This article was originally written on online platform the wire and appeared on September 18, 2021.
On August 4, 2021, Mohana Basu of The Print reported that almost a dozen papers coauthored by a scientist at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, who was also an assembly poll candidate for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the West Bengal assembly polls earlier this year, had been flagged for potential manipulation.
Eleven papers coauthored by Gobardhan Das, a professor of molecular medicine, have been flagged on the independent peer-review platform PubPeer over the last two months. Basu had written in her report: “Das … is the corresponding or main author of eight of these papers and a co-author for the rest. Ved Prakash Dwivedi, a researcher at the Delhi-based International Centre for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, is a co-author of five of the 11 papers. Anand Ranganathan, a professor at the same JNU centre” – the Special Centre for Molecular Medicine – is a co-author of three of the 11 papers, among others.”
Basu reported for The Print that Das believed that he was being targeted on PubPeer for his political affiliation, and quoted Dwivedi saying that the issued raised on the platform were being dealt with there itself. But since Basu’s article was published, she has been named in a lawsuit by Das alleging (civil) defamation, along with The Print‘s editor Shekhar Gupta, independent journalists Priyanka Pulla and Saba Naqvi, and the Twitter company.
Both Pulla and Naqvi have been named because they published tweets about Basu’s report and the reviewers’ comments published in PubPeer.
The civil suit, a copy of which The Wire Science has seen, has been filed at the Patiala house court, New Delhi, and is dated August 31, 2021. It says that Das believes he “is at the receiving end of a conspiracy to discredit him and his work at the behest of certain envious co-professionals”.
Through the suit, Das is seeking Rs 50 lakh as “damages for the loss of reputation” and a permanent injunction against Shekhar Gupta, Mohana Basu, Priyanka Pulla and Saba Naqvi “to cease the publication of articles, tweets, etc. that are palpably defamatory” against Das.
With the lawsuit, Gobardhan Das is now in the company of many other scientists, and in fact authors of research reports in general, around the world who have clashed with journalists over questions about the former’s work and integrity.