Promotion pressure fuels academic plagiarism

  • Hasyim WidhiartoThe Jakarta Post

Sun, July 10 2011 | 08:00 am

Amid the country’s messy education system, the number of cases of plagiarism involving university lecturers is unlikely to abate. The Jakarta Post’s Hasyim Widhiarto explores the reasons why some lecturers steal from the works of others and how exactly works are plagiarized.

Dion Eprijum Ginanto, 25, an English teacher at SMA I Batanghari state high school in Jambi, was at school when he received a telephone call from a friend in Jakarta.

A senior lecturer at Gorontalo State University (UNG), according to his friend, had just been suspended for plagiarism.

Dion, also a regular opinion columnist for the local Jambi Ekspres newspaper, had no idea why his friend had called – until he realized that an article he published might have been plagiarized.

“I immediately surfed the Internet after finishing class. I was really shocked after I read media reports that the lecturer had stolen an article I wrote on my blog,” Dion said.

“I don’t understand why a respected academic, living hundreds kilometers away from here, wanted to risk his career by claiming another’s work as his own.”

The case emerged after the lecturer, who was identified as AR, faced an UNG internal academic inquiry following a report from a faculty member who had alleged there were numerous similarities between AR’s article and Dion’s.

AR’s article was titled “School Principals with a Vision of Sustainable Quality”, and was published serially by the Gorontalo Pos from May 5 until 7.

Dion’s article, “Professionalism and Education Betterment for School Principals”, was posted to his personal blog earlier this year.

During the inquiry, the university also determined that a second article written by AR published serially by Gorontalo Pos between May 23 and May 25 had also plagiarized another article.

AR’s article, “Education is not a Sleazy Capitalism”, was a “copy-pasted” from “Education for Who?: An Analysis of the 2003 Law on National Education System”, written by Muhammad Rizal Siregar, a labor activist from Medan, North Sumatra, for a local community bulletin in 2003.

Despite the serious violations, AR was not dismissed. The university only prohibited him from publishing any articles or scientific works.

Later, UNG rector Syamsu Qomar Badu announced that the university had dismissed AR from his positions at UNG’s School of Education Science and from the university’s academic senate.

Unlike Dion, who learned that his works were plagiarized from a friend, Jasmal A. Syamsu, 43, a professor at the husbandry faculty of Hasanuddin University (Unhas) in Makassar, South Sulawesi, discovered on his own that his research had been plagiarized.

“Last year, I was reading a book about husbandry when I suddenly noticed that it featured several paragraphs and graphs that I wrote for a joint research paper a few years ago,” Jasmal said.

“I was very upset since I and my research colleagues had worked extremely hard to complete the scientific publication.”

The plagiarized book, Sources and the Availability of Animal Feed Ingredients in Indonesia, was written by Heri Ahmad Sukria, a lecturer at Bogor Agricultural University (IPB), and Rantan Krisnan, an animal science researcher in North Sumatra.

IPB Press published the book in 2009.

Jasmal, one of the youngest professors at Unhas, however, said he considered the case closed after the Heri and Rantan telephoned him directly to apologize.

“They also asked the publisher to withdraw the book from circulation,” he added.

Amid government efforts to improve higher education, Indonesia has seen a spike in the number of high-profile plagiarism cases at the university level implicating several senior lecturers and professors.

Critics have questioned the oversight system put in place to ensure honesty and quality among lecturers, as well as the general state of the academic research culture across the archipelago.

Is it worth it?: Security offi cers check an incoming car heading into the newly built headquarters of the Education Ministry’s Directorate General of Higher Institution in South Jakarta on Wednesday. Amid government efforts to improve higher education, Indonesia has seen a spike in the number of high-profi le plagiarism cases at the university level implicating several senior lecturers and professors. JP/Wendra Ajistyatama Among the popular methods used by plagiarists include writing a newspaper column or scientific publication using information taken from scientific journals or the Internet without citing the original sources.

A message recently circulated on several university lecturer mailing lists saying that a “significant number” of lecturers had submitted plagiarized scientific papers and publications to meet promotion requirements.

Supriadi Rustad, who heads human resources at the National Education Ministry’s Higher Education directorate, said that plagiarism was one of the main reasons that the directorate declined to promote lecturers.

“We cannot never tolerate such conduct – even in the smallest amounts – because it is a violation of our academic ethics and culture,” Supriadi said in a statement, declining to elaborate on the kinds of plagiarism that the directorate had found.

Every year, according to Supriadi, an average of 5,000 university lecturers submitted applications for academic rank promotion to the Ministry’s Directorate General of Higher Education, which oversees university teaching staff.

“We usually found that only between 50 to 70 percent could meet all the criteria required [for promotion],” Supriadi said.

Under Indonesia’s higher education system, educators are ranked under five levels: teaching staff, associate lecturer, lecturer, associate professor and professor.

In order to get promoted, a lecturer must hold an appropriate academic degree and collect a certain number of points based on teachings, research and social activities.

Under the system, lecturers are urged to spend time in the classroom; to conduct research, publish books or scientific papers and to be involved in various professional organizations and community development programs.

A lecturer who has collected sufficient points can submit an application for academic rank promotion to the university.

If approved by university and regional reviewers, the application will then be submitted for final assessment to the Directorate General of Higher Education in Jakarta.

According to the directorate, there are currently 197,922 full-time lecturers, only 2.3 percent of whom were professors.

Supriadi dismissed allegations that bureaucracy and the desire for promotion was behind the incidents of plagiarism and other mischievous behavior.

“Plagiarism emerged at the same time with the birth of science.”

“It has also happened because our academic culture remains trapped in an ‘unhealthy’ competition,” Supriadi said.

The ministry, he said, had recently garnered support from state and private universities to launch a joint “Anti-Cheating and Anti-Plagiarism” campaign to improve the quality and competitiveness of higher education.

Muhadjir Effendy, the rector of Malang Muhammadiyah University in East Java, one of the country’s biggest private universities, agreed with Supriadi, saying that plagiarism could be attributed to personal motivations rather than to frustration with the system.

“An academic who regularly writes for newspapers, for example, might potentially resort to plagiarism if he or she can’t handle a lot of demand [for articles] ,” he said.

Education expert Darmaningtyas said that universities must motivate students and lecturers to undertake competitive research activities to prevent plagiarism.

“By creating such an environment, a university will be able to nurture its lecturers and students to learn how to respect the works of others,” Darmaningtyas said.

 

Several modus operandi of plagiarism

1. Taking a research paper or article from a registered science journal, and copying it so that a
lecturer can replace the name of the original author with his or her name. This plagiarized
item will then be submitted along with their application for promotion.

2. Deleting a section of an already publicized scientifi c journal, and replacing it with his own
article. The bogus article will then be reprinted in a similar font format and paper size. The
lecturer hopes to receive acknowledgement by including his work in the journal.

3. Taking credit for a research paper or fi nal-year assignment completed by students attending
the lecturer’s class.

4. Directly copying and pasting a research paper, article, or parts of a paper or article, written
by another person, usually taken from Internet-based sources rather than a journal, and
passing it off as one’s own work. This is the most common method of plagiarism committed
by lecturers.

(JP/From various sources)

Source: The Jakarta Post

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