KOCHI: Even as top officials of universities in the country are being scrutinised for alleged academic theft and plagiarism, universities in the state have taken little or no interest in curbing the unethical practice of cut and paste.
In order to facilitate open access to theses and dissertations to the academic community globally, the UGC Notification (Minimum Standards and Procedure for Award of MPhil / PhD Degree, Regulation, 2009) had mandated submission of electronic version of these documents by researchers across universities.
The INFLIBNET (Information and Library Network) centre under the University Grants Commission, responsible for maintaining the digital repository of theses and dissertations, also provides free anti-plagiarism software to universities eligible for grants from the University Grants Commission. But the response to this offer has not been very positive.
Even though the University Grants Commission regulations state that it is the responsibility of research scholar, research supervisor (guide) and universities to check plagiarised content by using standard anti-plagiarism software, universities continue to rely on the age-old method of manually checking and approving thesis.
“We are not aware of any such system and have not received any message from University Grants Commission on it. However, we are willing to install such a software as it is the need of the hour. We will discuss about it at the earliest” said Abdul Khader, Vice-Chancellor, Kannur University.
Most university authorities have seconded him. The Sanskrit university which availed itself of the software from UGC in June this year has not put it to use.
“We have submitted the e-thesis to INFLIBNET but we have not used the software as part of the process to award PhDs. Only when a complaint is raised do we use the software to detect plagiarism,” said A Vijayakumar, deputy librarian, Sanskrit University. Same is the case with a few other universities which has not put to use the advantages of the software.
The soft copy of the thesis has to be uploaded to the anti-plagiarism software to detect the percentage of plagiarism in it. An official in the examination wing is usually responsible for conducting the check. If the plagiarism percentage is 25 per cent or more, the PhD candidate would be asked to revise it. However, it needs to be monitored by an expert, since the software could count the use of certain technical words as repetitions or plagiarised.
Kerala University Pro-Vice-Chancellor N Veeramanikandan’s statement that the pages alleged to be plagiarised were mentioned in citations and references, points out another angle - the difficulty in compartmentalising what exactly constitutes and leads to plagiarism. While on one side it is the weak norms governing the awarding of PhD, it is the lack of awareness on the other side, experts said.
“Thesis theft or plagiarism is a grave offence - theft of intellectual property. It is not only unethical but also illegal and not many are aware of it, especially of what constitutes intentional and unintentional plagiarism. Also, there is no strict compartmentalization of how much of plagiarism is acceptable,” said Ravi Bhardwaj, a lawyer.
“Plagiarism goes unnoticed or ignored in many cases. Sometimes, PhDs are awarded on the basis of a mutual understanding. In most cases, allegations of plagiarism pop up and reaches the court only as a result of personal vengeance” Ravi Bhardwaj said.