India’s Kalasalingam University swiftly fires professor, kicks out six students after data manipulation scandal

Kalasalingam University in India has fired a professor who last month blamed unethical students for data manipulation that forced the retraction of three papers amid questions about five more.

As Krishna Pillai of the K2P blog reports, Sangiliyandi Gurunathan, head of Kalasalingam’s biotechnology department, was asked to resign, and did so on Friday, August 5. Kalasalingam also revoked the registrations of six graduate students who were co-authors on the retracted papers. Here’s the university press release with the details.

In comments to Retraction Watch for our earlier post, Gurunathan laid the blame on unethical students and journals, although his story didn’t quite hold together:

When I was in sabbatical leave my three students did mistakes without my knowledge, they committed their mistakes themselves. They committed only after detailed investigation. If they could inform in advance at least it shouldn’t be taken this much of damage to  my lab as well as institute.

He also said that three graduate students would have to repeat their experiments and submit them in a year. We assume those three were among those now dismissed by Kalasalingam. We’ve contacted Gurunathan and will update with anything we hear back.

A Gurunathan withdrawal has appeared on Retraction Watch before. In October, we reported, thanks to Pillai, on Gurunathan’s retraction of “Nanosilver — The burgeoning therapeutic molecule and its green synthesis” from Biotechnology Advances. That retraction was for duplication of previously published material.

The move by Kalasalingam seems quite swift in comparison to those of other institutions. It seems to have been precipitated by a July 27 email to the university from Pillai in which he linked to our post and his own about the retractions.

9 thoughts on “India’s Kalasalingam University swiftly fires professor, kicks out six students after data manipulation scandal”

    1. Exactly — some places seem to care about their reputation and/or simply follow ethical principles (also see Carsten Carlberg’s firing at the University of Luxembourg, Rik van Parijs at MIT, and others). On the other hand, at FZ Borstel, people like Silvia Bulfone-Paus or Naoki Mori at Ryukyus University stay employed regardless of the huge damage they caused. A third group of institutions seem to take action only after pressure emanates from the media, like UEL in Jatinder Ahluwahlia’s case, Copenhagen University with Milena Penkowa, or the University of Eastern Finland (Carsten Carlberg’s other position).

      1. A slight danger may have been that they are too quick. That is, did they do a really thorough investigation? Perhaps there is an institutional problem resulting in poor ethics of some researchers.

      2. Maybe yes, maybe no. Obvious fraud like this case is probably a lot easier and cheaper to deal with by immediately parting with the responsible parties. I can somehow sympathize with this strategy, but of course, it has its drawbacks, too.

    2. More thoroughly than you’d guess. I got curious and did some looking. Not long ago, Kalasalingam was essentially just a local trade school. It’s located way out in the boondocks of Tamil Nadu. The university has worked very hard to move up in the world over the last 15-20 years. The biotech department was a substantial part of that effort, and Dr Sangiliyandi seems to have been a big investment by the university. He was chairman of the department, responsible for roughly 85% of the research funding, and had his name on a similar proportion of its research publications. Fortunately, Kalasalingam runs a tight ship and seems to have close relations with scientists and administrators at the much bigger Madurai Kamaraj University up the road. They’ll need the help at Kalasalingam, since this essentially guts the whole department.

      I emphasize that I have no personal knowledge of any of this. This all just Google due diligence — and altogether too much experience cleaning up after … personnel issues … have occurred.

  1. Sangliyandi has got his Ph.D from Madurai Kamaraj University. His thesis and research works in the university have to be reviewed strictly with immediate effect. A civil case can also be handled to investigate this issue. The cooperation from Both of the universities (Kalasalingam University and MK University) in this regard would be highly appreciated.

    Thanks to the Vice Chancellor Dr. Radhakrishnan for having him fired immediately from the University.

  2. I had known Sangliyandi from his post doc at weizmann institute of Science. He was a very diligent researcher with care for ethics and details. He was put in a lot of effort on experiments and the manuscript. While I am at no liberty to take sides, I believe that he is not a kind of person who would have actively supported this kind of manipulation. He once resigned from a lab because he was forced to get results which could fit with the grant that was submitted. I think a thorough investigation into the matter is warranted before the entire blame is put on him. It should be his duty to have investigated the paper with due diligence, but due to the pressures of being the “center fold” of the university, he might have been bogged down with a lot of activities stealing his time. Hope that there will be a detailed investigation into the events.
    Thank you for the information.

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