3 December, 2022

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Jaffna University Vice-Chancellor Caught Copying & Cheating

By Muttukrishna Sarvananthan

Dr. Muttukrishna Sarvananthan

Introduction

A research study on the leaders (Vice-Chancellors) of Russian universities between 2010 and 2020 reveals that there has been an increase in publications in potential predatory journals by academic staff when the Vice-Chancellors of those universities themselves have published in potential predatory journal/s. That is, the academic/intellectual/scientific integrity of the leader of a university is positively correlated to the academic/intellectual/scientific integrity of all other academic staff (Gerashchenko, 2022).

This is a whistle-blower’s account of the intellectual fraud of the incumbent Vice-Chancellor (VC), “Professor” Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah of the University of Jaffna in Sri Lanka.

Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah

Plagiarism

In June 2021, the Council of the University of Jaffna approved the “By-Laws for Scholarly Publications”, outlawing publications in predatory journals and by predatory publishers. Towards the preparation of the foregoing By-Law the VC submitted a Memorandum (Memo) to the Senate of the University of Jaffna on March 23, 2021, signed by him (Senate Memo: S/453/04/ACA/(i)).  

The bulk of the aforementioned Senate Memo signed by the Vice-Chancellor, Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah, has been plagiarised word-to-word, sentence-to-sentence, and paragraph-to-paragraph from a note submitted to the Vice-Chancellor by Muttukrishna Sarvananthan titled “Publication Ethics for the Academic Staff, written by Muttukrishna Sarvananthan on a request by the Vice-Chancellor, UoJ, DRAFT as of October 23, 2020” (see annexure marked as Z2).

Specifically, the sub-sections of the aforesaid Senate Memo: S/453/04/ACA/(i) dated March 23, 2021, titled “Memo” (pages 1-2), “What is a Predatory Journal” (page 2), and “How to Detect a Predatory Journal or Publisher?” (page 2) are completely (99%) plagiarised from the aforesaid note written by Muttukrishna Sarvananthan (see attached marked as Z2), barring the following 3 minor changes: (i) “I” in the first line of the last paragraph on page 1 of the Senate Memo: S/453/04/ACA/(i) dated March 23, 2021, has been inserted in lieu of “we” in the second line of the first paragraph on page 2 of my note to the VC dated October 23, 2020. (ii) Further, “persistently” (sic) in the second line of the same paragraph of the said Senate Memo is a replacement for “positively” in the second line of the first paragraph on page 2 of my note to the VC dated October 23, 2020, (iii) Moreover, “retrieved on October 20, 2020” in the footnotes 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, & 7 in my note to the VC dated October 23, 2020, have been replaced by “retrieved on March 16, 2021.” in the footnotes 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8 in the  Senate Memo.   

Moreover, whilst the incumbent Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jaffna, Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah, had the courtesy to acknowledge a “Communication from Prof. L. P. Jayatissa, University of Ruhuna dated 03.01.2019 addressed to the Vice Chancellor, University of Jaffna” (see footnote 1 in the Senate Memo: S/453/04/ACA/(i), he did not have the ethical norm, literary integrity, or professional decorum to acknowledge Muttukrishna Sarvananthan’s contribution to the said Senate Memo: S/453/04/ACA/(i) dated March 23, 2021.

Publication in Predatory Journal

Furthermore, the Google Scholar page of Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah catalogues an article co-authored by him (being the last author of 3 co-authors) along with two other former University of Jaffna colleagues/students in a journal named axioms (see annexure marked as Z3) published by the Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute (MDPI – formerly known as Molecular Diversity Preservation International founded by a Chinese named Shu-Kun Lin as a chemical sample archive in 1996). MDPI is claimed to be the largest open-access publisher in the world, and fifth-largest overall, in terms of the total number of articles published in all its 200+ journals

MDPI is suspected to be a predatory publisher for at least 8 years now by more than one person. However, at least one person has cast doubt on the suspicion of MDPI in the last couple of years. It is noteworthy that VC Srisatkunarajah’s publication in 2017 was after questions have been raised publicly about the publisher for the first time in 2014. Even the Chinese Academy of Sciences had warned against publishing in 22 MDPI journals in December 2020 and 7 in December 2021.

