The last act of the Ashutosh Tiwari travesty at Linköping University (LiU) in Sweden took place. Once again, it was too embarrassing to watch, as another Swedish university proved itself pathetically helpless and masochistically passive-aggressive when dealing with foreign fraudsters. Even the Swedish media discretely looked away. Tiwari, the fake professor and master of predatory conferences, tripped only over his vanity of gift co-authorship on 3 fraudulent papers by his Allahabad mate Prashant Sharma, a shameless nanotechnology data faker with presently 26 retractions who was originally exposed by Smut Clyde on my site. Two of these 3 Sharma works were published by Tiwari as editor in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics, which is run by his mentor, the now retired LiU professor Anthony “Tony” Turner.
The former department head managed to extract himself from the Tiwari investigation by retracting seven Sharma papers in his journal, and by issuing a ridiculous correction on another paper in Biosensors and Bioelectronics which he coauthored with Tiwari and which contained a fake spectrum plot. There, Turner declared to have been witness to how the raw data from that paper was stolen, together with a laptop on a predatory conference ferry cruise. Another paper in a journal where Turner has no control over as Editor-in-Chief, was exempt from investigation after Turner’s protests. Nobody asked for raw data there. Nobody asked why Turner made Tiwari a docent at LiU based on fraudulent publication record. Nobody asked why Turner kept Tiwari at LiU and helped him obtain governmental funding while not employed at the university anymore.
Otherwise, Tiwari is free to continue with whatever scams he is running in Sweden. His LiU business partner Mikael Syväjärvi was treated as a whistleblower rather than as an accused, and is now also free to continue engaging in predatory scams as much as he likes, provided LiU brand or property is not misappropriated in any way. The university did finally manage to denounce predatory publishing and conferences, but failed to specifically forbid their employees engaging in such scams.
The press release issued by LiU on 7 December 2018 does not name Tiwari, just as the previous LiU investigation didn’t do. Occasional short news blurbs in Swedish media followed this cue. It is not clear if LiU ineptly tries to hide the embarrassment, or actually secretly wants Tiwari to continue with his scams. My own reporting which set the investigations in motion (here, here and here) is mostly referred to as “social media”.
Important vs unimportant things
I did not get those documents from LiU registrar Elias Gustafsson, he namely always refused giving me such material by email and free of charge. Gustafsson himself was member of another investigative team in Tiwari affair, where they addressed administrative aspects of the affair and found out that nothing bad happened except of misuse of LiU’s “brand”. The money Tiwari siphoned from LiU and public funders like Swedish research Council into his predatory businesses? Poppycock. Organising scamferences on cruise ships during work hours? Not seen as an issue. Made lecturer (docent) based on predatory publishing in his own fake journals? Pah. Bullying students and stealing their results? Not interesting, maybe because those were foreign students?
How Tiwari has got to claim his doctorate? That was addressed by the research misconduct investigation, organised by the dean Ulf Nilsson, who also shared the investigative report with me. He was assisted by pro-dean Nicolette Lakemond and LiU professor Svante Gunnarsson. The team proudly announced that Leonid Schneider was wrong and slandered Tiwari when suspecting his University of Allahabad diploma might have been not real:
“Doubts were raised in social media regarding the authenticity and validity of the PhD degree certificate of Tiwari. The diploma was supposedly issued in 2005 by the University of Allahabad, India, but the appearance of a copy of the diploma in one of Tiwari’s job applications brought about claims that the diploma was actually bogus. After several contact attempts and reminders the University of Allahabad officially confirmed on 12 February 2018 via its research section that Tiwari “got the D.Phil. Degree on 11-06-2005 through R.D.C. under the supervision of Dr. Vandana Singh, Department of Chemistry, University of Allahabad.”
Thereafter, Tiwari has personally brought the original diploma and the actual thesis for inspection. Relevant parts have been documented. It is the univocal opinion of the investigation group that Tiwari has submitted a thesis entitled “Chemical Study of Plants Seed Gums” in November 2004. The thesis was successfully defended on 21 April 2005 and Tiwari later earned his final diploma after first obtaining a provisional PhD certificate from the University of Allahabad Research Degree Committee (R.D.C.) on 11 June 2005″.
The investigators chose not to comment of the quality of the thesis itself. It’s a pity, because local sources indicated Tiwari’s dad, the owner of the very shady VBRI legal college in Allahabad, likely “donated” to some officials at the University of Allahabad so his son can call himself Doctor.
Sharma papers of shame
From the investigative report we learn that LiU really hopes for other institutions, e.g in India, as well as other journals, to investigate Tiwari’s other 20 papers flagged on PubPeer. Several of those “papers” were published in the fake professor’s own predatory outlet Advance Materials Letters, so good luck there.
