In April last year, an anonymous Quora user asked a question, “What is the PhD thesis of Kanhiaya Kumar of JNU fame about? Did he write it himself?”. There is a lot of debate about the PhD thesis of the former student leader, and in general long years spent by research students at the JNU. Therefore, it is natural that people are curious about research done by Kanhaiya Kumar, a prominent JNU student.
In December last year, a person doing PhD in Europe added a long answer to the question, which raises many questions about the quality of research done by Kumar to earn his doctorate degree. Shree Nidhi has done masters degree from Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, and currently living in Netherland doing PhD. Here is a summary of the answer written by him to the Quora question.
A PhD in generally entails an extensive research into a topic, at the end of which you come up with something novel, develop your research into a manuscript which you submit to a ‘respectable’ journal. The manuscript then undergoes peer-review which is the process in which experts in the field check your work and at the end of the process, either accept or reject your manuscript. It is the quality control process to make sure nobody does Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V job.
Now the thing to keep in mind is, not all journals are good, there are a lot of predatory journals which take money from people and publish sub-standard work without any peer-review process. It is an outlet for sub-standard researchers who cannot publish their work, who have not done anything during their PhD to have their name on something. Publishing is also a mandatory requirement for graduating. Finally, the PhD student compiles all his papers into a thesis which goes to a review board. In the review board, there will be ‘experts’ who judge the thesis based on its merits. On the basis of which the candidate is awarded a doctorate and he becomes a Doctor, a PhD.
Although most universities publish the PhD theses as open source, that is not the case in JNU. In JNU, one has to either go through a bureaucratic process to obtain a thesis, or wait a three year embargo period, after which a thesis may or may not be made available for public on Shodhganga portal. Therefore, at present the PhD thesis of Kanhaiya Kumar is not available outside the university.
Now coming to the research paper of Kanhaiya Kumar, it was titled The Process of Decolonisation and Social Transformation in South Africa. The paper was published in a journal named ‘International Research Journal of Humanities, Engineering & Pharmaceutical Sciences’ (IJHEPS), its name suggests that it covers a wide range of subjects from humanities to engineering to medicine. When we look at the website of the journal, we find that it has no real experts in its review board. The persons named in the board are not from reputed institutions, and no email or contact numbers are provided for them, making it difficult to know if they are even real people. Most importantly, not a single JNU professor is included in the review board, although the journal is based in Delhi.
A very important aspect of the journal is that there is a ‘nominal fee’ to be paid for getting papers published in the journal. This means, it is a paid journal. In general, reputed journals don’t charge fee for uploading papers, while they charge a subscription fee for accessing papers uploaded there. But the journal where Kanhaiya Kumar’s paper was published makes the papers free for download with just a signup, while uploading them takes money.
In addition to that, the journal’s website says that they are indexed by Thomson Reuters and they have an impact factor of 5.484. But in the Thomson Reuters website, the journal is not mentioned. Actually the journal is not indexed anywhere, a norm for genuine journals, and hence it’s a shady journal based in India.
The journal has also claimed to have a special award called ‘Udaan’, which they have conferred on a famous US neuro-scientist. When Shree Nidhi contacted the scientist, he replied that although it is true that the journals had given him the ‘honorary award’, he had asked them, along with lots of other journals that are not established, to delist him. Although most journals have removed his name as per his request, the IJHEPS is still carrying his name, listing him as the first recipient of the lifetime achievement award- ‘Udaan’.
This is the modus operandi of shady paid journals, they contact reputed researchers and tell them they are awarding some honorary award to them. When the researchers say yes, they put their name and photo in their websites, gaining legitimacy from the same. IJHEPS also did the same with Dr. George Perry, and even after he asked them to remove his name, they have not done that.
A librarian in Colorado university – Bealls, used to publish a list of predatory journals, which can be accessed here. This list includes the name of IJHEPS where Kanhaiya Kumar’s paper was published. Another list of predatory journals prepared by the University of Novi Sad also mentions IJHEPS. It is also mentioned in a website listing predatory journals.
Shree Nidhi writes that the menace of predatory journals in India is unparalleled. Recognising the importance of maintaining academic excellence, UGC periodically publishes a list of journals which are considered to be respectable. IJHEPS was also mentioned in the UGC list, but later it was found that the list not reliable at all, as lots of predatory journals were also included in the UGC approved list. A study had found that 88% non-indexed journals approved by UGC were of low quality. As a result, UGC came up with an updated list from where the dubious journals were removed, including IJHEPS.
But the website of IJHEPS still shows that it is UGC approved, and carries its cancelled UGC serial number. The journal is not indexed in any standard indexing services, and it still claims to be indexed, and carries cancelled recognition by UGC. According to Shree Nidhi, even if you accept that your work is not high quality which will not be accepted by reputed journals, you may want to publish it a non-indexed journal. But even then, one should make sure that the journal’s review board has experts from reputed institutions and universities. But ‘Dr Kanhaiya Kumar’ chose to publish his paper in a shady journal.
