Saturday, March 24, 2007

Swaminathan's name among 'Biased Scientific Researchers' in Encyclopaedia Britannica

Bias in Scientific Research
Ian St James-Roberts

Intentional bias is a common feature of scientific research. The danger is that fallacious results of such studies mightbe inflicted on the public.

IAN ST. JAMES-ROBERTS is Lecturer in Psychology at the University of London Institute of Education. In his studies of twins Sir Cyril Burt faked his research findings by falsifying some of his data.

On Oct. 24,1976, The Sunday Times of London published dramatic allega­tions that Sir Cyril Burt (1883-1971), considered by many the father of British psychology, had faked some of his research findings. The importance of the allegations derived nbt only from the preeminence of Burt's reputation but also from the wide application of his research in British educational practice; both the adoption of grouping for ability in schools by the 1944 Education Act and the 1929 Wood Report's sexual segregation of mental retardates were based on Burt's finding that intellectual capacity is largely inherited. Thus, the case illustrated the existence of a real danger that the conse­quences of biased research could be inflicted on society. The expose also had two other results. First, it emphasized how difficult the demonstration of deliberate malpractice is; the ensuing debate in The Times and elsewhere was sharply divided according to whether Burt's misrepresentation was regarded as deliberate or unintentional. Second, the case clearly demon­strated the impossibility of rational discussion of such issues. In mid-1977 the Bulletin of the British Psychological Society was still receiving vitriolic and often abusive letters from members of factions both critical and sup­portive of Burt's position.

Intentional and unintentional bias

By way of coincidence, the Burt disclosure came at a time when an attempt to quantify the extent and importance of bias in scientific research was already underway. On Sept. 2,1976, New Scientist had published an article arguing that what could be called "intentional bias" in research required investigation. The argument was based on the premise that the inducements to deliberately bias research were considerable, whereas the constraints operating to detect or punish miscreants were paltry. Perhaps more impor­tant, the article proposed that science's uncritical attitude and the conse­quent lack of information on intentional bias in research were inimical to a discipline whose way of life is based on skepticism. The September 2 article was accompanied by a questionnaire which invited readers to provide infor­mation concerning their experiences of intentional bias. Analyses of the questionnaire replies, 204 of which were received, amply justified the view that intentional bias in science was more prevalent than many would allow. Like beauty, intentional bias is in the eye of the beholder, or rather in this case the experimenter, since only he can know whether an "error" is inten­tional or unintentional. The subtlety of this distinction should not be un-deremphasized. One colleague, for example, communicated that when he had completed an analysis of results he sometimes had a "niggling feeling" that all was not well. It was his experience that if the result of the analysis contradicted his hypothesis, he would check it. If, however, the analysis confirmed his hypothesis, he found that, although never making a deliberate decision not to check, he didn't quite get around to doing it.

The subject of unintentional bias has received considerable attention in scientific literature, and the common use in research of control groups and double-blind procedures is one consequence of the realization of its impor­tance. Perhaps the best-known example of bias presumed to be of this sort is the N-ray scandal of 1903. The case concerned a mysterious ray, analo­gous to the X-ray but with the considerable advantage of being able to penetrate metals. This ray, initially isolated by Rene Blondlot, was soon also identified by dozens of other respectable laboratories, and its characteristics and properties quickly became well known. In 1904, however, Robert W. Wood was able to demonstrate conclusively that the rays did not exist. Given the reputations of those concerned, it seems most likely that the rays were the result of unintentionally biased observation resulting from excessive experimental zeal. In any event, they provide a perfect example of the extent to which fashionability and expectation can overrule the effects of common sense and scientific training.

Science has undoubtedly made considerable progress in developing controls to minimize unintentional bias, and it seems unlikely that an N-ray-like affair could occur today. In the process, however, the idea of intentional bias has been more or less swept under the carpet and the thin and indistinct nature of the line separating the two has been ignored. In this context, it is worthwhile to examine in some detail the cause celebre of scientific fraudPaul Kammerer's experiments on the midwife toadsince it provides an excellent demonstration of how difficult absolute proof of deliberate decep­tion can be.

The midwife toad

The case of the midwife toad (to borrow the title of Arthur Koestler's excel-lent book on the subject) concerns a species of toad that, unlike most others, normally mates on land. In the years up to 1909, Kammerer had managed to persuade several generations of the toad to mate instead in water. This was no mean feat-from both Kammerer's and the toad's point of view-and the technical difficulty of these breeding experiments may be one reason why they do not appear to have been repeated. The difficulty the toad faced was to remain attached, during the long time required for fertilization, to the slippery back of the female. In toads that habitually mate in water, this behavior is facilitated by the existence on the male's hands and feet of "nuptial pads," which assist in clinging. Kammerer's claim was that he had caused these nuptial pads to appear on the limbs of the land-mating toad after only a few generations of forced mating in water. The importance of such a finding would be that it would be contrary to orthodox Darwinism, favoring instead Jean-Baptiste de Lamarck's theory of inheritance. Accord­ing to Darwinian theory, the effects of the environment can be incorporated into the genetic makeup of a species only indirectly, as a result of the "survival of the fittest" dictum. Kammerer's findings suggested that such effects had been incorporated directly into the genetic material and thereaf­ter were passed on as an inherited characteristic to subsequent generations.