“During the course of the investigation it was found that complaints had been raised against some 25 scientific articles co-authored by Tiwari. Most of the complaints were to be found in PubPeer but some of them-largely overlapping with PubPeer-also emerged in forbetterscience and in meetings with whistleblowers on 21 December 2017 and 20 February 2018.
About 15 of the articles dated back to the period before Tiwari started his employment with Linköping University. Since the term “misconduct in research” is a legal entity used in the Swedish Higher Education Ordinance it was concluded that researchers that, at the time when the research was conducted, had no connection to Linköping University-or Sweden for that matter-could not be held accountable for research conducted entirely outside of Sweden; at least not from a legal point of view. However, even if those articles have not been part of the present investigation, it is the intention to request a full investigation also of those articles by the institutions and journals concerned”.
These 3 papers were recommended for retraction, the latter two are already gone, together with 5 more papers from Tiwari’s Allahabad mate Prashant Sharma, which were retracted at Biosensors and Bioelectronics alone. Tiwari used to be editor there, installed by his mentor and Editor-in-Chief Turner.
Paramita Karfa, Rashmi Madhuri, Prashant K. Sharma, Ashutosh Tiwari,
Designing of transition metal dichalcogenides based different shaped trifunctional electrocatalyst through “adjourn-reaction” scheme.
Nano Energy, (2017).
Santanu Patra, Ekta Roy, Raksha Choudhary, Ashutosh Tiwari, Rashmi Madhuri, Prashant K. Sharma,
Graphene quantum dots decorated Cds doped graphene oxide sheets in dual action mode: As initiator and platform for designing of nimesulide imprinted polymer.
Biosensors and Bioelectronics, 89(1), 627-635 (2017).
Ekta Roy, Santanu Patra, Ashutosh Tiwari, Rashmi Madhuri , Prashant K. Sharma
Single cell imprinting on the surface of Ag-ZnO bimetallic nanoparticle modified graphene oxide sheets for targeted detection, removal and photothermal killing of E. Coli.
Biosensors and Bioelectronics 89(1), 620 626 (2017).
The first paper however was not retracted and it likely never will be, regardless of how much LiU will beg the journal Nano Energy and the publisher Elsevier. The Editor-in-Chief there is another Tiwari partner in scamference business, Zhong-Lin Wang, professor at Georgia Institute of Technology in USA. And unlike Turner, Wang is under no investigation, his university never replied to any of my emails about his extremely active role in promoting Tiwari’s scamferences. Unlike Turner, Wang does not care what LiU decides, and neither does Elsevier. With this publisher (which explained to Turner that I was a “toxic individual”, then moved on to block me on Twitter), editorial independence means delivering papers and citations regardless of any ethics considerations. Retractions spoil statistics, and this is why Elsevier will never interfere if the journal’s editor refuses to act upon retraction requests from institutions. This was what happened in the case of Biomaterials in Macchiarini affair. It is also worth noting that 7 of 9 Sharma retractions at Elsevier took place at Biosensors and Bioelectronics, and the publishers still eagerly accepts fresh new papers from that fraudster.
These 3 papers were the ones which led Tiwari being found guilty of research misconduct by LiU investigation. There, Tiwari defended himself that he was only a “minor co-author”, and he is actually right. But his being the editor of the issue made him responsible. Of course Turner’s being Editor-in-Chief of the journal meant no misconduct responsibility, especially since Turner was quick to pull all offending Sharma papers.
Had Tiwari not asked Sharma for that gift authorship on 3 fraudulent papers, there would be no misconduct findings against him at LiU whatsoever.
The really interesting Tiwari papers were of course the ones without Sharma and his Allahabad partner in fraud, Rashmi Madhuri. Like this one, also published in Turner’s own journal:
Ashutosh Tiwari , Swapneel R. Deshpande , Hisatoshi Kobayashi , Anthony P.F. Turner
Detection of p53 gene point mutation using sequence-specific molecularly imprinted PoPD electrode
Biosensors and Bioelectronics (2012) doi: 10.1016/j.bios.2012.02.053
The paper contained this beauty:
The spectrum plot B is exactly same as C, down to the minutest detail, up until the value of around 800. Such things do not happen naturally, unless you see Tiwari’s fraudulence as a force of nature. The corresponding author Turner wrote to himself, the Editor-in-Chief Turner, asking for a correction of the paper. Unsurprisingly, the Corrigendum went though in July 2018:
“In the absence of any irrefutable explanation for this apparent phenomenon and to avoid any doubt about our conclusions, we have repeated the experiments and wish to substitute the FTIR spectra in Fig. 3 with those below, together with a more detailed explanation of the results.”