The publisher of the journal axioms, namely MDPI, is a long suspected predatory publisher from China but headquartered in Basel, Switzerland, with branches in many western countries (including in the UK). The suspicion of this particular article co-authored by S. Srisatkunarajah is obvious for at least the following three reasons: 

Firstly, this is published in a Special Issue edited by a Guest Editor. In recent years Special Issues edited by Guest Editors have come under critical scrutiny because numerous articles in journals edited by Guest Editors have been retracted in recent years due to manipulation of data and images, and impersonation of peer-reviewers, lack of stringent peer review, and various other malpractices.   

Secondly, all the three co-authors have given their personal/private email addresses (domain names – gmail.com / yahoo.com) and not their institutional email addresses. All legitimate journals ask their prospective authors to mention their institutional email addresses unless one is an independent researcher not affiliated with any institution. Here, while all three co-authors were academics from a Canadian (corresponding & second author at the Concordia University, Montreal) and a Sri Lankan university (first and third co-authors from UoJ), they are using their private emails. What was there to hide, if it was a genuine/real scholarly article? 

Thirdly, this particular article has been submitted for consideration for publication on December 08, 2016, accepted (after revision) for publication on February 17, 2017, and published online on February 21, 2017. Any experienced scholar would know that such a quick peer-review and decision-making in Mathematics (or in any other subject for that matter) is near impossible with a genuine/legitimate peer-reviewed journal.

Besides, all the scholarly publications by the current VC of UoJ (less than 20 in over 30 years of academic career after obtaining his doctoral degree at a Scottish university in the late-1980s), Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah, are co-authored and in none of them is he the first author and/or the corresponding author. In other words, he is not eligible to be a “Professor” in terms of South Asian and global standards.   

The aforesaid case of plagiarism and publication in a suspected predatory journal by the VC of UoJ is not an isolated case. This is a very common peril in all Sri Lankan universities (public, quasi-public, and private) among the majority of academic staff for a very long time, especially because the majority of books, textbooks, and journal articles by university academic staff are published in vernacular languages (i.e. in Sinhala and Tamil) wherein plagiarism is very difficult to detect because of lack of detection software/s. At the University of Jaffna, for example, there are much worse offenders than the VC. One such case is ongoing at the University Services Appeals Board (USAB), an independent quasi-judicial body operating under the University Grants Commission (UGC) of Sri Lanka, wherein 17 of the 22 journal articles claimed by a “Professor” in Economics are in positively identified predatory journals. 

In the foregoing scenario, highlighting this case of Vice-Chancellor “Professor” Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah is meant to deter other Professors and Senior Professors because when the head of the flock commits fraud it is natural that other members of the flock could do the same with impunity as the aforementioned study of Russian academics reveals. As the editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Legal Information said “…….it is particularly so when the wrongdoing comes from such a high-profile member of the academy – one who should be setting a positive example of scholarship rather than the reverse” in the case of a former VC of Pondicherry University (India) noted below.   

Although plagiarism and publications in predatory journals are explicitly outlawed by the UGC of Sri Lanka by way of Circular No.11 of November 27, 2019, these fraudulent practices stubbornly persist (including at the University of Jaffna very recently in early 2022) because many UGC regulations are routinely ignored by the public universities (not to mention quasi-public and private universities) in Sri Lanka in the name of “autonomy” of universities and “academic freedom”. 

Conclusion

In an advanced/developed country like the United States of America (USA), for example, an accusation of plagiarism has prompted the Vice-Chancellor for Research in Chapel Hill’s Medical School at the University of North Carolina to resign from his post on March 11, 2022, on his own. Mind you, this Vice-Chancellor resigned for plagiarising in a research grant proposal (and not in a final research output). 

Even in a country with relatively lower public morality/ethics and research integrity than the USA, viz. Romania in Eastern Europe, on December 15, 2021, the Minister for Innovation and Digitalisation resigned from his post because of an allegation of plagiarism in his Master’s dissertation by an investigative journalist. 

In Sri Lanka’s neighbouring country, India, a Professor at the Gauhati University, Guwahati, Assam, was sent on compulsory leave on January 05, 2022, by the university authorities based on an internal investigation until an infringement of copyright and plagiarism case filed by the police is concluded.