Kammerer's results were greeted with hostility because of their controver­sial nature. Initially, there was no consideration of fraud, Kammerer's reputa­tion in general being excellent. Some years after the original work, however, the only laboratory specimen of midwife toad that Kammerer had preserved was found to have been tampered with: the nuptial pads were merely judi­ciously applied india ink. Kammerer subsequently committed suicide and so implicitly accepted the blame for the tampering. However, as Koestler em­phasized, it is by no means certain that Kammerer's suicide is attributable solely to the faked specimen and a possibility also exists that he did not himself apply the ink. One interpretation of the evidence is that, when the midwife toad specimen began to deteriorate, a technician attempted to restore the essential characteristics with ink so that they might be better seen. This kind of refurbishment is by no means uncommon in biology. The existence of the nuptial pads was not, however, ever verified by any other scientific observer.

A significant aspect of the case is that no attempt to repeat Kammerer's results appears to have been made. This is not just because the experiments are so difficult to perform. Scientists are as sensitive to impropriety and stigma as any other group, and one scandal of this sort can make a complete area of inquiry disreputable.

The Kammerer case raises a number of questions. The ethical issues involved in intentional bias are too complex to receive attention here. How-ever, since the subject of the gray area between intentional and unintention­al bias is under consideration, it is appropriate to point out that a similarly indistinct area exists for moral perspectives. Two famous examples may even be seen as evidence that bias in some instances may be to the ultimate good. The best-known concerns statistical reanalysis by R. A. Fisher of Gregor Mendel's data, which form the basis of modern views on heredity. Fisher showed that Mendel's results were just too good to be true—the chances of his getting them, given his research techniques, were something like 1 in 10,000.

Nobody knows whether Mendel deliberately misrepresented his data or not, but it is clear that, whatever the means, the results of his work are of inestimable importance for modern society. A more controversial and recent instance concerns the alleged publication of misleading data on wheat radia­tion mutation by the influential Indian agriculturalist M. S. Swaminathan. Swaminathan claimed that he had increased the protein and lysine content of a strain of wheat by subjecting seeds of a parent strain to a combination of gamma radiation and ultraviolet light. In this case, the issue is not so much whether Swaminathan deliberately fabricated his experiments but rather whether he was less than vigilant in his attitude to the data after it had been discredited. Swaminathan's supporters argued that any carelessness on his part was more than justified by the contribution he had made to the Green Revolution that brought about increased agricultural yields in India. His de­tractors maintained that such calculated unscrupulousness was contrary to the ideals of science and completely inappropriate for a man in such a prestigious position.

Pressures of competition

In trying to understand the reasons for the existence of intentional bias one must think of the scientist as an individual under considerable pressure to obtain particular results. The pressure comes from a number of sources. Research funding from industry, for example from pharmaceutical firms, is normally assigned to groups producing results that look promising from the funder's point of view. The temptation to produce experiments that yield such results is, consequently, a strong one. At a different level, the post­graduate scientist, working strenuously for his Ph.D., is all too aware that his research is funded for a very limited period. If, toward the end of that time, he is failing to get "good" results, the temptation to "improve" the data a little so as to get the Ph.D. must be extraordinary. And also, at all levels, advancement in science depends primarily on publication of impressive research findings. All journals receive far more material for publication than they can possibly handle, so they have to be selective. Selection relates to the importance of findings, and consequently "failed" experimentsthose where hypotheses have not been confirmed and so no "positive" results have been obtainedare seldom published. Once again, therefore, the emphasis is on obtaining clear-cut experimental evidence in favor of predict­ed phenomena.

Two recent examples of fraud were generated in large part by such pres­sures. The first concerned the work of William T. Summerlin at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York City. In 1974 it was discovered that Summerlin had altered the results of experiments so that it appeared that skin and organs maintained for a time in tissue culture could be grafted onto recipient animals without provoking the immune-system reaction that causes transplant rejection. Also in 1974 Walter J. Levy, Jr., the director of the Institute for Parapsychology at Durham, N.C., confessed to falsifying results of his experiments to indicate that rats could anticipate events by means of extrasensory perception and could achieve physical changes by sheer willpower. Both Summerlin and Levy claimed that they had been under considerable pressure to produce positive results.

Every scientist is likely at some time in his career to have to face a choice between morally acceptable and expedient choices of action. While the ethical standards of science are no doubt keenly felt on such occasions, the individual's need to survive must also be taken into account. When ambition and career, to say nothing of more mundane considerations like holding down a job and salary, depend on getting results of a particular sort, it is obvious that expediency must sometimes win.

Sanctions against intentional bias

In contrast to the considerable pressures working in favor of intentional bias, the sanctions operating to prevent it are negligible. The most significant is replication, and it can be argued that intentional bias may safely be ignored because important experiments are always replicated independently by oth­er researchers before their findings are accepted or applied.

For some major advances, there is undoubtedly something in this view­point. For less celebrated work, though, exact replication is seldom carried out and is published even less often; journals are understandably not sympa­thetic to repetitious material. Moreover, the increasing expense and com­plexity of research is making replication even less common. Many experiments involve extremely sophisticated and costly apparatus, which, consequently, exist only in a few laboratories. Access to such apparatus is keenly sought, and it is unlikely that precious apparatus time will be allowed to be used simply for repeating experiments. In other cases, experiments are simply not reproducible, either for technical reasons (as in the Kammerer case) or because of some peculiarity in the design or subject matter. A notorious example of the sort of problem associated with the latter is the Piltdown man, a fraudulent skull specimen that led archaeology astray for more than 40 years before it was discredited.

