Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Plagiarism in Academic Life

I always thought that the academic life is a pure and idealistic life whereby every writing is originally written based on research conducted by the writer concerned.
However, it seems that I have been wrong, because according to Kompas (below) some professors at universities in Bandung and Yogyakarta have been found guilty of copying the writings of other professors
  
I hope that plagiarism would not spread any further either in the academic life or in the blogosphere.

Saving Indonesia from Traps of Plagiarism
Rabu, 28 April 2010 | 02:56 WIB
JAKARTA, KOMPAS.com - Plagiarism remains 
a serious problem in Indonesia’s academic life.  
Over the past three months, a number of plagiarism scandals involving academics from prestigious private and state universities in two "student cities", Bandung and Yogyakarta, were revealed to the public.

In February alone,  the Indonesian public and academicians were shocked by the revelation of at least three separate cases, including the Anak Agung Banyu Perwita case. A full-time professor of international relations at Bandung-based Parahyangan University, Perwita was found guilty of plagiarism by the university’s senate after an article bearing his name that appeared in the Jakarta Post in November 2009 proved in reality to be a piece written by an Australian social scientist in 2007.
     
The Australian scientist was Dr Carl Ungerer, director of the National Security Project at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI) who was also a former lecturer of international relations at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. Two other cases of plagiarism were found in Yogyakarta, Central Java. In the city, two lecturers of local private universities were also allegedly plagiarists after claiming other people’s scientific works as their own for the sake of their professorship applications.


Due to the importance of this issue, Indonesia’s influential Kompas daily, for instance, had put it in its headline and editorial pages in its February editions. The acts of plagiarizing at the Indonesian higher institutions do not stop at these three publicly-revealed cases because, like the peak of an iceberg, another case is also found at one of the country’s centers of excellence.

Mohammad Zuliansyah, former PhD student of the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB)’s school of electronics and informatics, was convincingly found guilty of plagiarizing the scientific paper of Austrian scholar, Siyka Zlatanova, entitled "On 3D Topological Relationship". Zuliansyah copied Zlatanova’s research paper, which had actually been published eight years before he participated in the 2008 Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Conference on Cybernetics and Intelligent Systems in Chengdu, China.

Despite the fact that the IEEE had  issued a notice of violation of IEEE publication principles for his article on its website on November 11, 2008, the Zuliansyah plagiarism case was revealed to Indonesian public and acknowledged by the ITB management in April 2010. The ITB Rector Professor Akhmaloka said the ITB had just realized about Zuliansyah’s plagiarism case after he completed his PhD program and obtained the degree in the end of 2009.

Before the case was revealed to public, he had become a lecturer candidate at his almamater but, later, he reportedly withdrew from the candidacy. A series of publicly revealed plagiarism scandals have arisen deep concerns to the government and university people in the country.
In response to the plagiarism cases publicly revealed at certain private universities in Bandung and Yogyakarta, Education Minister Mohammad Nuh said the culprits need to be severely sanctioned.
      
"The sanctions can be social and legal, as well as the withdrawal of their academic degrees. The latter must be decided by the respective universities’ senates," he said.
       
Despite the fact that imitating other people’s works but then claiming them as their own works was just done by a very small number of Indonesian academics, this condition could not be ignored. To halt the acts of plagiarizing in the future, the education ministry would tighten its assessment procedures in evaluating the originality of lecturers’ scientific works through a peer review mechanism, he said.
       
Learning from the previous cases, Nuh argued that the main cause of plagiarism was related to the culprits’ poor personal integrity in their efforts to achieve the highest academic class as full-time professors.

"Other causing factors are related to the weak professorship assessment procedures and to financial consideration because being a professor, a lecturer will get incentives," he said.
       
Nuh said the authorities of universities and research centers in the country need to open the accesses to digital libraries and use such plagiarism checkers as "scanmyessay.com" to enable them to spot plagiarized  papers in advance.
                                                                            
An alarming bell
       
For the university authorities, the revealed plagiarism scandals have become an alarming bell that needs to be responded with concrete actions, such as strengthening academic life and plagiarism checking system. The University of Gadjah Mada (UGM) and ITB have announced their plan to develop plagiarism checkers to prevent the same cases to happen and ruin the credibility and reputation of the country’s quality higher education.

According to ITB Rector Professor Akhmaloka, his institution had actually wished to have the plagiarism checking software for long time ago but due to its expensive proposition, the ITB could not acquire it. "Now we are going to develop the software ourselves," he recently revealed.
       
