No Plagiarism !

Plagiarism means a "... 'wrongful appropriation,' 'close imitation,' or 'purloining and publication' of another author's 'language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,' and the representation of them as one's own original work." [vis-à-vis 'plagiarism', which, if considered generic, self-plagiarism may be defined as an appropriation/publication of author's own 'language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions,' published earlier/elsewhere and the representation of them as one's original fresh work by ignoring or suppressing references to one's earlier work, often intended to increasing the no. of publications or enhancing one's résumé, etc]. Within academia, plagiarism by students, teachers, or researchers is considered academic dishonesty or academic fraud, and offenders may be put to academic censure, up to and including expulsion. (plagiarism, Wikipedia). One may learn more regarding this topic at It has been observed that plagiarism is wide-spread and increasing in India (see Wikipedia; also see Rao, K.R.; in Chemistry; in Agric. Sc.). Of course, this observation may not be correct. Prior to the advent of the Internet, it might not have been possible to detect plagiarism so easily as now. As of now, there are many internet-based methods/software to detect the case of plagiarization (visit Rampant cases of plagiarism and academic misconduct have been found with the researchers of other countries as well (e.g. see cases of China; USA; in Physics; in Zoology, in Anesthesiology). A consensus is emerging now on discouraging plagiarism by publically naming the plagiarists.

Soumitra Kumar Bera's plagiarism case: Admitted to the Department in 2010, a PhD scholar, Soumitra Kumar Bera, was found plagiarizing blatantly. In one of his papers at MPRA, Bera also writes that he is a PhD from NEHU. This is a patently false information. The RePEc Plagiarism Committee has published Soumitra Kumar Bera's plagiarism case and his name in the list of RePEc plagiarism offenders. NEHU has taken Bera's academic misconduct very seriously. His guest lectureship in the Dept. of Information Technology, NEHU - that Mr. Bera had managed to obtain with his CV proclaiming his publications at MPRA and SSRN - was terminated with immediate effect. The School Board of Economics, Management and Information Sciences, NEHU has resolved to cancel his admission to the research program, ban his admission to any academic program for the next five years and communicate this to the University Grants Commission, India. Following this resolution of the School Board, Mr. Soumitra Kumar Bera ceases from being a student of NEHU. (Also see other actions taken by NEHU).

Know that plagiarism is an offence, an academic misconduct. If the Department detects or comes to know of any instance of indulgence in plagiarism, it would go in for an appropriate treatment. One should keep oneself warned of it.

What the Research Students must know about Plagiarism

In the e-post titled "In India, plagiarism is on the rise: publish, perish or pilfer?" Neelkanthan (GlobalPost, October 18, 2009; updated May 30, 2010 : download) opines that cases of plagiarism in India is rising. Reference may be made to a case in IIT(K), other IITs, Jaunpur university, etc. We find a well-written article "Plagiarism and Social Sciences" written by Manjari Katju [EPW: Vol XLVI No.9 February 26, 2011 download] wherein Katju writes: "In the disciplines of natural sciences, humanities, arts and letters, plagiarism has been caught. There have been high profile cases of plagiarism, like the R A Mashelkar Committee report on patentability in India, which was found to be plagiarised in 2007. ... In the social sciences, however, catching and penalising plagiarism has been a rarity. There is also a kind of hesitation - attached to openly discussing it. The few who raise it are seen as professional critics and rabble-rousers who perpetually have "some or the other" issue to raise and "unnecessary" dins to create over trivialities."

Katju lets us know that "the Code of Student Rights, Responsibilities and Conduct (2005) at Indiana University-Bloomington defines plagiarism as:
'... presenting someone else's work, including the work of other students, as one's own. Any ideas or materials taken from another source for either written or oral use must be fully acknowledged, unless the information is common knowledge. What is considered "common knowledge" may differ from course to course.'

The code also states that:
(a) A student must not adopt or reproduce ideas, opinions, theories, formulas, graphics, or pictures of another person without acknowledgement.
(b) A student must give credit to the originality of others and acknowledge an indebtedness whenever: (1) directly quoting another person's actual words, whether oral or written; (2) using another person's ideas, opinions, or theories; (3) paraphrasing the words, ideas, opinions, or theories of others, whether oral or written; (4) borrowing facts, statistics, or illustrative material; or (5) offering materials assembled or collected by others in the form of projects or collections without acknowledgement." (Katju, ibid)

Damodaran is not surprised to read "Scientific plagiarism in India" on Wikipedia with the findings and facts mentioned in that article. He is dismayed to see that those incidents boomeranged on the fate of the respective research student, while, in most cases, the concerned professor washed his/her hands and passed the buck to the first author, usually a research student. Damodaran suggests that students should be more aware about the consequences and should act proactively while preparing any manuscripts. (Damodaran, VB in Scientific plagiarism and its consequence on research students. At Nature India Forum download).

It is difficult to ascertain whether plagiarism in India is on rise. Earlier, Internet facilities were not available, nor the research materials were easily available in the e-form. With this, search facilities also were poor and e-search was not possible. Now, most of the research work, whether in natural or social sciences, are available easily. Search and comparison are possible. While e-availability raised the possibility of plagiarism, it also raises the probability of comparison and detection of plagiarism. How do these two opposing forces balance? It cannot be determined so easily.