It could even be argued that the increasing complexity of modern ex­perimentation provides a ready cloak for the would-be charlatan, since dis­crepant results may be explained away as the consequences of equipment or sample idiosyncrasies. Indeed, for obvious and laudable reasons, re­searchers normally go to great trouble to detect possible reasons for dis­crepancies between their own results and those of others. If replication of the experiment, involving systematic testing of each idiosyncrasy, is then attempted, the cost in time and resources is likely to be considerable; a recent disclosure itemized one case in which four man-years had been wasted in this way on a faked original result.

Perhaps the most important reason why detection of intentional bias is unlikely, though, is that experimenters neither want to keep checks on one another nor do they have the time to do so. As indicated earlier, research is an extraordinarily competitive business and time spent overseeing some­one else's work is time deducted from one's own.

New Scientist questionnaire

The questions that made up the New Scientist questionnaire were written with the sort of issues thus far considered very much in mind. The research­ers hoped to obtain information about the circumstances most likely to give rise to intentional bias, about the sort of individual most likely to succumb, and about the likelihood and consequences of detection. In addition, it was hoped that recommendations could be made with respect to the develop­ment of safeguards to minimize intentional bias if they proved to be needed.

Five of the 204 questionnaires received were spoiled, and so analysis involved 199. The questionnaire consisted largely of multiple-choice an­swers, where one or more of several alternatives had to be selected, but in some cases respondents were encouraged to provide additional informa­tion. Some did this, to the extent of sending in letters and complete docu­mented case histories of fraud they had encountered. An important qualification of the survey's data is that respondents were a self-selected (rather than randomly selected) group. In the vast majority of cases (92%) they were individuals who had had some experience of intentional bias, and almost all of them (90%) were in favor of investigation of fraud in science. Although no figures exist, it seems unlikely that such high proportions would be obtained if scientists were selected at random. Hence, the group of respondents must be regarded as "unrepresentative" in the formal statisti­cal sense in that they almost all shared an attitude not necessarily character­istic of all scientists. Of course, this kind of selectivity does not imply dishonesty or even that respondents were necessarily people with a person-al ax to grind. Indeed, the reasoned and dispassionate nature of most of their reponses and the certainty of their evidence suggest that their information is reliable (75% were reporting unequivocal evidence, and in 52% of cases the evidence was based on direct personal experience).

There are other good reasons for assuming respondents to be reason-able, responsible, and mature individuals. Nearly two-thirds were over 30 years of age and one-third were over 40. Their job backgrounds and status varied considerably, but 23% were tenured academic staff and an additional 12% were senior industrial officials.

How, then, is intentional bias detected (question 5) and what is its nature (question 6)? Nearly a fifth of the detections resulted from catching the suspect in the act and nearly as many from confessions, but the principal detection technique involved encountering suspicious data (33%) or replica­tion difficulties (26%). Some respondents rated more than one category, suggesting that encountering one suspicious piece of information some-times leads to a search for others. At first sight, it is reassuring to learn that so many cases of intentional bias are detected through formal scientific procedures of data checking and replication and through rigorous detective work. Since these data concern only those cases actually encountered, however, they may reflect only the ineptitude of the most inefficent and unskilled malpractitioners.

The most common kind of intentional bias detected was data "massage" (74% of total), a category that included deliberate interference with data to make it appear more acceptable. As expected, this area provoked the mostcontroversy. Not all respondents were happy, for example,that omitting to report results that did not conform to overall trends was considered a sin of the same magnitude as relocating decimal points. Others noted that some less than heinous crimes, such as pretending to have run 50 control animals in a biological experiment when only 5 were really run, were commonplace and unimportant. The need to consider each case of intentional bias within its particular context was frequently alluded to. Other types of intentional bias encountered were experiment rigging (17% of total), complete fabrica­tion or plagiarization of an experiment and data (7%), and deliberate misin­terpretation of results (2%).

Part 1 of question 6 yielded 75 research areas and 184 instances of intentionally biased research. Since, however, part 4 of this question indicat­ed that intentional bias was twice as likely to occur often as it was to occur once, it may be assumed that the actual number of cases being reported by respondents was considerably higher. Because of the statistically unrep­resentative nature of the respondents, referred to earlier, it is difficult to know whether the quantitative trends revealed by the answers to question 6 apply to scientific research in general. A reasonable overall conclusion, bearing in mind the heterogeneity of the responses, is that almost every area of re-search appears to be represented. The more obscure areas, such as extra-sensory perception, did not attract an excessively large number of responses. An additional point is that, although the quantity of intentional bias detected is of interest, both the status of the biaser nd the area of research are also important. A music undergraduate's faking, for example, is unlikely to affect others, whereas a single fraud by an eminent medical researcher may prove far more serious.

Although the largest number of intentional biasers were those "junior" in age (20-29) and status (research assistants and associates, postgradu­ates), they by no means dominated the response. A third of the biasers were over 40 at the time of bias, and nearly 60% were over 30. Those in particular­ly prestigious positions (professors, senior lecturers, lecturers, readers, re-search fellows, and industrial staff) among them perpetrated a third of all biased research reported.

