Another row: Ashoka’s data centre board dissolves itself | Delhi News – Times of India

NEW DELHI: The scientific board of the Trivedi Centre for Political Data (TCPD) at Ashoka University announced in an open letter on Tuesday that it was dissolving itself because the university, “in breach of academic norms”, did not inform or consult the members regarding the “substantial changes” about how the centre would be run. The letter claimed Belgian political scientist Gilles Verniers, founder and co-director of TCPD, had been “forced to leave” the centre.
The scientific board, which includes political scientist Christophe Jaffrelot, former election commissioner SY Quraishi and Milan Vaishnav, director of the South Asia programme at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said it was “surprised and disappointed” by Ashoka University’s decisions.
“TCPD’s vibrant and important agenda, under the leadership of founding director professor Gilles Verniers, is what attracted each of us to serve on its scientific board and contribute to its intellectual mission,” the letter said. “We commit to supporting Gilles Verniers’ and his partners’ efforts to maintain the future and the integrity of the data and of the work associated with it,” the statement added.
Ashoka University, however, claimed that Verniers’ departure arose due to his failure to meet the stringent criteria for continuation of service. After having left Ashoka, where he was assistant professor of political science, Verniers is now Karl Loewenstein visiting fellow at Amherst College in Massachusetts and senior fellow at the Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi. It said that faculty who did not qualify for tenure leave the university within three semesters.
Announcing the dissolution of the board, the open letter read, “Given this track record of excellence, we were surprised and disappointed that we, as the scientific board, were not consulted before substantial changes were made governing how the centre is run and situated within its home institution in breach of academic norms.”
Quraishi told TOI, “There is complete uncertainty regarding the future of the board, as the decision is to be made by the university. The board has excelled in generating valuable election data and providing it to the public for free. However, the university has been too preoccupied to address the board’s situation.”
As per sources, scholars at TCPD have produced 16 datasets, led 20 research projects, organised 80 research seminars, published 20 research papers and book chapters and organised two major conferences on computational social sciences. The team has also published over 300 analytical articles in the Indian press, built high-quality academic partnerships. In 2017, it was designated an ‘International Research Partner’ by the Centre for National Scientific Research, France.
The institution’s data had become a primary source for scholars, journalists, and researchers studying Indian politics and had been incorporated into various public data repositories worldwide. The board pointed out that these have had “a transformative impact on the field of Indian electoral politics”.
The university said there are plans to integrate some of its centres and offices with the newly established Centre for Data Sciences and Analytics. “The Trivedi Centre for Political Data is among them and its proposed integration with the new centre was communicated to the TCPD scientific board recently,” it added.
The letter comes weeks after a controversy at the university following the resignation of assistant professor Sabyasachi Das after a controversy over his research paper arguing that BJP won a disproportionate share of closely contested parliamentary seats in 2019 Lok Sabha polls, especially in states where it was the ruling party at the time.

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