Monday, December 07, 2009

Shiva Ayyadurai rumbles on...

UPDATE 7/12:I notice the folks at the Shiva Ayyadurai Fan Club have linked to my post as alleging a nexus between Nature India and Shiva Ayyadurai. I want to clarify that I am alleging no such thing. I am only saying that they seem to have swallowed one side of the story without asking questions, and given Shiva Ayyadurai (a questionable character) space to vent his spleen on their website without allowing adequate response from CSIR; and they now have some uncomfortable questions to answer.

In my previous post on this subject, I referred to unsubstantiated allegations about Shiva Ayyadurai's unethical behaviour that I had heard. Subsequently, two CSIR scientists, Vinod Scaria and Sridhar Sivasubbu, wrote the same accusations in two Nature Forum posts. Astonishingly, those posts have been removed by the forum administrators: it seems Nature is intent on promoting Shiva Ayyadurai's version of the story and will brook no dissent. However, Scaria's and Sivasubbu's versions are archived here and here respectively -- as of this writing, they look the same to me as the ones that used to be on the Nature forum.

Also, from this post (see comment), it seems that the Nature editors (in London, not India) objected to personal accusations made in those and other posts. I wonder, then, why they agreed not only to publish, but to highlight, accusations made by Shiva Ayyadurai in his article (which continues, as I write, to be frontpaged in the Nature India website) -- accusations which include fraud, financial wrongdoing, and arson to cover up the wrongdoing.

For more entertainment, read the rest of the Shiva Ayyadurai blog.

I think this episode is a disgrace and a blot on Nature's record. (As also the New York Times and others who have given this fraud and sleazeball a pulpit.)

And Nanopolitan has 182 comments and counting. I haven't yet waded through all this.

But, once again, I would like to ask Prof Samir Brahmachari: why was this creature appointed to CSIR-TECH in the first place, and in what capacity was he appointed?

And while CSIR does do some outstanding science and includes some world-class laboratories, there is no doubt that it would benefit greatly from some changes in structure and management, and I hope some well-intentioned, honest, capable and qualified people are already working on it, without seeking their 15 minutes of fame. There are lots of such people in CSIR already (and elsewhere in India). In fact, I think the state of Indian science (including CSIR) is getting better, not worse, and while there is need for further improvement and change, there is no need for panicked reactions.


Ankur Kulkarni said...

Well said Rahul. I am delighted to finally see someone clearly articulate the state of Indian science as *getting better* but in need of improvement. The amount of negativism and cynicism in the 183 (now!) comments on Abi's blog create not just a dismal, but a doomsday a picture. Your statement is refreshing.

Anonymous said...

But why has Nature given this chap a platform? What could be their interest in some Shiva Ayyadurai?

Anonymous said...

I fully agree with Rahul. Why would two scientists revel their names out in public if their stories were not credible? And I do not think there comments were any more personal than what Shiva has used in his article. While Shiva's article still appears in Nature India, it has removed those of Vinod Scaria and Sreedhar Sivasubbu. Nature has biased the story by selectively blocking any comments that are not is Shiva's favor. It is clear that is Nature India is hand-in-glove with Shiva in shaping public opinion of Indian Science. It also adds credibility to the theory that the whole Shiva episode has many more deeper motives than simply a NRI trying to set things right in his home country.
Now with questions being raised about how Shiva used the Nature India article and photoshopped it to appear as if it was published by on his website and CV – a violation of standard ethical scientific practice; removal of four non personal comments from the Freedom for Science blog (a blog supporting Shiva) after they were posted for more than an hour on the site and Shiva’s whole MIT faculty page being hosted at a student website (see updates at, it is clear that there is more to what meets the eye in Shiva’s case.

Anonymous said...

I am a great admirer of Nature journal (Nature publishing Group, London) for the quality of science published by this journal in most cases.
Dr Siddharthan I think given the data you have done some wrong interpretation.
Dr Swapan K Das wrote his comment in response to the news article published by K Jayraman ( in Nature (not in Nature India). His post was submitted on 13th November, 2009 and was posted on 16th November 2009 but then on 20th November it was removed. He then submitted that comment in Nanopolitan (, which you also have seen and made a very sympathetic comment in that blog. That comment was not at all goes in favor of DG-CSIR , it actually supports the allegations (Vindictiveness, Sycophancy and feudalism) made by SA Ayyadurai in chapter7 of CSIR-Tech report and supported by Dr. PM Bhargava of CCMB. In this case bias of Nature was in favor of Dr Brahmachari. But I will say Nature followed their rules of publishing comments.

Commentary published by Shiva Ayyadurai have a digital object identifier (doi:10.1038/nindia.2009.346; Published online 1 December 2009) in Nature India website. At the same time Nature Network Blogs created by Vinod, Sridhar (propaganda in favor of DG-CSIR) and Vpatel (propaganda in favor of SA) are all removed by Nature. So, they all were treated equally without any bias. I am not sure why DG-CSIR is avoiding media; he must have lot of things to hide. DG-CSIR has not written any article from his own scientific endeavor which may be covered by Nature (London) front page.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Anonymous 1109pm -- I'd take you more seriously if you were not anonymous. (Eg, if you in fact work for Nature, then it is highly unethical of you to post this sort of comment anonymously.)