Perhaps the most important question concerned what happened to those individuals whose intentional bias had been detected (question 9). In the vast majority of cases (80% of total) the answer was "nothing." A qualifica­tion frequently included was "promoted." Dismissal occurred in 10% of cases and reprimand in 3%. Because these figures concern only those cases actually detected, the low dismissal rates and high likelihood that nothing will happen even if the culprit is detected bear out the study's prior misgivings about the adequacy of existing sanctions against fraud.


Taken as a whole, the results of the survey suggest that intentional bias of one sort or another is a common feature of scientific research and that existing controls are incapable of preventing it. One question that was in­cluded with the subject of controls specifically in mind asked how many scientists were involved in each case of bias because it was anticipated that issue were difficult to evaluate because the relative amounts of research done by groups of different sizes were un­known. It seemed reasonable to assume, however, that most research is done by one or two workers, with decreasing amounts as the size of the group increases. With this proviso taken into account, the responses to the question offer less support than suspected for the effectiveness of multiple experimenters as controls of intentional bias.

Although the proportion of fraudulent experimentation diminishes as the number of experimenters in-creases, nearly half of the intentional bias reported involved more than one experimenter and approximately 15% involved three or more. The informal comments of respondents suggested that an important consideration may be whether they collaborate only afterward, as often happens in multidisci­plinary research.

Insistence on multiple authors for papers and joint running of experiments might, therefore, provide at least some measure of control of intentional bias. What other constraints are possible? Perhaps the simplest would be for journals to insist that experimenters oversee one another's research and retain "open" data books so that anyone can have ready access to their entire data. Such controls are unlikely to be wholly effective, but they may reduce at least some kinds of intentional bias. Whatever methods are used, the cost of controls must be evaluated in terms of inconvenience and loss of time and personal liberty to the research­er.

Source: 1979 Yearbook of Science and the Future, Encyclopaedia Britannica


the following material is reproduced from the Organic Farming Sourcebook, OIB


(Source: John P. Lewis, India’s Political Economy, pp. 113-115 (1995). Available from OIB. (HB) Rs. 495/-).

John P. Lewis includes in his new book a copy of the letter he wrote (see alongside) to the US administration on how they got the Indian government to implement the green revolution without consulting the Cabinet….

“The outcome is all the healthier because our specific role in the exercise has been closely held; indeed, most of the Indian cabinets are not fully aware of it.”

The Administration has a right to feel proud of the progress of its India policy since I last wrote you a month ago about the problems of aid resumption. The US has helped engineer what could be a breakthrough for Indian agricultural expansion:

  1. The new near-term and longer –term agricultural programme that Subramaniam, with Shastri’s support, pressed through the Cabinet and announced in Parliament the week of December 5 has, more solid content and promise than any comparable programme since Independence. It is more radical in its emphasis on

* fertilizer imports.

* enlistment of foreign private investment in fertilizer, pesticide, and seed production, and

* resort to the free market, especially for fertilizer distribution, than anyone could safely have forecast even two months ago.

b. Certainly the timing and probably the content of the new programme owe much to US pressure- both our recent generalized pressure on behalf of agricultural self-reliance and the specific negotiations that reached high gear in the Freeman – Subramaniam Rome talks.

c. The outcome is all the healthier because our specific role in the exercise has been closely held; indeed, most of the Indian cabinets are not fully aware of it.

d. The timing as well as the substance of the President’s December 9 announcement of the 1.5 million tones of wheat and the $50 million fertilizer loan and admirably met the internal Indian political need for a forthcoming US gesture before the Johnson-Shastri talks-especially since the ‘gesture’, instead of being cosmetic, was so plainly responsive to urgent practical needs.

e. Our concern over the near-term food emergency has been emphatic, conspicuous; is appreciated, is helping intensify India’s own preparations for the emergency. (WE shall of necessity be so heavily engaged in this quarter in he next few months that we must take particular pains not to lose sight of the longer-term possibilities and issues that mainly concern us.)

f. The agriculture and food momentum established earlier in the month was reinforced during Subramaniam’s Washington talks.

g. In some ways the most auspicious development of all has been the Indian Government’s reaction to our performance conditioning of the $50 million fertilizer loan:

* The assurances we asked were all sensible, all economic, all in the Indian’s own interest; and we emphasize (i) the directness of our (Pl480-connected) concern over the adequacy of the Indian agricultural effort and (ii) the fact that this new style of AID lending is being adopted worldwide, not just for the subcontinent.

* Nevertheless list of conditions was a yard long and of a kind which would have made the Indians bridle a few months ago.

* Not only did the Government of India give all the requested assurances, including its determination to recruit foreign private investment in about 1 million tones (nitrogen equivalent) of new fertilizer production capacity during the next six months; it gave the assurances briskly and cheerfully, agreeing readily to periodic reviews of progress. Moreover, this streamlised negotiation was conducted, not with Subramaniam’s Food and Agricultural Ministry, but with T.T. Krishnamachari’s Finance Ministry.

* Obviously, the negotiation was facilitated by the fact that the Indians had just adopted most of our conditions on their own the week before. But the very fact that they had done this and then immediately observed the way good self-help pays of should speed the acceptance o similarly conditioned assistance in the future.

