Thinking about that plagiarizing Indian professor brings up the same thought I always have in these situations: what on Earth is going through the heads of these people?
I can tell you, honestly, that I have never faked any data. (That phrase makes me remember, though, that one of the most crazed fabulists I’ve ever known started a good number of his sentences with the phrase “I tell you honestly”). I would feel nervous and guilty about making up so much as an NMR coupling constant – I freely admit to having put down “10 Hz” for something that might well be 9 on closer inspection, but making it up without having even looked? No way. It’s not like I have a halo over my head, but hey, these things are real numbers that people can check. You’d think that if a person feels the need to lie about things that they’d pick something else to lie about. I can see telling people that the check is in the mail, or that yes, I did indeed read every word of your insightful memo, but I can’t see telling someone that I made some compound that I didn’t make.
So, then, faking up a whole publication? How can you do that and sleep at night? Even if it’s just some obscure analytical method, published in a journal that no one has ever read an issue of front to back, how can you do that? Well, then, how about sixty or seventy of the damn things over a period of a few years – that’s what this guy did, after all.
And I think that, other than the (to me) incomprehensible mental angle, what I feel about this sort of thing is anger. Although I work in a very applied research field, I think that scientific research is generally a good thing in and of itself. I’m signed up with Francis Bacon and his program “for the effecting of all things possible”. (Peter Medawar's thoughts on this are well worth reading). So this sort of cynical fakery really gets to me, because it’s the work of someone who, in the end, figures that science and data are just stuff to use to get what you want. They’ve no intrinsic value. It’s not like anyone cares, right?
It’s like watching a pastry shop mix ground cardboard into their muffins – hey, you get more muffins that way, and what good are the damn things anyway if not to unload them on the idiot customers for cash? So for anyone who came to Chiranjeevi’s work for anything useful (God help ‘em), well, his message to you is to stick it in your ear. “Useful for you” isn’t anything he cares about. What he’s interested in, of course, is “useful for him”, and that’s what the whole enterprise of science comes down to for someone like this: a means to an end. And what mighty end is that? Why, advancement at Sri Venkateswara University, of course. And some pocket money. And a longer CV. Noble stuff, isn’t it?