnings, Tax returns from predatory journal article charges (APC) and predatory conference attendance fees ( totaling thousands of Euros, 2010-2017) needs to be audited by the Swedish Tax Agency.

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  6. Our university does not seem impressed with Tiwari’s scrubbing of his internet sites:

    ‘“The researcher in question has never been a professor at Linköping University, and the employment ended in 2015,” Ulf Nilsson, dean of the Faculty of Science and Engineering, states. He points out that the researcher is still presenting erroneous information, for example in advertisements for planned conferences.’

    https://liu.se/en/news-item/har-inte-varit-professor

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  7. “This is an example of data manipulations in papers Tiwari published in “proper” journals, and used to obtain his Marie Curie fellowship”

    I don’t think you are giving Tiwari sufficient credit for the improvements in his scientific standards. Looking over his entries at PubPeer, most of the obvious image re-use occurred an ‘early period’ in his career. There are two “film vacuum-deposition” papers co-authored with Songjun Li, from 2008 and 2011:
    “Vacuum-Deposited Poly(o-phenylenediamine)/WO3·nH2O Nanocomposite Thin Film for NO2 Gas Sensor”
    “Vacuum-Deposited Thin Film of Aniline–Formaldehyde Condensate/WO3·nH2O Nanocomposite for NO2 Gas Sensor”
    — which are illustrated with the same image, despite differences in the materials.

    And slightly earlier, a burst of enthusiasm for experiments bent on merging or “grafting” synthetic polymers with local, artisanal materials (Guar gum, gum arabic, chitosan) to yield “biopolymer hybrids”. It is tempting to blame the re-use of imagery in these publications on his co-authors at the University of Allahabad, though one must admit, he was sole author on a couple of them.

    “Microwave-induced synthesis of electrical conducting gum acacia-graft-polyaniline”
    “Gum Arabic‐Graft‐Polyaniline: An Electrically Active Redox Biomaterial for Sensor Applications”
    “Synthesis and characterization of pH switching electrical conducting biopolymer hybrids for sensor applications”
    “Microwave synthesized chitosan-graft-poly(methylmethacrylate): An efficient Zn2+ ion binder”
    “Synthesis and characterization of novel saponified guar-graft-poly(acrylonitrile)/silica nanocomposite materials”

    Then Tiwari went peripatetic for a year or so, with short post-grad posts in a series of countries, and he seems to have kept his nose clean… most of the more recent PubPeer entries point to lot of empty piffle in his own journal (bestowing honours on his colleagues and superiors), and salami-sliced non-accomplishments. But nothing really egregious.

    I’m not counting those unfortunate collaborations with Sharma and Madhuri that Tiwari published as Editor of a Special Issue of B & B.

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  8. Given the many accusations of idea and data theft that have been levelled against Tiwari from his Swedish sojourn and elsewhere, I think we can explain the odd nugget of near-credibility. Certainly as a scientist he does not pass anyone’s smell-test, and his other frauds will likely bring him to an unpleasant pass soon enough. Unless he disappears and becomes a ragged sanyasin in Manali or somewhere.

    Like

  9. Congrats Leonid, your expose has sparked a scandal, and managed even to elicit notice from your archenemies at Retraction Watch

    http://retractionwatch.com/2018/01/20/weekend-reads-scientists-respond-badly-criticism-hidden-retractions-journal-cancels-issue/

    A journal has canceled a special issue after it discovered the guest editor provided fake credentials. The researcher has also been accused of fraud and scientific misconduct. (Diana Kwon, The Scientist)

    Full story here, with this article mentioned:

    https://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/51363/title/Sensors–Journal-Pulls-Planned-Special-Issue-Due-to-Guest-Editor-s-Fake-Credentials/

    Like

  10. Thank God I didn’t accept the offer from Prof. Turner back in 2010 to join his Biosensor Center at LiU !
    I dodged a massive bullet there !
    Thank you Leonid !

    Like

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