Cultural Production Team of the Ford Foundation recommended the intensive approach anew’, (ibid, p.149). And with the visible failure in the Second Plan to get the food to the market in spite of increasing production, a new Intensive Agricultural District Programme (IADP) was launched in the closing years of the Second Plan. The expressed objective o the programme was to concentrate resources and efforts in specially endowed areas. All along, it was made sure that only areas with adequate production potential in terms of assured water and infrastructural facilities be chosen, and that emphasis be directed towards profitability at the farm level.

The ostensible argument in favor o these ‘intensive’ approaches was that resources spread thin over a large area are lost leaving no appreciable effect on production that only a package of practices involving concentrated doses of resources could be technologically effective; and that increased production achieved in these areas with improved practices would have a ‘demonstration’ effect in other areas. The latter argument obviously had no weight – there were just not sufficient resources to spread such ‘intensive’ practices elsewhere-especially in areas which were to begin with not well-endowed’. As for the other argument of technological efficacy of an intensive package the fact is that there were no agricultural technologies in use that could absorb and respond to intensive doses of resources.

Therefore it is not surprising that the efforts of Indian planners to achieve increased production through ‘improved’ practices in areas which did have access to facilities like supply of water and manure, should prove abortive. In fact, the attempt was a complete failure. According to NCAR (Vol.I, p.411) rice yields in the twelve rice districts and wheat yields in the four wheat districts under the IADP, averaged only 13.3 quintals and 13.5 quintals per hectare compared to the pre-package average of 12.4 and 10.2 quintals. AS against these marginal increases in yields, the added costs of the recommended packages were equivalent to 10 quintals of wheat on the average, and 10 to 12.4 quintals paddy for most o the districts. The efficiency of the package for other crops was even worse.

Thus, the intensive package approach to agricultural development being tried out in India since the fifties had really nothing to do with technological efficacy. The policy in fact only expressed a political wish for a technology that would respond to these measures- a technology that would allow the concentration of resources and production in a few compact already surplus areas. The policy was asking for a technology that would achieve technologically what was achieved by the Britishers politically through the landlords – namely, responsiveness of agriculture to the needs of the industry and the market in preference to the life-needs of the cultivators.

In other words, the development sought for in he agricultural sector was not one that would primarily meet the needs of the rural population, but one that would provide resources and capital needed for the industrialization taking place in the urban centers. What was needed was to break the independence of the rural sector and bring it into increasing dependence on the urban sector; make it enter into increasing exchange relations with the latter- the terms of exchange being manipulated to be so unequal as to enable the urban sector to extract the maximum possible surplus from the rural sector. Thus, the need was for a certain technology to be introduced into the agricultural sector that would bring about such a transformation. No such technology was available at the time the intensive approach policy was being formulated and implemented.

By mid-sixties, however, such a technology became available in the form of new ‘miracle seeds’ that had proved successful in Mexico. These seeds were genetically selected to absorb huge doses of chemical fertilizers. Since these seeds had not evolved under natural conditions, they were susceptible to a number of pests and pathogens ad needed to be grown under the protective cover of pesticides. The new seeds also required new sophisticate practices for irrigation, tillage etc. This was just the ideal technology to fit the bill. It would make the policy of concentration of resources economically and technologically viable. At the same time it would make the agriculture critically dependent on industrial inputs like chemical fertilizers and pesticides, and make the cultivator dependent upon the urban expert for the knowledge of the correct agricultural practices, thus removing the “dangerous tendency” of self-sufficiency in the agriculture sector for good.

This technology, being so expensive could not possibly be extended over the a hole country. But that did not matter. All that was required was to make the surplus areas a little more surplus, so that the urban-industrial sector would be assured of its requirements. However there was a snag. Acceptance of this technology would involve import of large amounts of fertilizer and pesticides, for India did not produce these. In the initial stages even seeds would have to be imported.

Providentially, there was a widespread failure of monsoon in 1965 and 1966 in India, as well as over the rest of South Asia and South East Asia. This failure led to the spectre of a major famine – foreign experts predicted doom, some of them suggesting the possibility of one million starvation deaths in Bihar alone (NCAR, Vol.I, p.27; Speech of the Chairman, NCAR, Shri C Subramaniam). This situation removed all hesitation about accepting the new seeds even if it involved massive imports. THE ever helpful attitude f the Ford Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation further encouraged the acceptance of the new technology. And in 1966-67 the New strategy of Agricultural Development, with the programme of introducing the new technology, mainly in the areas covered by IADP and IAAP was launched. Similar programmes were adopted in all o South and South East Asia at around the same time. THE programme was declared an immediate success. This success is what came to be known as the Green Revolution.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Report on the ICAR Enquiry

The Gajendragadkar Report along with the other news reports of the time Dr. M.S. Swaminathan was in the helm of things provide an insight into the way he functions.

