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Indian paper mill iTrilon disbands operations following investigation

An Indian paper mill featuring prominently in our recent investigation in Science and a companion piece on our website shut down its WhatsApp community six days after the stories ran, Retraction Watch has learned.

The company, called iTrilon, used the messaging platform to hawk authorship of “readymade” publications to scientists “struggling to write and publish papers in PubMed and Scopus-Indexed Journals.” It claimed to have connections at journals that allowed the mill to guarantee acceptance of most of its papers.

But on January 24, Sarath Ranganathan, iTrilon’s scientific director, deactivated the WhatsApp community he had been curating.

“That’s big,” said Siddhesh Zadey, a PhD student at Columbia University and co-founder of the India-based think tank ASAR, who joined the iTrilon community last year and was a key source for our investigation. “I think it took [Ranganathan] about two years to build such a large group on WhatsApp.”

According to an infographic from last May, the Chennai-based company at the time had published “219+ papers” for clients in “21+” countries. The size of its WhatsApp community is not clear, but it likely exceeded 1,024, the maximum number of members in a WhatsApp “group.” In the platform’s terminology, a “community” is a collection of “groups.”

The company has also taken down its website and LinkedIn profiles.