While I am philosophically opposed to censorship, I can see that Nature's editors may feel the need for it now and then. But why then did they publish Ayyadurai's article? Why do they quote his self-created CV without checking, including claims that he created "one of the world's first e-mail systems" in 1979, when e-mail has been around since the 1960s? And did they give CSIR a chance to reply?

As for Ayyadurai's "faculty association with MIT" -- oddly enough, though MIT's main search engine does show him as a "lecturer" in the "department of biological engineering" (and does not say whether he is on the "faculty"), the web page of that department shows no sign of his existence.

Whether Samir Brahmachari is vindictive, feudal or encourages sycophancy is not the point here. The point is Nature's giving a platform to such dubious characters.

Sanjay katri said...

Dear great admirer of Nature journal,
I am not a fan or either side involved in this episode. However you are perhaps a couple of days late in observing that Shiva had originally tailored the Nature India article to appear as if had published it. This article without any DOI was well displayed on his website till bloggers forced him to remove it. I am sure this is not permitted by any scientific standards.
The blog sites of the two CSIR scientist and Vpatel had no more personal comments than what is there in the Nature India commentary published by Shiva. So the question is what is Nature India’s interest in displaying the one sided commentary of Shiva!!!

Anonymous said...

MIT website shows existence of Shiva Ayadurai:

Please go to the main MIT website

Then go at the bottom left of the page for search menu and select people radio button and type in Ayyadurai and then click go.
It will give you a page:

Which says:
There was 1 match to your request.

name: Ayyadurai, Shiva
email: vashiva@MIT.EDU
phone: (617) 452-2464
address: 16-429
department: Department of Biological Engineering
title: Lecturer
Department of biological engineering website ( only displays name of professor level scientists and research staffs but not a lecturer (probably a non-tenure track position). It is easy to understand that person like Shiva who just got is PhD probably at the age of 40+7=47 cannot hold a professor position at MIT. MIT is not CSIR.

Brahmacahri's sycophants have some agenda to protect their corrupt leader. What is your agenda? Hope that is pursuit of truth and a better India.

Again I am unable to expose my indentity. I will be killed on the street of Delhi if I do so.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Anonymous - I mentioned that search hit. It does not say he is faculty. "Faculty" in the US usually means tenure-track, and faculty members are usually listed on the department web page (at a place like MIT I'd expect it to be done as soon as they join).

Wikipedia has a good description of what "lecturer" means in the US. The phrase "faculty lecturer" is unusual -- in fact, lecturers are often graduate students. I see his use of the phrase as another attempt to mislead readers in India, where "lecturer" has a different usage (of British origin).

Anonymous said...

Anonymous agin:
MIT have a "lecture" position for faculty and stuff designation. Unique indeed!!

please read what is MIT lecturer in :

The MIT faculty instructs undergraduate and graduate students, and engages in research. There are 1,009 faculty members (professors of all ranks), including 198 women. Minority group representation among faculty members includes American Indian or Alaskan Native (one woman and two men), Black (10 women and 25 men), Hispanic (two women and 27 men), and Asian (28 women and 97 men); some faculty are members of more than one group. As of October 2008, the Institute's total teaching staff includes:

Professors 650
Associate professors 213
Assistant professors 146
Senior lecturers, lecturers, and professors emeriti 544
Instructors (including technical instructors) 148
Professors of the practice and adjunct faculty 24

MIT employs about 11,500 individuals on campus. In addition to faculty, there are research, library, and administrative staff, as well as many others who—directly or indirectly—support the teaching and research goals of the Institute.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Thanks for the link. That confirms what I thought: lecturers are "staff", not "faculty". In case you didn't read your own link, the title is "Faculty and staff", and the second sentence is "There are 1,009 faculty members (professors of all ranks), including 198 women." This total is indeed of the breakup for professors, associate professors and assistant professors -- not lecturers.

So Shiva Ayyadurai's characterisation of himself as a "faculty lecturer" is indeed a lie.

Ramachandran said...

Our hair spliting analysis indiactes that Siva Ayyadurai should modify his CV from "Faculty Lecturer" of MIT to "Stuff Lecturer" of MIT.
It was a big lie from his side.

Dr. Brahmachari played safe and just corrected his CV and removed his publication rejected by Nature (in 2008)and published in journal of Genetics. I was not sure that bloggers are so powerful.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

The "faculty lecturer" was a minor lie in itself, but part of a pattern. Brahmachari's CV can probably be explained by sloppiness -- he omitted to update it after rejection of the paper (personally, I don't like the idea of referring to papers as "submitted to X journal"). I'd hesitate to call it a lie, especially in isolation.