Report of the ICAR Enquiry Committee Headed by Dr. P.B. Gajendragadkar
(Abridged and Annotated)

Cover and Chapter 1: Introduction to the Committee
Chapter 2: Scope of the Inquiry and Approach
Chapter 4: Present System of Appointment in Retrospect
Chapter 7: Findings on the statements and allegations made by Late Dr. V. H. Shah

Gajendragadkar Report on ICAR, 1972: Chapter 7 - The Findings





The reference made in the notings on the file regard­ing the fact that Dr. De had been placed at No. 2 in the panel prepared by the selection committee constituted in making selection to the post of Head of the Division of Agronomy in 1966 has not only been quoted out of context but the Secretary IGAR in his note dated 19-8-71 recorded on page 7 of F. 38-18/71-Instt. I, has gone out of his way in mentioning facts about the proceedings which do not appear in its record. The Secretary I CAR has stated as follows :

"In the open competition Dr. Bains was selected by a duly constituted Selection Committee consisting of very eminent scientists. I was myself present as Mem­ber-Secretary of this Committee. Dr. De was placed No. 2 by the Selection Committee. In fact, the Comm­ittee members felt that both Dr. Bains and Dr. De were outstanding candidates for this post and it was a very difficult choice before them as to who should be placed No. 1. Taking into consideration all the factors and the fact that Dr. Bains was the senior person out of the two, he was placed No. 1 and Dr. De No. 2."

It is a matter of deep regret that the Secretary of the ICAR should have made such an elaborate note ent­irely in favour of Dr. De though the contemporaneous record of the proceedings of the Selection Committee do not bear out of these statements. It is thus clear that the Secretary has expressed his impressions about the proceedings of the Committee as to the scientific merits of the candi­dates on the basis of his memory.

The policy followed by the ICAR in making ad hoc appointments was that, as far as possible, they should be avoided. The Committee was told that in the case of ad hoc appointments to the post of Heads of "Division, ICAR itself had taken the stand that it would not be proper to appoint Heads in ad hoc manner. Thus the appointment of Dr. De as ad hoc Head of the Division of Agronomy, IARI, gave rise to the apprehension that he was being favoured and groomed for ultimate selection as Head of the Division.

It is common ground—and if one examines Dr. De's academic qualifications—there is obviously no doubt that Dr. De did not satisfy the essential requirements prescribed by sub-clause (i) of clause (A) of the advertisement issued on 10th May, 1971. He did not have even the B. Sc. Degree in Agriculture and his M. Sc. degree in Agriculture from the Banaras Hindu University included Crop Physiology and its specialisation, and not Agronomy. Similarly, his Ph. D. from the same University was in respect of Crop Physiology and not Agronomy. This position has not been and cannot be disputed. Therefore, the answer to the ques­tion which we have posed at the outset as to whether Dr. De possessed the basic qualifications prescribed for the post of Head of the Division of Agronomy must be in the negative.

It is significant that on this occasion, Dr. M. S. Swaminathan who was the Director of the IARI, had also made a note on 19-6-66 on the same file on page 6/N, and in this note Dr. Swaminathan mentioned names of the candidates who should be called for the interview, but did not include Dr. De's name in that list. It would not be unreasonable to infer that Dr. Swaminathan took the view-that Dr. De did not at that time satisfy the essential quali­fications prescribed for the post and so he did not include his name in the list of the persons who should be called for interview. We are inclined to attach considerable importance to Dr. Swaminathan's note. Despite Dr. Kanwar's note and the omission of Dr. De's name from Dr. Swaminathan's list, the Director-General, Dr. B. P. Pal, ordered that, Dr. De should be called for interview.

In retrospect, it would be permissible to observe that it must have been anticipated in 1966, that to call Dr. De for the interview for the post of the Head of the Divi­sion of Agronomy, notwithstanding the fact that he did not possess the essential qualifications of the post may, in future, help him and it does appear that it did help him because in 1971, when a vacancy occurred, he was called for the interview and, in fact, appointed. The Secretary, ICAR, also cited this selection while supporting the case of Dr. De for ad hoc appointment to this post.

There is another consideration to which we ought to refer in dealing with the question as to whether Dr. De's appointment as Head of the Division of Agronomy was not open to serious objection. We have already referred to the essential qualifications prescribed in the advertisement published for the post and have indicated Dr. De's academic qualifications. In this connection it is important to bear in mind that at the IARI there are different branches of Agronomy, Physiology and Soil Science. In other words, in organising the general Division of Agronomy, IARI have distinguished between agronomy in the narrow sense of the word and physiology and Soil Science. This makes the essential qualifications prescribed by the advertisement most significant and that corroborates the conclusion that Dr. De was not eligible for being called for the interview for the post of Head of the Division of Agronomy much less for the appointment.

We would also like to make some observations regard­ing the manner in which selection to this post was rushed through. Interview for the post of Head of the Division of Agronomy was held on 8-9-71. Some senior scientists of the IARI had approached the Secretary (Agri.) on 30-8-71 and one of the points which they raised before him was that Dr. De did not possess M. Sc. or Ph. D. degree in Agronomy. Secretary (Agri.) in his minute recorded on 30th August, 1971 suggested to Secretary, ICAR, that in order to avoid future complications, all the doubtful points he set at rest before holding the interview. The interview was to be held on 8-9-71 and the position was explained by the D. G., ICAR, on 7-9-71 in his note to Secretary (Agri.) which was seen by him on 9-9-71. The Minister for Agriculture in another minute, recorded on 18-9-71, stated as follows:

"I have received one more copy of similar representations before the interview. I had called for the file. I am surprised that before those representations were disposed of, the selection has been finalised."

It is surprising that the letter of appointment was issued to him on the same day, which though not unusual, does tend to lend support to the apprehension that the matter was being dealt with at the top speed. Shri T. P. Singh in his deposition before the Committee reasserted his dissatisfaction with the manner in which the appointment was rushed through.

