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China-based int’l journal rejects Indian scientists’ paper for citing ‘Arunachal Pradesh’ as sampling site

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(TibetanReview.net, Nov12’23) – An international peer-reviewed journal based in China has forced Indian scientists to withdraw from publication a paper on the White-Cheeked Macaque, objecting to its mentioning of Arunachal Pradesh as a sampling site, reported thehindu.com Nov 11.

Indian scientists Mukesh Thakur, Lalit Kumar Sharma, and Avijit Ghosh were forced to withdraw a paper on the White-Cheeked Macaque (Macaca leucogenys) on the ground that it should not mention “Arunachal Pradesh” as the sampling site.

The Chinese government contested the inclusion of Arunachal Pradesh in the study, apparently after it appeared online, claiming it did not align with their defined map, the report said.

The paper Two Y chromosome lineages in White-Cheeked Macaque (Macaca leucogenys) was accepted on Feb 14, 2023, and published online on Apr 5, 2023, in the journal Wildlife Letters, a recently launched international peer-reviewed journal published from Northeast Forestry University in China.

“This is nothing but scientific terrorism. Since Apr 2023, I have exchanged several emails with the journal authorities relating to the paper. I have taken strong stand that I cannot replace Arunachal Pradesh and was forced to withdraw the paper in the last week of October,” Mukesh Thakur, scientist and Officer-in-Charge, Mammal Sectional, Zoological Survey of India (ZSI) has said.

The report noted that Dr Thakur, the lead author of the paper, has more than 100 papers in his name and has been a recipient of several distinguished awards, including the DST Young Scientist (2013), the DST INSPIRE Faculty (2017), the INSA Medal for Young Scientist (2018), and the TULIP LAb Ex Fellow-France (2022). He has also served at the Chinese Academy of Sciences as a Visiting Scientist (2015-16).

Marcel Holyoak, Co-Editor-in-Chief for Wildlife Letters was stated to have written to Dr Thakur in an email dated Apr 2023: “For Wildlife Letters, as a journal published in China, we are obligated to follow Chinese maps and use of place names. Our failure not to do so could result in removal of Chinese funding for the journal and create problems for journal staff that are based in China.”

And the journal’s Co-Editor-in-Chief had suggested that the only option in the current case was that “the problems” be corrected or “we are forced to withdraw the manuscript” from publication.

The report said that when the scientists accused the journal of questioning the geopolitical boundaries of India, Professor Holyoak has maintained that neither he nor the journal takes any position with respect to geopolitical boundaries, but “we are obliged to follow what is expected of the scientists and journal within China”.

Dr Thakur has expressed surprise that there were Indian scientists on the board of the journal who did not support him on the issue. The specialist in the use of DNA technologies has added that the journal holds the production house in India, and a few Indians employed with it also insisted on the omission of Arunachal Pradesh’s mention from the paper.

Discovered by Chinese scientists from “South Tibet” (China’s new name for Arunachal Pradesh), White-Cheeked Macaque (Macaca leucogenys) was later reported by Dr Mukesh and his team from Dibang Valley and West Siang region of Arunachal Pradesh on the basis of camera trapping and DNA analysis, the report said.

In the paper, which they were forced to withdraw, the scientists explore two paternal lineage of the White-Cheeked Macaque supporting a hybrid origin of the species with the sinica group of macaques.

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