Maharashtra Teen’s NASA Panel Selection Based On False Information; Investigation On

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The US space agency, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), on Thursday said that Diksha Shinde, a student of Class 10 from Maharashtra’s Aurangabad district, was “selected as a panellist based on false information regarding her background and credential”.

What happened?

Last week, the 14-year-old suddenly found fame after news reports claimed she had been selected as a panellist by NASA for its Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Fellowships Virtual Panel.

ANI on August 20 published a news story “After submitting research article, 14-yr-old selected for MSI Fellowships Virtual Panel of NASA”, in which Shinde had claimed that she was selected as a panellist on the Minority Serving Institution (MSI) Fellowships Virtual Panel of the US space agency. Shinde claimed that the International Journal of Scientific and Engineering Research accepted her research paper on ‘We Live in Black Hole?’ in May 2021.

In a conversation with ANI, Shinde said that she was selected as a panellist for the 2021 MSI Fellowships Virtual Panel in June.

Netizens pointed out inaccuracies in Shinde’s claims 

After the publication of this story and tweets on this story, several Twitter users pointed out inaccuracies in Diksha Shinde’s claims and also raised several questions that alluded to the fabrication of NASA certificates. Shinde’s alleged scientific paper was also questioned and instances of purported plagiarism were also referred too.

Based on these concerns, ANI contacted Diksha in a follow-up interview and asked her for explanations. Shinde produced email correspondences that contained NASA’s email url ‘nasa.gov’ and screenshots of video conferences she attended which she claimed were NASA officials. In addition to this, Shinde also produced remittance amounts from a Bank of America bank account number allegedly belonging to a NASA affiliate that her family member received, which she claimed was an honorarium the US space agency gave to their panel members.

Shinde also gave a copy of her ‘scientific paper’, though, the link to the website it was uploaded on, was broken. After analysing the follow-up evidence, ANI then reached out to NASA officials to corroborate Shinde’s version of events.

NASA’s response 

On August 26, NASA’s Katherine Brown responded in an email to ANI’s queries confirming that Diksha Shinde was indeed selected as a panellist to review NASA Fellowships with Minority-Serving Institutions, however, her selection was on the basis of false information.

Brown went further ahead to state that, “NASA has not accepted a scientific paper from Shinde or presented her with any other accolades.” She added that the matter has been referred to the agency’s Office of Inspector General.

Katherine Brown’s response to ANI: “Hi Zain, Thank you for reaching out to verify the story. In May 2021, NASA’s Office of STEM Engagement sought applications through a third-party service for expert panelists to review a series of proposals and applications for NASA Fellowships with Minority-Serving Institutions. Diksha Shinde was selected as a panelist based on false information regarding her background and credentials. NASA is currently reviewing the process of verifying potential panelists’ backgrounds. The matter has also been referred to the agency’s Office of Inspector General. Shinde is not employed by NASA nor has the agency awarded her a fellowship, which are only opportunities available to U.S. citizens. Furthermore, NASA has not accepted a scientific paper from Shinde or presented her with any other accolades. Any claims that NASA is funding a trip to the U.S. for her are also false. Thank you,
Katherine”

Based on this latest statement from NASA and the surrounding circumstances of this matter, ANI has now withdrawn the story.

(With ANI inputs)

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