In the light of all the relevant facts to which the Committee has given its anxious consideration the Committee has come to the conclusion that there are some aspects pertaining to the appointment of Dr. De as Head of the Division of Agronomy which must be regarded as un­satisfactory and as therefore casting doubts on the propriety of this appointment. The Committee, therefore, concludes that the appointment of Dr. De as Head of the Division of Agronomy was not properly made.

The Committee appointed a Panel of Advisers to analyse the data.on the following four claims:

(i) a new strain of maize with its protein content doubled and having nutritious value like milk;

(ii) Sharbati Sonora wheat having protein and lysine contents comparable to milk; (iii) a new seed of bajra that yields 32 maunds per acre; (iv) a variety of Sabarmati rice which was having a real flavour and was very good in cooking.

Baisakhi Moong

Baisakhi Moong is a variety of short duration pulse developed from type 44 Moong of U. P. Institute of Agri­cultural Research, Kanpur by Dr. L. M. Jaswani. It was released in 1971. It is grown in May-June as one of the relay crops. Its harvesting period is shorter than other pulses. Its average yield in IARI experiments was claimed as 10-4 quintals/hectare. The Panel observes:

"Thus, it seems that the results of Baisakhi Moong in experiments conducted in IARI and Pantnagar did not prove in the National Demonstrations, except in Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, and also in the farmer's fields."

"Hence, there appears to be some substance in Dr. Shah's allegations that the Baisakhi Moong did not prove successful in National Demonstrations. It must be a common experience that some experimental results do not prove in the fields; that indeed is the reason for conducting National Demonstrations. Under the circumstances, it seems that further experimental demonstration work was necessary before the varieties were released. However, we note that Baisakhi Moong was recommended as a short duration summer crop on fields which might otherwise have remained fallow." We agree with the views of the advisers.

A New Strain of Maize The Panel has made the following observation on this matter:

"It is obvious therefore -that there has been a certain confusion in public mind regarding the claims of the high lysine maize because of a failure to see the difference between protein content and lysine content. In this, the scientists of the I CAR are not entirely free of blame. The subject also appears to be somewhat over-advertised." We agree with these observations of the Panel.

In our view, experiments on nutritional value of the maize should have been done by competent nutritionists. Proper controls were not taken. We suggest that the nutri­tion value of any seed should be tested in a Nutrition Laboratory or by competent nutritionists.

Sharbati Sonora Wheat

This new variety of wheat was produced by x-ray irradiation by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan and Dr. Verghese from Sonora-64 which was obtained from Mexico. It was released in 1967 by CVRC. It is amber in colour as compared to Sonora-64 which is red. It has been claimed that it has higher protein and lysine contents as compared to its parent variety, Sonora-64. The analysis of protein and lysine contents were made in the genetics laboratory of IARI by Dr. Austin. After the claim was made that the lysine content of Sharbati Sonora is higher than that of Sonora-64, various laboratories in the world repeated this analysis. The C.Y.M.M.A.T. in Mexico, which is the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre, grew this wheat in Mexico and found that it did not have higher lysine content as compared to Sonora-64. This fact was brought to the notice of agricultural scientists at the All India Wheat Workshop held at Indore in August, 1969. It was then resolved in this meeting that the lysine content should be verified in the National Institute of Nutrition, Hyderabad, and Nutrition Research laboratory, Mysore. It is very surprising and indeed regrettable that no wheat of this variety was sent during the past three years to these laboratories for analysis. On the advice of the Panel of Advisers, we then obtained Sharbati Sonora from the Director of IARI and sent it to these two laboratories and also to the Department of Bio-chemistry, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore, for the analysis of lysine content. The data from these three laboratories which were received within about three weeks are as follows:

gm. lysine/100g protein

g/100g wheat (undried)










The Panel observes as follows:

"Thus, the results received from the Hyderabad Institute are in conformity with several other results earlier quoted. The results are somewhat higher but nowhere near 4.61 per cent as mentioned by Dr. M. S. Swaminathan." (The same panel also made some more interesting and indicating observations:- Vide Appendix IX, Report of the Panel of Advisers, pages 152, 153)

As more instances of allegations of unscientific attitudes, behaviour and practices in IARI, we cite the following. These come from the submissions made by three scientists of the Bio-chemistry Division of IARI. Dr. T. S. Raman challenges the findings in the Ph. D. thesis of Dr. L. S. Mehta, a Biochemist in the Nuclear Research Laboratory. Dr. Raman categorically asserts that certain data contained in Dr. Mehta's thesis "could not have been ob­tained by methods he has claimed to have been used." Dr. Y. P. Gupta who apparently has himself worked on the lysine content of different varieties of wheat, states that in the half-yearly report for period ending October 1968, he had reported the lysine content of Sonora-64 to be 3-26%' but that the Head of the Division deliberately cha­nged it to 2-26% so that the Sharabati Sonora might appear in a more favourable light. He seriously disputes the data on the protein and lysine content of Sharabati Sonora published by Dr. Swaminathan in the November 1967 issue of the journal "Food Industries". Dr. K. G. Sikka states that four varieties of Arhar (cajanus) -have been recently released which he finds contain certain toxic sub­stance causing blindness among rats. Within the short time available to us, it has not been possible for us to examine these allegations. We do not also think that it would be a fruitful course for us to pursue. It is obvious that these are very serious allegations. Whether they are substantiated by careful examination, the fact remains that there are many junior scientists in IARI who, rightly or wrongly, feel that they are not free to publish a scientific finding because it does not suit somebody higher up or that in fact unscien­tific data are being passed on to the higher authorities in return of favours and promotions. The existence of this feeling is most regrettable because it creates the conditions for breeding of unscientific behaviour and practices if they do not already exist. Mere refutation of the allegations will not therefore do.