After that Nidhi goes on to the paper published by Kumar, saying that even if the journal is shady, the paper should be judged independently. Here, his paper does not mention his supervisor’s name, which is against the general practice. It is known that his supervisor was professor SN Malakar. Importantly, not much is known about the supervisor, he is not present on Google Scholar. No information about research papers published by the professor is available on public domain. For example, the JNU profile page of A. R. Ranganathan lists the peer-reviewed publications by him. But the profile page of SN Malakar has no information about research work done by him, apart from mentioning that he works in the Centre for African Studies of the university.
Talking about the paper, Shree Nidhi writes, the abstract of the paper says ‘this paper attempts to analyse the process of Social Transformation from the formation of Union of South Africa to Republic of South Africa and the end of apartheid regime.’ This comes after a bunch of he did that, they did that, we ‘attempt’ to do this. So, they are ‘analyzing’ the process of social transformation in South Africa. We don’t see any method how they analyze this or whatever. But, hey he is a revolutionary so he must have done something ground breaking. Let’s see the body of the paper.
For two pages, he rants on and on about who defined what, this guy did that, that guy did this, and ‘Marxism’ is ‘a science of social sciences (sic)’ or a scientific apparatus to understand the entire processes of the society (whatever that means), he also introduces us to the ‘Manifesto of the Communist party’, which according to me is the most important part of the paper.
Next he talks about the formation of union of South Africa, which is a literature review of how Union of South Africa came into existence, the ‘actual’ research has not started yet, I am not really sure it takes 5 years to reproduce the ‘Manifesto of The Communist Party (sic)’ and a basic literature review of African union. Leave all that, a basic Wikipedia page would have more information than this ‘research journal’.
Then he gives a literature review of the formation of the Republic of South Africa. This happened in 1967, that happened in 1980, one more thing happened in 1989. Where is he ‘analyzing’ the formation I do not know. Again, a Wikipedia page would have more detailed discussion on the topic than a ‘research’ paper by this PhD scholar.
After this brief literature survey, right away comes the conclusion, his ‘goal’ as stated in the abstract was an ‘attempt to analyse the process of Social Transformation from the formation of Union of South Africa to Republic of South Africa and the end of apartheid regime.’ His conclusion is, considering the case of South Africa it can be argued that, Social Transformation is the comprehensive study of the entire worth of a given society. Well, he stated that in the abstract, gave a bunch of definitions and a Wiki history of South Africa and writes it is important. SURE. Where is the analysis he promised the reader in the abstract? Facts are not analysis, what is his ‘expert opinion’ we will never know, because he is busy listing the events from some history book.
At least in the conclusion, I expected him to give his opinion or the so-called analysis, again he keeps stating the obvious facts without venturing in to the realm of using the brain.
A journal publication is a mandatory requirement to get the PhD degree. Since, Mr. BiharToTihar could not publish it in a proper journal, he published it in a predatory journal with dubious credentials. The guy who once said his family cannot afford a gas cylinder, somehow could afford to pay this journal enough money to publish his work.
Shree Nidhi writes that not only research students get stipend, they also get around Rs 3 lakh to travel for two International conferences. They are supposed to present their work there and get feedback from experts. “If these people have not done any work (which is the case here), what do they do going abroad? Vacation on tax payer’s money?” he asks.
At last, the PhD student adds that Kanhaiya Kumar is looking for a job as an Assistance Professor. ‘We keep wondering why cannot India produce good researchers like JC Bose, Meghnad Saha or CV Raman anymore, why is there such a brain drain? Here is a reason, because in India mediocrities who masquerade as brilliance are celebrated and we fund such mediocrities in research,” he writes.
Shree Nidhi also rebuts some people saying that only JRF students get stipend and Kanhaiya Kumar didn’t get any stipend at JNU. All PhD students get UGC fellowships, and as a registered student of JNU, Kanhaiya Kumar was paid scholarship. UGC gives every student Rs 25,000 per month first 2 years, and Rs 28,000 Rs in the last three years, with some variation.
Therefore, Kanhaiya Kumar was earning an amount equal to the average monthly income of lakhs of India, and he could have easily afforded a gas cylinder for his family, contrary to his claim that his mother had to use firewood because LPG cylinders are too expensive. Shree Nidhi mentioned about another PhD student from JNU who had said that he bought an iPad with the scholarship money. JNU provides library, free internet and lots of other facilities, even after that if someone needed a tablet, lots of cheaper options are available in the market. But the JNU student bought an iPad which is prices very high, a luxury for middle-class Indians.