If anyone can concretely show a pattern of lies (or worse) in Brahmachari's behaviour, that would be worth talking about, but so far nobody is doing that. They are accusing him of bullying, vindictiveness, and so on, but these are vague accusations and no examples are being provided (except for Swapan Das, where it is not clear, even from his own account, who is at fault).

Those who think that, even if Shiva Ayyadurai is a fraud and scamster, the accusations in his report deserve to be discussed, are totally wrong in my opinion. In fact, to some extent the issue of reforming CSIR has been tainted by association with him. If anyone has anything to say without referring to that report, and with some supporting data, please do so (in the appropriate forum -- not on my blog, or the Hindustan Times or Nature India).

Siva said...

In all the comments that has i read on nanopolitan, one is striking. Almost all reporters who covered the episode have American origin. And then Nature resurrects a dead controversy and selectively directs public discussion. Let us not buy the conspiracy theories. Why has Nature done this. Shiva's commentry at best raise to the level of yellow journalism in some hindi language papers.

Anonymous said...

Nature India is run by few people. It has close umblical connection with Nature. Commentaries are solicited. You and me would not write commetary in Nature. So apparently Shiav, in his single paper avatar, is an important person for Nature.

Anonymous said...

The story goes thus. A man with a flowerish first name has an axe to grind. Coz he doesnt continue to have a say in what he considers as his personal fiefdom, a lab. He gets in touch with a man from Killi(mal?)gudi. The gudia jumps at a chance and writes in mother nature. Flowersih would like to carry on the controversy and talks to gudia. Gudia is the regional satrap of india and has his minions in command of nature in india. He gets the commentary placed there. Thats all that happened.

Anonymous said...

Deepak Sardhana's report at Freedom of Science speaks volumes on the Shiva club-Nature hand in glove affair in the entire episode.

"Dr. Killiguddi Jayaraman published Report Row Ousts Indian Scientist in Nature India. Dr. Jayaraman received significant backlash. Nature India’s Editor, Ms. Priyardarshini Subhra then graciously offered Mr. Brahmachari opportunities to write a rebuttal commentary. Mr. Brahmachari vociferously refused."

Interestingly, as per the report, Sardhana knows instantly what transpires at Nature. What else proof do we need to not believe there is somebody in nature, and probably the Nature editor herself passing on real-time information out.

Kudos to Freedom of whatever !!

Arvind said...

The Anonymous above who talked in fables about a man from Killigud can have the satifaction about confirming his hypothesis about the alliance of Pushpa and Killigudi from this news report
Such biased journalism is a disgrace to the profession itself.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Arvind - actually, I agree with Pushpa Bhargava that the scientists shouldn't have gone to the media before it was accepted in a peer-reviewed journal. Also, comparing the time taken to the original multi-year human genome project is misleading. The existing human genome sequence, assembled by the original project, serves as a "scaffold" against which new sequencing efforts can be assembled. The original project had no scaffold. You can compare it with assembling a jigsaw with a few billions of pieces, many of which are identical or almost identical, without knowing the "big picture"; versus assembling it with the big picture available to you, knowing that there are only minor differences from the "reference picture".

Anonymous said...

Please recall that the sequencing of the first human genome was announced by the President Clinton and Tony Blair long before it was published. It seems these guys are right, for once.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

Anonymous: first, just because someone else did it doesn't automatically made it right. Second, the original HGP was an enormous consortium with a substantial amount of internal peer review, as well as enough credibility to get away with this. Third and most important, it was an immensely significant accomplishment and worth announcing before it had gone through the usual amounts of peer review. (Similarly, if the LHC discovers the Higgs boson, I'd expect it to hit the news immediately).

Sequencing a random Indian man's genome, years after the human genome was published, using commercially-available technology and equipment (Illumina/Solexa, according to news reports, at a time when it is being widely (if not yet routinely) done elsewhere, doesn't add up to the same thing -- it is not self-evidently important and indeed, as I say in a new blogpost, there is no science content in the media reports.

If these scientists have done something significant and publish it in a top-tier journal, but are keeping the significant bits under their hats for now, then of course I'll be impressed. But I don't see the need to go to the media at this stage.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Rahul Siddharthan said...

to Anonymous 1:02 am, Dec 15:

I am leaving your comment there, but I want to make it clear to whoever is reading this blog that

1. I do not endorse reader comments.

2. I do not delete comments, since deleting some comments could be seen as implicitly endorsing other comments. This is why I am leaving that comment there.

3. Comments such as the one above could be libellious, and if any injured party in such a case wants to approach Blogger/Google to help in identifying the commenter, I will support such a request. Also, if the injured party requests a comment to be deleted, I will consider that request.

Anonymous said...

Rahul, I think Anonymous at 1.02 AM is libellious, and probably necessitates the removal of the post.

I have gone through the homepage of Mr Scaria, and I find he has an extra-ordinary research career.

His personal homepage is here

Rahul Siddharthan said...

After multiple suggestions, I have deleted the anonymous comment above. I am also closing this thread for comments. If anyone has something newsworthy to talk about and would like to do so here, e-mail me and I'll start a new thread. But I think this particular story is dead, and deservedly so.