UR physicist faces growing list of accusations

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What action the University of Rochester might take in the case of Ranga Dias, a once globally-lauded researcher now facing accusations of falsifying results and plagiarism, is unclear.

The accusations come after Dias—a UR assistant professor of mechanical engineering, assistant professor of physics and astronomy, and Laboratory of Laser Energetics researcher—won worldwide plaudits as the discoverer of a long-sought scientific holy grail, a room temperature electrical superconductor.

Ranga Dias (Photo: UR)

If Dias’ discovery had held up, it could have eventually led to dramatic reductions in power-transmission costs, solving many of the world’s energy problems. Other benefits would have included vastly increased computing speed as well as a plethora of other innovations like commercially viable levitating hoverboards.

In 2021, Time magazine included Dias on its Time100 Next list, writing that “thanks to Dias,” researchers might finally succeed in the 21st century of reaching a long-sought goal that had eluded their 20th century predecessors.

A growing body of evidence, however, seems not only to puncture Dias’ claims but also to point to the possibility that he cheated.

Nature, the journal that published Dias’ 2021 results, retracted the article last year, citing an expanding list of concerns. Despite that retraction, Dias made a similar claim in a talk last March.

Given the UR scientist’s clouded history, response to Dias’ new claim was “muted,” the journal Physics reported at the time.

In April, the journal Science detailed plagiarism accusations against Dias tracing to the thesis he wrote to earn a PhD from Washington State University in 2013.

Citing previous reporting by publications including the New York Times and Physics magazine, Science noted that passages in Dias’ thesis appeared to be identical to passages that appeared in a 2007 thesis written by physicist James Hamlin at Washington University in Missouri.

On learning of Dias’ alleged plagiarism, Science reported, Hamlin pored through Dias’ 2013 thesis, finding more apparently exactly copied passages that brought allegedly plagiarized content to 21 percent of the 2013 paper.

Asked for comment on the allegations piling up against Dias, UR spokeswoman Sara Miller wrote in an email that UR leaders are aware of the controversies swirling around Dias and that the university has “a robust process for addressing allegations of research misconduct, which we always take very seriously.”

However, added Miller, “such matters may involve experts unaffiliated with the University when appropriate and may take some time to resolve.”

Dias did not respond to an email seeking comment.

Will Astor is Rochester Beacon senior writer. The Beacon welcomes comments and letters from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name. Submissions to the Letters page should be sent to [email protected]

2 thoughts on “UR physicist faces growing list of accusations

  1. He may have not been thorough with his report, but it was exciting reading the reports from around the world from groups trying to reproduce the work. There were several unique hypothesis made and also an alluding to charge density waves, (which I feel is the answer), which will open the eyes of someone bright who will solve warm superconductivity. Even if it ends up being a metallic glass tweaked at the glass transition temperature. Yes, this was fun indeed!

  2. In “Given the UR scientist’s clouded history, response to Dias’ new claim was “muted,” the journal Physics reported at the time.” a hyperlink is provided to the more friendly one of two reports in the journal Physics on 9 March 2023, namely the one reporting on the muted response to the new claim of a room-temperature superconductor. The missing hyperlink (https://physics.aps.org/articles/v16/40) is much harsher, and reports on mounting allegations of scientific misconduct.

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