We are reluctant to recommend any specific measures to correct the situation in the present case because, unfortunately, the phenomenon is not confind to ICAR and its institutions. Barring minor exceptions, it pervades the entire scientific and academic community in the country. At the root of it is the greed for bureaucratic power and love of a comfortable life which afflicts this class. In this matter, there is no distinction between the juniors and the seniors; the juniors are intellectually as corrupt as are their seniors. Politicization of academic and scientific life has made the matter worse. We wish to emphasize this general situation because, without reference to it, we think it will be unjust to pass a judgement or suggest specific measures in the particular case before the IGAR Inquiry Committee.


A scientist can do his research best if he is free to work and can express his views freely and fearlessly. Dr. Shah's main allegation, in his letter, is that the working conditions for scientists are not conducive to research and as we have pointed out in Chapter II, a majority of scientists who gave statements before the Committee, those who met the members of the Committee during their visits to the Institute and those who answered the quiestionnaire have expressed the same view. Some of the major complaints regarding the working conditions in the Divisions are given below:—

(i) The Head of the Division does not give facilities for work. He favours those who work for him.

(ii) There is no academic atmosphere as there is no free discussion on, research projects and results obtained.

(iii) Senior scientists insert their names in research papers even though they do not do the actual work.

(iv) Purchase of chemicals, glassware etc. take inordi­nate delay.

(v) Scientists are not allowed to use certain equipments which are available in the Division or in the Insti­tute. For example, the equipments available in the Division of Biochemistry of IARI are not shared by all the colleagues of the Division. The Nuclear Research Laboratory has several equpiments which scientists of other Divisions normally cannot use. We feel that most of these complaints are genuine and they should be remedied. The working conditions for scientists should be made attractive so that a scientist would be encouraged to engage himself in research rather than engage himself in unacademic activities. So the conditions in a Division should be set right first.

The Secretariat of the Committee examined 879 files of appointment made to the ICAR and its Institutes. Out of this number, about 31 were identified as prima facie revealing irregularities relatively of a serious character. The Secretariat then sent these cases to the DG, ICAR inviting comments. After the comments were received and considered, the cases in question were screened again and finally 14 instances have been chosen, as illustrative of some of the grave irregularities involved. Even so, the Committee wishes to emphasise the fact that in preparation of this appendix, the Committee has been concerned only with the irregularities to which it has drawn attention and not with the merits of the candidates selected. The Committee is, therefore, anxious that anything contained in this appendix should not be taken to cast any aspersion on the merits of the selections made, or reflections on the candidates concerned.

i. Appointment to the post of Dean and Joint Director, IARI in the grade of Rs. 1600-2000.

ii. Appointment to the post of Project Coordinator, Animal Breeding and as Head of the Animal Genetics. IVRI.

in. Appointment to the post of Deputy Director, Central Marine Fisheries Research Institute, Manda-pam Camp (Rs. 1100-1400).

iv. Appointment to the post of Assistant Director-General (Animal Science Education).

v. Ad hoc appointment to the post of Director-Central Coconut Research Station, Kasargod (Rs. 700-1250).

vi. Appointment to the post of Project Coordinator (Respiratory Diseases of Poultry) in IVRI (Rs. 1300-1600).

vii. Appointment to the post of Deputy Chief Artist in ICAR Headquarters (Rs. 700-1250).

viii. Appointment to the post of Project Coordinator (Forage Crops) IGFRI Jhansi (Rs. 1300-1600).

ix. Appoinment to the post of Editor (Magazine) in the scale of Rs. 700-1250.

x. Appointment of Executive-cum-Welfare Officer, ICAR (Rs. 350-900).

xi. Ad hoc appointment to the post of Senior Soil Conservation Officer, Dehra Dun and to the post of Chief Scientist, (Soil Conservation and coordinator), Dehra Dun.

xii. Appointment of Biometrician (System Analysis) at IARI (Rs.700-1250).

xiii. Appointments to the posts of Adminstrative Officers/Assistant Administrative Officers.

xiv. Appointment by transfer of Head of the Station, Regional Research Station, Kanpur. (Regarding XIII, the following observations by the Committee are important :)

1. Though a period of six years has passed since the Research Institute were taken over by the ICAR, suitable recruitment rules for these posts have not yet been framed.

2. In contravention of the provision of the Bye-laws, where the rules were to be made with the approval of the President, criteria have been changed at the Secretary's level without obtaining his approval.12 employees, who were short of about one year of the required experience as laid down in the criteria, were called for interview by the Director of Recruitment on the ground that they formed border line cases. Out of these 5 employees were finally selected. 2 employees, who fell short of the required experience by 2 years and whose names did not even figure in the screening statement compiled by the office for calling the candidates for interview, were called for interview and selected.