To begin with, it even misspells the name of the Minister of Environment Jairam Ramesh as Jayaram Ramesh. You would think Jairam Ramesh has been in the news long enough for his spelling to register in most people's mind. Secondly after much talk about how this was the first attempt to bring six academies together (as if six academies together should be excused for sloppiness but one shouldn't), it actually admits that they could have done a better job and that the present report should be withdrawn and re-written. However, and this is interesting, the 'baby should not be thrown out with the bath water' meaning I suppose most of the conclusions should stand. I wonder why that should be so, since it also turns out that this is not an independent report but a rehashed version of a report by one Anand Kumar. Why should be assume that a genuine independent study by the academies would throw up the same conclusions?
The second interesting point is that the President of INSA chooses to present his defense to what might be called his biradari -- the fellows of the academy. Should not this mail have gone to the public in general and specifically to the media which mounted this campaign along with an advocacy group against GM crops. Why keep the justification within the family -- what purpose does it serve? Of course, one does not know if the President of the other academies have even sent a letter justifying a stand or they just hope if they wait this out, it will all blow over.
This is not an isolated incident. Many people will recall the episode of the Mashelkar report and accusations of plagiarism. Why do these things happen?
I really don't believe that these scientists are mediocre or are plagiarists -- far from it. Both the Presidents of INSA and IAS (Bangalore) are very distinguished scientists. However, there is a tendency in India to pass off work to a low level flunky, particularly if it is considered not so important (and definitely not a paper one is writing for a reputed journal). I suspect this is what has happened here too. The work was probably palmed off to some low level functionaries who used that well known research tool 'Google' to do their 'research'. The top bosses glanced cursorily at the result (surprisingly not noticing that a cornerstone of research papers -- proper referencing -- was non existent). There was, in other words, no serious oversight, no proper attribution, and yet, the heads of the academies were willing to put their reputation on the line by putting their names on the report. They presumably assumed that the report would just end up in some dusty cupboard in some government office never to see the light of day. Instead of which, it landed on the table of one of our most pro-active ministers!
Just as a comparison, here is the report on global warming by the American Physical Society. Click on the link to get the PDF version of the full report.
P.S. Just learnt from Nanopolitan again that the National Academy of Medical Sciences has dumped the report! Hmm....a case of rats deserting a sinking ship? Wonder what else will unfold in the next few days....
P.P.S.: Here is the letter of the President of INSA to the Fellows of the Academy, complete with misspelt name and all (courtesy a colleague).
P.P.P.S.: See also a recent letter by Gautam Menon and Rahul Siddharthan on this issue.