Of late, the University Grants Commission (UGC) has issued regulations requiring that the doctoral research dissertations in different universities should be submitted as hard copies along with a soft copy to be displayed at websites - to be made available electronically (see UGC Regulations, 2005). The Regulations, 2005 state: "Each university shall make the submission of electronic version of the doctoral thesis a mandatory requirement for all doctoral students. This may be introduced by modifying the existing Ph.D regulations of universities by including a clause on 'Submission of Theses'." Further, the Regulations state: "With an objective to compile a comprehensive database of doctoral theses submitted to the universities in India, all universities are required to submit the metadata for all the Ph.D. theses submitted to their university from retrospect." This amounts to say that the Ph.D. dissertations submitted earlier, too, will not be out of the ambit of scrutiny. Although there is not much progress made by the Indian Universities in this regard, but it must come sooner rather than later. One of the objectives, or the effects, of such a step taken by the UGC is to pin down plagiarism. Note that indulgence in plagiarism today may fructify to punishment in the years or decades later in future. "The act of plagiarism is ethically and morally a wrong act. ...Though plagiarism does not have any statutory definition or any statutory backing in an academic field it can be said to be immoral or an improper act on part of the person who publishes an article in his name which is written by someone else." (Justice P. B. Majumdar in upholding the punishment awarded to two former senior professors of the University of Pune, who lent their names to a plagiarised article written by a student and published in international journals some 18 years back; see Plagiarism: No HC relief for Pune professors).

What can be done to ameliorate this situation? As Katju observes: "It is no wonder ... that Indian universities and departments have no coherent policy in place on the matter. As such, institutionally, plagiarism remains a blind spot." Plagiarism is difficult to control when we come across cases of Vice Chancellors being involved in it (see the case of Karnataka VC). But, this would not do for long. Scholars (students as well as teachers) have to be formally sensitized against plagiarism to make themselves pro-actively engaged in protecting the sanctity of academics, unwavered by non-academic prejudices. Universities will have to formulate a clear-cut policy, as well as procedure, to deal with the menace of plagiarism in order to abate its incidence and effects. Some reputed institutions in India have, in the past few years, gone in for devising appropriate policies to curb plagiarism (see IIT-K ). The Society for Scientific Values (SSV), an independent body, has been instituted to "promote integrity, objectivity and ethical values in the pursuit of science" (see cases of misconduct investigated by SSV). However, one must note that 'to plagiarize' and 'to accuse someone of plagiarization' are much easier than 'to establish that the accused has indeed plagiarized' and to take disciplinary/corrective action against the plagiary (see the case of Subhamoy Singha Roy vs Jadavpur University & Others). Of late, RePEc - the world's largest collection of on-line research works in economics - has taken up the issue of plagiarism in economics and constituted its Plagiarism Committee, which is active now. In this endeavor, the goal of the RePEc is "to expose plagiarists who are too often repeat offenders that can get away with their deed because sanctions are local. By naming and shaming them, it is hoped that plagiarism will be perceived to be more costly. This should discourage potential offenders, and plagiarized authors should find a public advocate for their case even when local administrative channels are not willing to pursue the matter." (UConn Econ Blog). It may be noted that now RePEc distinguishes between 'plagiarism' = 'improper appropriation of other's work' and 'self-plagiarism' = 'improper appropriation of one's own work'. A consorted effort to clearly define, classify and grade plagiarism is, however, lacking.

Who are there at risk? Naturally, the researchers (particularly the PhD and MPhil students) are there at risk. As Damodaran has aptly observed - the concerned professors would wash their hands and pass the buck to the research students. It is not much unusual that a doctoral supervisor encourages and at times insists that the junior research student should replicate in his/her dissertation a part of others' text/results/citations/references, lifted from the dissertation or research papers of older scholars in the lab or those of the supervisor. Thus, a supervisor him/herself forces (so to say) his/her research students to plagiarize from his/her (supervisor's) own paper(s) or from older research students' published or unpublished research documents. This is done largely due to irresponsibility, casual attitude to research or unawareness of the possible consequences of plagiarism. In such a case, if a plagiarizing scholar is accused, the supervisor would surely wash his/her hands and pass the buck to the research scholar. Also note that when a research student and a teacher/supervisor co-author a research document, they trust each other and either may be unaware of the other's indulgence in indiscriminate copy-pasting without giving a due regard to citing the source materials. This may be a fact, but such an argument may also be used to shirk the responsibility to the less privileged in the academic hierarchy. The research students are young (generally) and with a long career ahead. They may lose their jobs, promotional avenues as well as prestige if at any time in future they are accused of plagiarism. Their research degrees may be withdrawn. Nobody knows at present how plagiarism will be taken in the years to come. It may be taken very seriously by the universities, colleges and other employers. Soumitra Kumar Bera's case (which exemplifies an extremal extent of blatant solo-plagiarism: solo-plagiarism has only one plagiarist) has been dealt with sternly by NEHU as well as RePEc. Research students are, thus, greatly at risk. Hence, research students should beware of the possible consequences of intentional (or unintentional) plagiarism and, hence, proactively cite others' works appropriately while preparing any manuscripts. [see Referencing Source Material in Economics and Avoiding Plagiarism; also see Student Guide to Avoiding Plagiarism].

Reporting Complaints of Plagiarism: When encountered with a case of plagiarism (in Economics), and having been sufficiently convinced and also having gathered enough evidence for that, one may post the information on Economics Job Market Rumors, which is a blog medium accessed by many economists. Then, if the plagiarized academic material is related to the RePEc, one may report the event, with sufficient proof, to the RePEc Plagiarism Committee. Alternatively/additionally, reporting/complaints may be made to the organization in which the plagiarizer(s) work(s). His/her/their superiors may be contacted. One may report the case to Society for Scientific Values as well and follow the procedure as the Society suggests. If the case is releted to a journal article, the editors of the journal(s) concerned may be contacted.




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