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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

No two ways about it: Plagiarism is cheating

Strict guidelines, penalties and awareness programmes can help tackle the problem

editorials Updated: Jul 22, 2019 20:16 IST

Hindustan Times
Indian academics have contributed 35% of all articles published in fake journals between 2010 and 2014, the government-appointed P Balram panel has highlighted.
Indian academics have contributed 35% of all articles published in fake journals between 2010 and 2014, the government-appointed P Balram panel has highlighted.(Getty Images/iStockphoto)
         

Indian academics have contributed 35% of all articles published in fake journals between 2010 and 2014, the government-appointed P Balram panel has highlighted. According to a report published in the news website ThePrint, the committee also flagged plagiarism and data manipulation as issues of greater concern that damage the credibility of institutions.

Pointing out that there is a lack of qualified human resource for research guidance and poor infrastructure, the panel has suggested a slew of measures to improve research, including reviewing the practices in recruitment of faculty members, providing grant for new faculty, and reviewing the mechanism by which vice-chancellors are appointed with good academic leadership being vital for improving research culture.

There are several reasons why plagiarism has been flourishing: our academic system, starting from the primary level, encourages rote learning and not independent thinking; widespread access to the Internet; guidelines on research misconduct don’t have any time frames for the closure of plagiarism cases; lax punishment for plagiarism, and, there’s a kind of hesitation attached to openly discussing the problem.

But last year, India introduced regulations to detect and punish acts of plagiarism. Punishments for researchers or students caught breaking the rules range from requiring that a manuscript be withdrawn to sacking or expulsion, a report in Nature said. Earlier, punishments were left to the discretion of the institution. The regulations will apply to the 867 universities and their affiliated institutions that report to the University Grants Commission. The New Education Policy, which is in the works, is also alert to the challenge. “Students will be taught at a young age the importance of doing what’s right… In later years, this would then be expanded along themes of cheating, violence, plagiarism, tolerance, equality, empathy…” the draft policy says.

Along with the regulation, awareness will be critical. The university community and research organisations, Manjari Katju of the University of Hyderabad, writes in Economic and Political Weekly piece, have to spread awareness and collectively evolve a code that will transparently grade offences and correspondingly prescribe penalties. Doing this should not be too difficult: There are examples and precedents already present on what these guidelines and measures would look like; and this makes it easier for India’s institutions to evolve a code that would be universally applicable to all universities and research institutions across the country.

First Published: Jul 22, 2019 20:01 IST

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