Who Is Diksha Shinde? 14-Year-Old Whose Apparent Selection For NASA Panel Has Courted Controversy

Diksha Shinde NASA Controversy, Diksha Shindey

Diksha Shinde is a 14-year-old girl from Aurangabad who claims to have got selected as a panellist in a NASA event. News agency ANI published news about this young student and writer who has been picked to participate in NASA’s MSI Fellowships Virtual Panel held over a period of four days last month.

Here’s what you need to know about Diksha Shinde and what she claims.

  • She is a class 10 student. She claims to have got selected in NASA’s MSI Fellowship Virtual panel.
  • The girl says she has read numerous books by Stephen Hawking. Post that, she submitted an essay titled ‘Questioning the Existence of God’ in September. Her essay wasn’t approved. She modified it and submitted it again. However, it was rejected for the second time also, as per sources.
  • Her father is employed as the headmaster at a non-aided school. Ranjana, her mother, is a tutor.
  • The young researcher spoke to ANI and said that she decided to send a research article in December 2020 on ‘Black Hole’ which was liked and accepted at NASA. She won a research competition organised by International Astronomical Search Collaboration. “In that, I provisionally discovered the ‘Main Belt asteroid”, she said.

  • In May 2021, her paper on ‘We Live in Black Hole?’ was accepted by the International Journal of Scientific and Engineering Research. She was selected for the MSI Fellowships Virtual panel in June.
  • Reviewing proposals submitted by researchers and describing a collaborating approach for conducting research at NASA is what her job constitutes, according to her.
  • The 14-year-old claims that she attends the research discussions every alternate day.  She will work between 1 am and 4 am on alternate days. She will even receive a monthly honorarium for it.
  • She told ANI that she will be attending a conference which will be held in October 2021 and NASA bearing all the expenses.

Is her story untrue?

A lot of netizens on Twitter are questioning the authenticity of the claims she has made. For instance, some Twitter users pointed out the email ID from which Shinde received communication is not NASA’s official one. Others said that the eligibility criteria for the MSI fellowship asks for American citizenship. Some pointed out that Shinde doesn’t seem to be eligible as her educational qualifications don’t fit the requirements of the fellowship.

In a bid to defend their story, ANI even attached screenshots of the emails Shinde received from NASA on her research approval. ANI editor-in-chief Smita Prakash defended the report on Shinde and tweeted, “The story is not fake. We stand by it.”

On the NASA website, the Minority Serving Institutions (MSI) Exchange tool offers a curated “search for innovative and diverse academic collaborators” without mention of any direct NASA-backed fellowships under the said service. The MSI Exchange is managed by the space agency’s Minority University Research and Education Project (MUREP).

Post this, several leading Indian news publications have taken down their stories citing “factual inaccuracies.”

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