The plagiarism that potentially weakens a nation and ruins its credibility and reputation on the eyes of the world’s community is not typically Indonesia case but it has become an international issue for such a long time. Australia’s University of New England, for example, had ever handled an alleged acts of plagiarizing by its international students in 2007.

As revealed by the Chronicle of Higher Education in its December 20, 2007’s news story entitled "Australian University May Discipline Staff in Plagiarism Scandal, but Not Students", the university found  the works of  210 examined international students had significant materials that they copied from the Internet.
      
In safeguarding their academic integrity and organizational reputation, such leading Australian universities as the University of Queensland (UQ) has used a plagiarism checker for years.  An Indonesian scholar teaching at UQ’s school of geography planning and environmental management, Dr.Salahudin (Salut) Muhidin, said UQ lecturers had used a computer program called "Turnitin" to help them check their students’ academic essays to ensure their originality and proper citation. 
      
UQ, he said, had seriously attempted to maintain the academic integrity of its students through "Turnitin" that had also been used by thousands of universities in more than 80 countries around the world. However, the "Turnitin" was no more than just a tool to trace the levels of plagiarism. It could not even spot someone’s acts of plagiarizing unpublished papers and Indonesian research papers whose plagiarized contents were then translated into English, Muhidin said.


Apart from the significance of such plagiarism checkers as the "Turnitin" and "scanmyessay.com", building a sound academic life at all universities in Indonesia is much more important amid  their limited budget. In this context, ensuring the originality of works can be a starting point that needs to be made parts of Indonesians’ academic life. Through this approach, Indonesia can keep improving its higher educational reputation that has recently been damaged by the revealed plagiarism scandals.

10 comments:

colson said...

I guess the morals of the population of universities are approximately a reflection of those in society at large.

The problem of academic plagiarism has grown all over the world since internet provided new tools.

Eci si Cami said...

I congratulate you for the interesting subject you've approached unfortunately happens in many countries worldwide. For example in Romania where education was at a very high level and recognized worldwide, the situation has changed 180 degrees. Among others because living standards are low on money to buy college diplomas. To find a station specializing in the field in which you have no chance if you give money. And examples can continue ......
Greetings with respect!

H. Nizam said...

Colson,
Ooooh ..... I remember being Jury
at several speech contests whereby originality is one of the most important thing that should be fulfilled by the contestants.
And I seldom found plagiarism. I was expecting academicians should be much better. c'est la vie!

H. Nizam said...

Eci si Cami,
I have friends who studied in your country during the communist era where educations are free.
Sad to hear about the significant changes. Freedom has its price, not always sweet unfortunately.

Don Shepard said...

Interesting post here. Indeed anywhere there is money and prestige to be gained, there will unfortunately be corruption. This is certainly the case in the U.S. I think that while this happens in universities here, in general the morals are higher academic settings. This could be because so many researchers and educators get paid little compared to our bankers, CEO's and politicians. Kind of backwards, and one reason why America is losing it's overall effectiveness a bit.

H. Nizam said...

Don,
Thank you for sharing about
similar thing that happens in
the U.S. The reason is also quite similar i.e money and prestige, especially that academicians are paid lower than those who work in industry, trades, banks etc.

Jenn said...

The college I go to in the US (a Florida community college), they actually have you submit your papers through services online, that check for possible plagiarism. While it does help weed out cheaters, it is sad that it has come to that.

Sandra Martinez said...

Yes, Plagiarism are very old news in research as well. One of the reasons the database of Los Alamos was created was to protect research groups from plagiarism.

Before that you could see sadly often that you sent a paper for publication to a reputable research magazine, and your paper never did it out of the referee office (usually an independent researcher considered authority in the field and no related with the magazine) or was kept sleeping for up to a year.

While keeping your work sleeping, they would find a workaround and publish your ideas before you. Then they would send you a letter saying that your paper was not original and that you had to add the citation to their work to be accepted... I saw it happening with a couple of friends when I was working in Physics, sucked on steroids.

The Los Alamos database was a blessing, because you could had proof of the dates and they couldn't do it any more.

Rob Baiton said...

When in doubt, cite!

H. Nizam said...

@Jenn,
It is very sad indeed. Good to know that your college has successfully prevent plagiarism.

@Sandra,
Your story about what happened before the database was created scarred me. It could happen any where. I am glad to hear that there
is no more problem now.

@Rob,
Actually for research purposes academicians may quote other people's works. But of course they should mention their source.