A former Vice-Chancellor of Pondicherry University in India was facing dismissal from her post in 2015 by the Union Ministry of Human Resources after an international journal retracted her article that was 72% plagiarised from others’ work.

Amidst the aforementioned voluntary resignations (in USA and Romania) and forcible expulsion (in India), I wonder what would happen to the current Vice-Chancellor of the University of Jaffna, Sivakolundu Srisatkunarajah.

*Muttukrishna Sarvananthan is the Founder and Principal Researcher of the Point Pedro Institute of Development, Point Pedro, Northern Province, Sri Lanka. The author is a Development Economist by profession and has studied in and earned degrees from four universities (Ph.D. Wales, M.Sc. Bristol, M.Sc. Salford & B.A. (Hons) Delhi) in two different countries (UK & India), and has undertaken postdoctoral research work in two universities (Monash University & George Washington University) in two different countries (Australia & USA). Moreover, to date, he has authored or co-authored over 55 peer-reviewed publications (of which, over 30 were in international scholarly journals), and has been a peer-reviewer of over 35 articles submitted to international scholarly journals published by leading global academic publishers during 23 years of his post-doctorate scholarly career. Furthermore, he has been an external examiner of a Ph.D. thesis submitted to the University of New South Wales in Canberra, Australia, and Jawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India. The author can be contacted at sarvi@pointpedro.org  

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Latest comments

  • 9
    0

    Someone seems to stepped on the toes of someone!

    • 7
      1

      The article might have been published in a predatory journal.
      But what he emphasises now is, to focus on nurturing clean academics. He makes awareness regarding this predatory publications.
      You people won’t allow our society to be better.
      Let him make good changes in UOJ!

      • 3
        0

        J
        Accidents happen with predatory journals.
        I know a very ‘clean’ academic who co-authored a paper with his PG student let the latter work on its publication after checking the content.
        The young man in a hurry to have a publication quickly went for a predatory journal. The senior don was in an embarrassing situation. It is not easy to pull out of such journals without making a big splash. All he could do was to scold his junior.
        If Prof S had used such publication to score credit for a promotion or some such purpose, there is a serious issue.
        Sad to see personal pettiness parade with a cloak of academic morality.

  • 8
    11

    What a bankrupt society. We have been brought up in Jaffna believing veepoothy is a sign of high morals and ethics. It has been a disguise for everything else among some elites. Need Jaffna reformation.

    • 14
      4

      You are linking unrelated stuff.

      • 8
        1

        N
        If laws are enforced strictly about slander and libel, our media may be more cautious about what they publish.
        There is little to protect a victim without resources.
        Not all are uncouth enough to indulge in media mudslinging.

      • 13
        3

        An eye-opening article!

        Current VC, Prof.Srisatkunarajah has been doing many developments in academic performance, research and development, innovation, and human resources, and not any disturbing developments.
        Despite all the challenges (covid was at its peak), he makes sure to hold the graduation ceremony physically while the other universities closed down.
        First time in the history of Sri Lankan Universities, there came a faculty with a person’s name (Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan faculty) in University of Jaffna and its during his time.
        Already the system is corrupted. During his period, he tries his best to make good changes for the betterment of the university, I guess.
        Its also worth taking note on how he handles a “sexual harassment” case which was dumped by other vice chancellors for more than 25 years.
        Next time, when you publish an article, please try to see the good side of a person too.

  • 6
    14

    Pathetic fellows. Just cutting each others throats. Thanks to Gota for smashing the dream of EELAM and if there is one then it would have been hell there. They fight on petty things. A colleague of mine just got back from Jaffna and he said that it is unlivable there. People are rude, very selfish, never help anyone and only concerned about making money. In department and offices the staff treat the public shabiliy. Even during peaceful times they were very impolite and crude. Once I wemnt to Wellawatte bank of ceylon and most of the staff are tamils. Oh the way they treat customers and their facial expression and red tapes unbelievable. On the other hand went to Kollupity Branch and it was entirely the opposite. The officer at a counter even stood up with a smile to hand over the money to me. This is what Tamils are.

