CLAIM: A viral post claims that a Nigerian, Yakubu Nura, has won the “biggest tournament on earth in Physics”
CONCLUSION: MISLEADING, while the lecturer did win an award, the awarding institution (IASR) is not credible!
The news of a Nigerian lecturer from the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID), Yakubu Nura, winning the “biggest tournament on earth in Physics”, has trickled into the nation’s media space, and has gained wide reportage and celebrations.
Although, smelling a rat, a number of outlets, including Voice of Nigeria (VON), have pulled down the story.
The award was conferred on Yakubu Nura by the International Agency for Standards and Ratings (IASR). He was dubbed the “world champion in physics world cup” for his research work on Einstein’s Planetary Equation — a feat he achieved by seeing off competition from 5,720 others from 97 countries.
Nura has not replied Dubawa’s request to know how he feels about the award and the publication that landed him the award. But how plausible — and credible — is this landmark?
VERIFICATION OF CLAIM:
First, that no known credible foreign media ran a reportage of the acclaimed international award is a taint to its credibility. More than that, credible local media outlets did not publish the news; and even some of those who earlier reported it, pulled it down.
Also, a search of the keyword “world championship in physics” did not yield any meaningful result aside news stories of the award. The only similar competition of such is the International Young Physicists’ Tournament (IYPT), a week-long physics competition that currently pitches about 150 international pre-university contestants on 17 non-examination research problems that are annually published in late July.
IASR Has An Obscure Identity
Aside not having pronounced international recognition and clear online footprint, the International Agency for Standards and Ratings (IASR) has no unique website in its own name. Its about page where it describes itself as “world’s prominent developer of standards and ratings for products, services and good practices towards ease and efficiency” is contained on a free-hosted blog — one of the services offered by Google. For an organisation that claims to award such a significant honour, one would expect more. In fact, there was no response from the organization when we asked why the institution does not have a self hosted website.
Abba Gumel, a US-based professor of mathematics and fellow of both the African Academy of Sciences and Nigerian Academy of Science says IASR “is certainly never an arbiter for excellence in physics or any other sciences”.
“There are well known scientific agencies that rank excellence in physics…and the International Agency for Standards and Ratings is not one of them,” Gumel adds.
He identifies Max Planck Institute for Physics, the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics and the Nobel Committee as some of the world’s credible platforms that possibly would have administered the conferment of any such award as “world championship of or in physics…if it ever existed”.
One Too Many
Nura’s daunting award by IASR is not in isolation. Kaywood Leizou, a lecturer of Niger Delta University (NDU), Bayelsa State, reportedly “won the 2018 World Chemical Sciences (Metal Speciation in Sediment) Championship”, beating “5,845 others from 89 countries”.
In the same year, the same platform pronounced Shuaib Idris Mohammed “World Champion in Agricultural Extension (Credit Facilities)”. But save the local media report of the news, there was no credible source to tie the news to.
Similarly in 2015, a Nigerian mathematician, Opeyemi Enoch, was reported by foremost British media to have clinched a $1 million prize for solving the Riemann Zeta Hypothesis — a 156-year-old mathematical problem, and one of the seven Millennium problems prized by the US-based Clay Mathematics Institute at $1 million for solving each one. However, further digging showed that only one of the seven — Poincaré Conjecture — was earmarked solved, by Grigoriy Perelman in 2003.
On a number of occasions, too, the claim that Philip Emeagwali, an Nigerian-American computer scientist was the creator of the internet has hung in the online media airspace. However, quoting a two-part investigation by the rested Next Magazine, Dubawa showed that the claim is false. Rather, it was a self-promotion stunt pulled by Philip Emeagwali as his biggest achievement was winning the $1,000 Gordon Bell Prize in 1989.
We rate this claim as MISLEADING because the lecturer did win an award but the awarding institution (IASR) is not credible and has shown over time to award honours that it does not seem to have authority to give.
Bolaji Aluko, a professor of chemical engineering, and a quondam Vice Chancellor of Federal University of Technology, Otuoke, Bayelsa State, sums up the reason we believe this story must have gone viral.
“We Nigerians bear burden of so much negative news about us that we grope for every good news to counter that. But we must be very careful not to inadvertently worsen that image by making preposterous claims that bring us to into ridicule in the international comity of academics.”