Elsevier is looking into how one of its journals published a paper which makes bizarre claims about the knowledge of the ancients and contains an acronym with unmistakable and horrific historical significance.
The article, “Puratana Aakasha-Yantrika Nirmana Sadhanavasthu (Ancient Aero-mechanical manufacturing materials),” appeared in a 2017 issue of Materials Today Proceedings and was written by a group of aeronautical engineers in India.
The abstract states:
Aerospace materials of ancient ancestors are more highly advanced than compared to that of modern. This paper introduces modern day rediscoveries and Reinventions from Vimana shasthra. Our team SWASTIK (Scientific Works on Advanced Space Technology Investigators for Knowledge) is group of researchers working on ancient science and technology. Our team’s works on different types of ancient materials properties for advanced space radiation, Raja Loha, A high-heat-absorbing alloy used for the bodies of various flying crafts, preparation, properties of each material in its compositions, and our research works on food, clothing of ancient astronauts and Materials for propulsion like sun crystal, Electromagnets reveal that it results in an advanced interplanetary aerospace materials and are deciphered by our team SWASTIK.
Unless you’re into Black metal (and if you don’t know this genre, Malcolm Gladwell has done the homework), invoking the Third Reich with your group name isn’t a great look. And please, everyone knows the swastika was a symbol long before Hitler and his gang appropriated it as their glyph of choice. Just because you have a right to call yourself something doesn’t mean you should. After all, no one has heard of the North American Zoological Informatics Society for a good reason.
So SWASTIK in the abstract should have given at least one editor over at MTP pause. But as commenters on PubPeer noted, a quick read of the manuscript would have revealed problems far deeper than a stupid initialism.
One quoted this passage:
Another direct quote from the article: “Ancient ancestors had 12 strand DNA, hence had more intelligence than modern humans. Ancient ancestors coded advanced science and technology in Sanskrit texts. In the process of giving their valuable information to the next generations of human race, Maharshi bharadwaja and several other ancient scientists or Rushis provided us Texts like Vimana shasthra.”
An Elsevier spokesperson told us:
This unorthodox paper was presented at the International Conference on Advancements in Aeromechanical Materials for Manufacturing (ICAAMM-2016). We are working with the Guest Editor to assess the process that led to its publication in the conference proceedings.
But another Elsevier exec, William Gunn, shrugged off the mess, tweeting (make sure to play the gif):
Elsevier publishes 500k articles a year, reviews millions. Some bullshit is going to slip through the cracks. pic.twitter.com/mv8pniRH7P
— mrgunn (@mrgunn) March 26, 2019
Failing to edit a journal is a good way to make sure those cracks are wide enough to fit the whole bull. And we’ll note this isn’t the first such case for Elsevier.
Asked about the name of the research group, Eshwar Reddy Cholleti, the corresponding author of the paper, told Retraction Watch cryptically:
Scientific Works on Advanced Space Technology Investigators for Knowledge – SWASTIK is our Research group formed my top Scientists, Engineers and Research scholars across the globe. This name will not cause any trouble to you personally i hope.
Bonus: If you’re looking for more unfortunate acronyms, look no further.
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