  • 14
    1

    BL
    “On the other hand went to Kollupity …The officer at a counter even stood up with a smile to hand over the money to me.”
    *
    I have been there many times to the cash counter at BoC Kollupitia Nos 1 and 2. Nobody stood up when handing me my cash.
    I must have a word with the branch managers.
    *
    In fairness, the cash machine is always standing even when refusing to pay. But no smile though!

    • 3
      0

      SJ
      By over-scrutinizing you destroy the subtle humour in BL’s deft observation. Over analyzing a joke is like giving a physiology lecture while having sex.

      • 7
        2

        ASD
        I thought that you had a sense of humor.
        BL has.

        • 3
          3

          SJ
          Good comeback. That’s the spirit.

          • 0
            0

            ASD
            Thanks, but no come back– only a simple observation.

  • 7
    3

    Oh mate SJ, may be my personality made him to do so, I do not know. Also I cashed Rs five laks. Please dont complain to the manager and instead next time you go have a good wash, take a shave, dress smartly and sport a smile and then see what happens. Coming to the cash machine, it has to stand and yet it is refusing to pay you is unfortunate. Certainly there is some serious problem. Try Wellawatte branch and the machine may even sneer at you. Take it as a joke.

    • 9
      2

      BL
      So it seems that the respectful treatment had nothing to do with the bank, but just the sum of money involved.
      Deposit a much larger sum and the bank manager may fall at your feet, regardless of whether you washed, shaved, smiled, dressed well.
      With a big bundle of money, you would have received respect at Wellawatte, even if you stank to high heaven.
      So it is not the branch but the dough. (Kaase thaan kadavulada!)

  • 2
    7

    Why would anyone want to sport vipoothi, or for that matter any religious insignia, in the work place? You doubt your own credibility, or you think you have something nasty in you that your clothes alone cannot mask? But the irony is, even a person of average social intelligence can see right away this kind of ‘in your face’ religiosity is the first sign of a scam artist.

    • 11
      0

      It is a matter of faith.
      Some do it from childhood. I did apply ash visibly through my student life in university and some years after, until I became an atheist.
      Do you object to Muslim women covering their heads and Muslim men sporting a beard and a cap, and even dressing like Arabs?
      Do not several Christians wear the cross prominently?
      Often we see parts of ourselves in others.
      *
      There is this little parable based on the Mahabharata: Krishna asked Yudhishtra and Duryodhana to do a survey of the number of good and bad people in society.
      Yudhishtra reported that he could not find any bad person and Duryodhana said that he could not find a single good person.
      Think about it.

      • 2
        6

        SJ
        Why can’t you understand the simple thing I’m saying: You can have all your religious knickknacks and paraphernalia to your heart’s content in all your activities, both private and public. But don’t bring them to your work place – especially if it is a public institution. Why? In order to make every citizen who comes there to transact business feel secure, equal and respected. It’s by keeping the state and its institutions secular that you can ensure the freedom of religion: the freedom for all to pursue whatever their religion is. That means no state religion or special treatment to any particular religion. This is the only way to ensure the freedom of religion for all. Do I have to spell everything out for you. You remind me of my mother-in-law.

        • 4
          0

          ASD
          Is there a rule against wearing holy ash, pottu, the crucifix on a chain etc.?
          It will be civilized to respect other people’s beliefs, unless they harm others.

    • 9
      1

      Ajay Sundara Devan,
      I thought long and hard before stepping in.
      How does anyone sporting the ash on his forehead change the world?
      Live and let live.

      • 5
        1

        N
        You said it better than me.

  • 7
    1

    An eye-opening article!

    Current VC, Prof.Srisatkunarajah has been doing many developments in academic performance, research and development, innovation, and human resources, and not any disturbing developments.
    Despite all the challenges (covid was at its peak), he makes sure to hold the graduation ceremony physically while the other universities closed down.
    First time in the history of Sri Lankan Universities, there came a faculty with a person’s name (Sir Ponnambalam Ramanathan faculty) in University of Jaffna and its during his time.
    Already the system is corrupted. During his period, he tries his best to make good changes for the betterment of the university, I guess.
    Its also worth taking note on how he handles a “sexual harassment” case which was dumped by other vice chancellors for more than 25 years.
    Next time, when you publish an article, please try to see the good side of a person too.

