Lack of regulatory mechanism promotes plagiarism

Lack of regulatory mechanism promotes plagiarism

Increasing pressure on teachers for publication of research papers, ignorant attitude of guides towards the standards of theses and dissertations that they receive from students as well as lack of regulatory mechanism are together contributing to the rise of plagiarism in country’s higher education sector.

It is a common practice among faculties and students to lift and incorporate contents from published works and other available resources in their papers without acknowledging the source. As a consequence, India’s global share in research output continue to be low, though it increased from 1.1 per cent to 3.6 per cent over the last
10 years.

The government is making efforts to expand and improve country’s higher education network and its research capabilities seeking greater collaboration from developed countries like the US, but a lack of genuine interest in research and an urge to give a new knowledge to society among academia stand as a huge challenge before it.

While many senior faculties blame the University Grants Commission (UGC) for rampant plagiarism in research, a section of scholars and students rue over the education system which has so far doled out M Phil and PhD degrees just to increase the numbers in most of the cases, turning a blind eye to plagiarism.

In 2010, the UGC set various parameters for the promotion of faculties and made research publications as one of key factors. The aim was to increase the research output and publication of papers in journals. However, it turned out to be counter
productive.

 “It’s a complex problem. The UGC should not quantify that you must have three publications or four publications then you will get promoted. Faculties are under pressures to take an easy way to plagiarise and meet their target. One publication can be better than 20 publications,” former director of Indian Institute of Technology Gautam Barua told Deccan Herald.

Delhi University Teachers Association president Nandita Narain echoed Barua. “The UGC regulations are terrible. It is encouraging bad research and also affecting teaching. The UGC must address this issue.”

For most of the students, as many professors say, an MPhil or a PhD programme is just something that should be undertaken to earn another degree until they get employed.
“They take up these programmes just for the sake of getting another degree as they devote their time preparing for  various competitive examinations. And when the deadline for submission of thesis comes closer, they look for easy options and resort to plagiarism,” a Delhi University professor said.

All over the country, there are “so called experts” available in market to write thesis for PhD students for money. “They are known to every student. They will charge certain amount and write thesis. The guides, who also came from the same system, do not raise any objection. It is happening in almost all the universities,” he added.

Degrees on sale

Moreover, a UGC official said, there are many private and deemed universities which are “selling” degrees. “They will ask a PhD candidate whether he likes to write his own thesis or want assistance from somebody else and will hire a professional PhD thesis writer if a candidate wants. For that, however, the candidate will have to pay additional money which ranges from Rs 50,000 to Rs 1 lakh.”

But what happens when these schools face the examiners after submission of their thesis? “Such universities appoint only those PhD examiners who can protect their interest. To tell, you very frankly, I am a foreign examiner for PhD thesis of some other country. But in my own country, I hardly receive a PhD thesis. It’s because supervisors know what can happen if a thesis will come to me,” UGC member M M Ansari said.

Theses and dissertations are rich and unique source of information. They often do not find their way into publication. They can be used for duplication. In view of this, the UGC brought fresh regulations for awarding MPhil and PhD degrees in 2009, making its mandatory for all the varsities to submit a soft copy of theses and dissertations of the students for uploading the same on a digital repository “Shodhganga”, hosted and maintained by Information and Library Network (INFLIBNET) Centre, Ahmedabad.

It was a good effort to check duplication of theses and dissertations but failed to yield the desired results. Of the total 700 universities in India, only 100 have so far signed MoUs with the INFLIBNET. Of them,only 40 varsities have so far sent thesis and dissertations for uploading on the repository.

However, the use of software by INFLIBNET to check plagiarism prompted many universities follow the suit and cases of academic misconduct began pouring in as they started using softwares. Many professors, however, say it is not always easy to detect plagiarism, even by the use of software.

Alarmed by the situation, the UGC recently set up a committee to frame regulations to check plagiarism. The committee is likely to come up with tougher rules and propose severe punishments including salary cuts and even dismissal from job in case of a university faculty for “major” cases of plagiarism. The UGC move has been welcomed by academics and scholars across the board, but many feel the government needs to plan other measures to hit at the root of the problem.

“A tough regulation will definitely prove a deterrent. But, unless there is an overall change in our academic environment, it is difficult to check plagiarism to a satisfactory level. Students should be apprised with proper methodology of research as they begin to write papers. Students should be encouraged to read books, not question answer series,” an assistant professor with JNU Ganga Sahay Meena said.

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