Faced with charges of plagiarism in research in various academic fields in the previous years at Panjab University, authorities have sought to stem the tide by opting for software to detect plagiarism.
However, acquisition of the software does not mean that PU authorities can breathe easy, since the software can detect plagiarism only in research theses written in English.
However, what constitutes plagiarism is yet not clear. The PU senate had discussed the constitution of a committee to define plagiarism, at its meeting here on March 24. Those present had pointed out that there was thin line dividing copying from similarity. The senate members were of the view that only subject experts could point out plagiarism and should thus be trusted for the same.
PU vice chancellor Prof Arun Grover had assured that a committee would be formed soon to look into the matter.
PU measures to curb plagiarism
PU Dean Research Madhu Raka has issued directions to all chairpersons of university departments, making it mandatory for all to use the software obtained by the PU to detect plagiarism. However, all are not convinced since the software cannot detect the difference between copying and insertion of references.
Software and its drawbacks
Panjab University has obtained a software 'Turnitin' for Rs 2 lakh, which is a leading academic plagiarism detection software used all across the world. The software can detect material copied from any other research that is available online. However, research conducted in departments like Hindi, Tibetan Studies and Punjabi (where theses are written in vernacular languages) would not benefit from the software.
Affidavits and attestation by HoDs
PU authorities had come up with another measure to check plagiarism by directing students to submit affidavits attested by notaries while submitting their research theses to the effect that these were bona fide. The issue was debated at a senate meeting and the condition was done away with. Now, only a declaration by the research fellow and duly attested by the department chairperson and supervisor has to be submitted.
No action specified
PU authorities so far haven't decided on the action to be taken against those involved in plagiarism. Though a couple of years ago, PU had sought help from neighbouring varsities on the matter, but no specific guidelines have been laid down till date.
Voices from PU
K Tankeshwar, director, computer centre
The software is actually very good and detects copied parts of the theses. As far as plagiarism and copying is concerned, it is up to the supervisor to decide. The software merely tells a particular part of the theses that has been copied, but whether it amounts to plagiarism or not has to be decided by the experts. Also, we have directions from Dean Research that all theses have to go through the software and teachers are now approaching us constantly for training on the software.
PU Dean Research Prof Madhu Raka
We are trying our best to work on the modalities to ensure that no plagiarism is resorted to in research work at the university. Also, a committee will be formed to define plagiarism as discussed in the recent senate meeting. Both students and supervisors have to take responsibility that the research work is not copied.
Jayanti Dutta, secretary, Panjab University Teachers Association (PUTA)
The issue of plagiarism is very serious. It is high time that PU authorities put in place some regulations to check the menace. Also, the entire focus should not be on students. Rather, there are teacher also who are into research. With the promotions based on the research they carry out, there are many teachers who end up doing shoddy work. Checks need to be put in place for their work also.
Issue of plagiarism haunting PU for long
The issue of plagiarism has been bedeviling PU for quite some time now. The authorities have been forming committees for long to discuss the issue. However not many recommendations from these committees have been adopted.
2011: A clear cut case of plagiarism by a research scholar from the department of German, faculty of languages, was reported in the varsity.
2010: Jayanti Dutta, deputy director, academic staff college, had accused a faculty member in centre for public health, PU, of lifting data from the dissertation of her student.
2009: Three PhD students were caught copying research theses last year. Two of the students were from the history department and one from the political science department.
2004: Alleged plagiarism from the department of physical education was reported.
1996: The infamous Himalayan fossil fraud, which was debated across the world. Prof VJ Gupta from the geology department was criticised by researchers across the world for alleged fraudulent research.