    Read this: https://lankacourier.org/nuances-of-pedagogical-mission/
    Watch this too : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbNAMq2g3Ik

  • 1
    5

    SJ, as you said I did at BC Wellawatte but still the shabby treatment. But of course one had a flower in his ear and a pottu yet the response was the same.

    • 0
      0

      BL
      I thought that you got my point.
      Tell me the truth.
      Did you carry that big bundle of money?

  • 1
    7

    Holy ash, pottu is ok. But why the suit. he can wear verti, salvai and that will match him.

    • 4
      1

      BL
      Are you trying to dictate dress codes for people?

  • 4
    3

    The state of Sri Lankan universities, Jaffna in particular, is really sad. Unfortunately, the case for more private institutions is increasingly being made from within the public universities by how their governance structures operate. There are fantastic people teaching in these institutions and brilliant students, too, but within a leadership vacuum.
    A student leader is being held under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for protesting peacefully. Did we hear any Vice Chancellor say this is wrong?

    • 3
      0

      SAV
      A VC does not respond to every matter affecting students. I doubt it happening in any other country.
      If a VC’s attention is drawn to a genuine problem and he/she refuses to be supportive, there is cause to complain.
      Also be fair, if a VC gets arrested in this country, they many not be many to speak up for him.

  • 0
    0

    Hi, Sarvi, long time no see.
    Good to hear from you.
    And fascinating to read about this phenomenon re which, shockingly, I must confess total ignorance.

    • 2
      0

      Manel Fonseka,
      On a matter as disturbing as this, ‘total ignorance’, demands, being quiet!

    • 4
      1

      MF
      Fascinating perhaps, but note the personal venom.

      • 0
        1

        Manel,
        Read SAV’s comment below to work out for yourself where the source of fascination is from

  • 3
    0

    I was working at University of Jaffna in 2010/2011 setting up the Faculty of Engineering, and was given Head/Mathematics’ office — a kind gesture by the thrn Head Srisatkunarajah.
    At the time I saw Srisatkunarajah’s professorial application.
    I state carefully that I have seen many successful professorial applications from Jaffna and most of them are fake: exaggerations, undeserving of approval.
    However, Srisatkunarajah’s own application was punctiliously correct with no overclaims.
    His professorial credentials therefore cannot be — should never be — questioned.
    On other matters I do not think I can correctly comment except that Srisatkunarajah and Muthukrisha are both capable men whose contributions to Jaffna must be valued by all and we must ensure that students do not lose because of this.

    • 0
      1

      “At the time I saw Srisatkunarajah’s professorial application.”
      I am curious.
      Did he show it to you?
      Or were you on some panel processing the application?.

  • 3
    0

    I have heard Sarvananthan was treated rather shabbily by the University in dismissing him for poor handling of an exam. That was bad behaviour from management, waiting to pick on one error of judgement to throw out someone they disliked for political reasons. If anything, poor mentoring of a newly appointed member of staff was to blame for that saga.
    +
    The VC is wrong in not acknowledging Sarvanathan’s role in the document and passing it on as his own. The VC should apologise and correct the document.
    +
    But when attacking the VC based on a paper in a special issue of Axioms, Sarvananthan is out of his depth. True, MDPI series has bad press, but several journals in the group are edited by eminent researchers. People choose where to publish (conferences, journals and journal special issues) for various reasons. Special issues are a good way to disseminate something in a volume with other papers in a very focused topic. Editors of special issues are experts in the area. Often they have prior knowledge of the work before inviting the authors to contribute, hence rapid review. I looked up the paper yesterday and, though I am not qualified to follow details of proofs, the paper looks like a decent enough piece of work by an MPhil student and his supervisors. The editors of this special issues and the dozen authors citing the paper are established researchers in the specialist topic and are likely to have picked up any flaw.

    • 3
      0

      Poor handling of an examination is no joke. I doubt if the dismissal was arbitrary.
      *
      As for the rest of it, I fear that you have just one side of the story and I will not go into the matter without full details.
      Trial by social media is not my cup of tea.

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