Govt plans harsh lessons for plagiarism

Govt plans harsh lessons for plagiarism

Ending data fraud

A draft policy on academic ethics has proposed to hand out “stringent punishment” to those indulging in “large-scale” plagiarism and data fraud in academic works and research, saying such practices should be considered as a “very serious offence”.

“Large-scale ethical violations should be met with severe disciplinary action and, if appropriate, dismissal,” the office of the Principal Scientific Adviser to Union government, K Vijay Raghavan, has recommended in a draft National Policy on Academic Ethics, formulated for all academic institutions including medical and engineering colleges.

While insisting that plagiarism of any kind should remain “unacceptable”, the draft has also taken note of possibility of cases where the extent of plagiarism and data manipulation “can be variable and sometimes unintentional”. For such cases, the draft has recommended taking corrective actions. “If a publication is found to contain plagiarism or manipulated data, the institution must ensure that a correction or retraction is published in the same place as the original paper.”

On the administrative side, if a decision on cases (of plagiarism and data fraud) is found to have been made based on a “bias or conflict of interest”, it should be “overturned”. “In general, every effort must be made to ensure that an unethical action does not succeed in propagating false knowledge or incorrect decisions,” the draft stipulates.

While pitching for “formal mechanisms and procedures” to deal with cases of research misconduct, the draft policy has recommended that institutions set up a standing committee to ensure timely and impartial redressal of all grievances. 

The 6-page draft policy, which has been circulated to higher education institutions for comment and feedback, also pitches for “careful” formulation of proper guidelines and regulations to ensure that academic works do not pose any “risk or danger” to people and environment.

The proposed policy demands “honesty” from teachers, research scholars and students of various disciplines, saying mentors must communicate “positive” ethical values and professionalism to their students “through their own actions.”

The list of authors in research papers, reviews, books, monographs or policy documents should not be manipulated to give undue credit to those who have not contributed (honorary authorship) or deny credit to those who have contributed sufficiently, the draft states.

“Sometimes a genuine author’s name is suppressed to hide a conflict of interest and the name of a ghost author is substituted. Such a practice is unethical for both parties.” the draft observes.