An external expert report, which was prepared by biomaterials and nanotechnology scientists Pentti Tengvall of Gothenburg University and Kasper Moth-Paulsen of Chalmers University of Technology was rather tough on that and the previous three papers, in their assessment from August 2018:
“We find that for all the above assessed articles, there exist highly questionable graphics’ elements. Our conclusion is this is a result of plan ned scientific fraud and malpractice. We have in our assessment, based on the instructions that we have received, focused our analysis on the questioned figures only, the articles’ running texts’ were very detailed and extensive, and our competence profile and lack of detailed data mode a deeper results analysis impossible within the timeline of the report. However, due to our conclusions re. the graphics, we do not trust the results as a whole either, and therefore recommend that the articles under scrutiny here as we/1 as the additional articles mentioned above to be retracted. “
The three LiU investigators then asked the authors for raw data. This is how their request was met:
“The authors are unable to provide the original raw data underpinning the article. The data was allegedly stored on a laptop backed-up on an external hard drive. Both the laptop and the back-up were kept in the same bag claimed to have been stolen in August 2015. No other copy of the raw data is claimed to be accessible. The authors contest the external reviewer’s statement that Fig. 3 was “obviously fabricated” but they “cannot dismiss this possibility”.”
Turner declared in his reply that he witnessed both thefts happen on a ferry (obviously during one of Tiwari’s predatory conference he was participating in). He then insisted that “there was no serious deficiency in handling of research data”. LiU investigators decided the following however:
“The investigation group concludes that the authors of Article 4 have deviated severely from good research practice in being unable to present original research data supporting the claims of the original article. The criticism remains standing despite the explanation that the data was stolen, since the authors have failed to secure an independent backup of the original research data. In a similar case, the Expert group for misconduct in research in its ruling (Dnr 0 13-2016) considers serious deficiencies in the handling of research data so serious from a research ethical point of view that the authors were considered accountable of misconduct in research. The main difference here is that some of the experiments have been repeated. The latter, together with what definition of misconduct in research to lean on may lead to different conclusions. Before taking a definite stand on whether the actions related to Article 4 constitute misconduct in research the investigation group recommends that the university, as permitted in the Higher Education Ordinance, requests the opinion of the Expert group for misconduct in research.”
To translate: LiU investigators were afraid to find Turner guilty of research misconduct for publishing similar kind of fake data as Sharma did. The case has been passed on to a higher authority.
Better not to look
The fifth paper, freshly published in Scientific Reports, was removed from the investigation after Turner protested.The main purpose of this study of something, mostly cartoons and drawn colour lines, was to advertise for Tiwari’s phony businesses IAAM and VBRI, from which he pretends to receive funding as made-up grants:
“The authors acknowledge the Institute of Advanced Materials (IAAM, ref. 00554/2013-16), Swedish Institute (SI ref. 00037/2014), Linköping Initiative in Life Science Technologies (LIST), Vinoba Bhave Research Institute (VBRI 2016/Res-01) and Linkoping University for providing financial support and laboratory facilities to carry out this work.”
Naturally, Tiwari pretended to be still affiliated with LiU and declared “no competing financial interests” in his last-author paper:
Md. Ashaduzzaman, Swapneel R. Deshpande, N. Arul Murugan, Yogendra Kumar Mishra, Anthony P. F. Turner, Ashutosh Tiwari
On/off-switchable LSPR nanoimmunoassay for troponin-T.
Scientific Reports (2017) doi: 10.1038/srep44027
One figure in that paper was reported by internal LiU whistleblowers as manipulated, the evidence is not available on PubPeer, unlike the external experts assumed:
The image on the left hand-side is most obviously manipulated, but this is a very new paper and not in Turner’s own journal. What if investigators, warned by paper Nr 4 and stolen laptops, started asking for the raw data behind the spectra representations in that 2017 paper also, which might just as well have been hand-drawn? Luckily, Turner knew when to stop a silly game before it gets too dangerous. He declared that “Nature Publications” had no problem with such image manipulation and had the investigators’ opinion that Tiwari’s Photoshop activities would “deviate from good research practice” stricken and the investigation aborted:
“The complaint concerned an electron micrograph (Fig. 2C(II)) that has unmistakably been modified. The whistleblowers claimed that the image had been manipulated. There is one rectangular area at the top of the image and another rectangular area to the left which evidentially superimpose the original image.
The explanation for the edits, according to Tiwari and Turner, is that the rectangular areas were added for “cosmetic” reasons to make the image comparable in size, proportion and scale to Figs. 2B(I) and 2B(III). The original micrographs dated 28 Sept 2011, 11am-have been independently recovered from the TEM (CM20) file storage and the original image support the explanation given-that is, no significant information is added to or discarded from the original image. As a consequence, the article was taken off the investigation.”
