As requested by the Director, TIFR, the TIFR Academic Ethics Committee (TAEC) conducted an enquiry of data manipulation in two recently published papers from the laboratory of an NCBS-TIFR faculty member. The TAEC conducted a thorough investigation, and studied various aspects related to these papers. After careful deliberations, the TAEC has reported its conclusions, which are now available at: https://www.tifr.res.in/TSN/article/Findings_of_the_TAEC.pdf.
This TAEC report has been presented to the Director, TIFR; the TIFR Management; the NCBS-TIFR Management Board; and to representatives of the DAE; who have all accepted its findings.
The TAEC concluded that the NCBS-TIFR management and the Principal Investigator handled the investigation and scientific retraction professionally of the NCB paper. The conclusions of the TAEC investigation were broader in scope but consistent with the main conclusions of the NCBS-TIFR investigation report (2020). Whereas the TAEC found substance in some allegations of authoritarian conduct by the PI in her interactions with and supervision of her lab members, the laboratory members were unanimous in declaring she would never have supported any unethical practice, and that behavioural lapses by the PI did not, in any way, justify dishonest practices by any of her lab members. The TAEC found no malpractice of data or image manipulation in the other paper.
The TAEC pointed out that the NCBS-TIFR Press Release (6th July, 2021, https://news.ncbs.res.in/research/retraction-paper-arati-ramesh-lab-ncbs) on the subject of the retraction did not accurately reflect the findings of their investigations. In particular, the NCBS-TIFR Press Release suggested that the malpractice was carried out by a single individual. The TAEC investigation found this was incorrect, and that a second individual was also responsible for the malpractice. We (NCBS TIFR) regret that an earlier press release gave this incorrect impression.
NCBS-TIFR has already initiated several actions to promote research integrity and to ensure that grievances are addressed in a rapid, fair and transparent manner. NCBS-TIFR and the rest of the TIFR system remain committed to maintaining the highest standards in matters of ethics, scientific output and a safe and collegial work atmosphere.
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