The end result was a passive-aggressive decision, where investigation was dropped, no raw data beyond the offending image was requested, but hints were made that Turner’s attitude to research integrity was not at all OK:
“Inspection of the original micrograph indicates that the superimposed rectangular areas added in the published article were most likely not added to mislead and do not in themselves affect the results of the article. Even so the investigation group finds the practice of modifying a scientific image without making appropriate comments in the text highly inappropriate and a deviation from good research practice. Even so, the actions do not constitute misconduct in research in the opinion of the investigation group.”
Otherwise, the investigators criticised that Tiwari was presenting himself as Professor at LiU up to 2018, in his own predatory journal Advanced Material Letters or as editor for MDPI journal Sensors:
“Social media have conveyed a large number of claims regarding Tiwari’s résumé and description of activities. Some of the claims are most likely incorrect-such as the fake PhD diploma-while others have been difficult to underpin. However, Tiwari’s résumé and his description of activities does contain a number of exaggerations, semi-truths and even fabrications that can only be understood as attempts to falsely boost his achievements”
They then dig into Tiwari’s business activities as predatory publisher and scamference organiser. The investigators decide “that Tiwari should be criticized for providing misleading and inflated depiction of activities meant to unjustly boast Tiwari’s own academic career”. This section if very entertaining:
“The scope and nature of Tiwari’s organizations have been difficult to investigate since information-mainly available on the web-has been incomplete, volatile and even inaccessible due to blocking of IP-addresses. But a common theme binding them together is that their activities appear to be substantially inflated with a clear intention to mislead. For instance, in the web pages of Vinoba Bhave Research Institute photos of labs from Linköping University were used to convey an impression of academic activities that did not exist. Similarly, the Institute of Advance Materials-seemingly a research institute with Tiwari as director-was described literary as “nothing” by Mikael Syväjärvi, principal research engineer at Linköping University, and supposedly co-director of the same institute.
The organization IAAM appears to have had some substance but the extent of activities is unclear. It is a registered, non-profit organization in Sweden since 2016 with a board where Tiwari is “Secretary General”; a role that he has had since 2010 according to his résumé. The association has members and statutes as requested by Swedish law but the number of registered members (allegedly in excess of 50 000) is not unlikely exaggerated. IAAM organizes conferences and hands out honorary medals to other well-established researchers in the field, but also to comrades of Tiwari and even to Tiwari himself. Interestingly Syväjärvi who used to be “treasurer” of the board insisted having no knowledge neither of the finances of the association nor the actual number of members”.
You have to imagine this: the investigative committee have the two predatory publishers and scamference organisers, Tiwari and Syväjärvi, sit in front of them, one as accused, one for some reason as just a witness. The investigators cannot access the websites of the predatory journals and scamferences which were even taking place during the investigation, because Tiwari geo-blocked Sweden. They know the websites were geo-blocked, I told this to dean Nilsson. Syväjärvi even went organising such cruise ship conferences during his work time, where he was officially supposed to be at his workplace at LiU, and Nilsson knew it. Tiwari’s mailbox businesses, IAM, IAAM and VBRI Press in Mjärdevi Science Park are literally just across the road, a mere 10 min walk away from Linköping university!
And still, the geo-blocked investigators play helpless. They rely on Syväjärvi’s advice, instead of just walking over, ringing at Teknikringen 4 and asking Tiwari and his wife to show them the impressive state-of-the-art laboratories of IAM and meet the large and professional teams of IAAM and VBRI Press. This is deliberate chickenshittery which cannot be explained rationally. This is the distance diagnosis of predatory publisher VBRI Press and scamference business IAAM, from exactly one kilometre away:
“VBRI Press AB and IAAM are involved in publishing of journals and conferences where in particular the latter in social media are claimed to be of predatory nature. It has not been possible to scrutinize all claims regarding predatory publishing. Getting access to information has been difficult since much of it was cleansed from the web as allegations became known and there have even been attempts to block web access from Swedish IP-addresses. However, the investigation has concluded that both journals and conferences share at least some characteristics of predatory publishing […]
In response to a direct question one of the two editors of the journal of Advanced Materials Proceedings, issued by VBRI Press, was unable to account for if, and in what form, reviewing was carried out. Regarding the quality of journals and conferences several sources report that the quality of contributions at the conferences is not high but have been “reasonable”, to use the formulation of one source, and that no signs of misconduct have been noticed”.
That editor and the source judging the quality of papers and scamference contributions was obviously Syväjärvi, the committee’s own expert advisor. He is now free to continue with whatever scams he does with Tiwari, including during work time as LiU employee. One condition: never use LiU logos or affiliations. Otherwise:
“Even though the full scope and nature of Tiwari’s activities as publisher and conference organizer have been hard to grasp, it is the opinion of the investigation group that Tiwari’s promotional methods and the depiction of the publishing activities on a number of occasions have been carried out with an intention to mislead and to unjustly boast both Tiwari’s own academic career and financial profit.”
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