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Honesty in Academia and Bangladesh
Mahir Abrar
Published : Tuesday, 9 March, 2021 at 10:27 PM, Count : 173

Mahir Abrar

Mahir Abrar

In one of my earliest teaching experiences I had given an assignment to a class on globalisation. I expected some good papers but what I saw was that 90 percent of the class had plagiarized their work. I expressed my outrage in the class. How do you expect to compete against students from other universities or other countries if this is the level of work you can produce? My students were surprised by my strictness. They did not view plagiarism as a major issue. I was stunned. I completed my higher education in the United States where academic honesty is heavily emphasised. I told my students that even if you learn nothing here at least try to learn the value of honesty. Try to be honest human beings. This was not the last time I would experience plagiarism and not just from student either.

I recently read an article by a very senior academic. He is a professor and former chairman of the Department of Political Science at Jagannath University. He has a PhD from the University of Dhaka. The article was called “Sheikh Russel: The youngest child of Bangabandhu” which was published on The Independent on 18 October 2019. He plagiarized large parts of that article. Let me give you an example he wrote "Major Faruque promoted Captain Huda to Major and Subedar Major Abdul Wahab Joardar to Lieutenant on the spot. Faruque had arrived and left on a tank. Colonel Jamil Uddin Ahmad, military secretary to the President, was killed on the way to Bangabandhu Bhaban after he was called by Bangabandhu."

This line was copied from the Wikipedia article written in 2017. The line on Wikipedia is "Major Faruque promoted Captain Huda to Major and Subedar Major Abdul Wahab Joardar to Lieutenant on the spot. Faruque had arrived and left on a tank.[9][11][12] Coloenl Jamil Uddin Ahmad, military secretary to the President, was killed on the way to Bangabandhu Residence after he was called by Sheikh Mujib." As you can see it was a shameless case of plagiarism. It was in fact a decline in quality from the original article because he had removed the citations. I checked his article to see if he attributed it to Wikipedia; he did not. I do not understand how a mainstream reputable newspaper would publish this article without checking for plagiarism. I do not understand how someone in his position can blatantly plagiarize their work. If a professor at Jagannath University can plagiarize their work how do I hold my students accountable?  This was not the first time I had seen plagiarized work published by a Bangladeshi newspaper. This was the first time I had seen plagiarized work “written” by a professor at one of the top public universities in Bangladesh.
Honesty in Academia and BangladeshIn academia there is a saying, “publish or perish” but that does not apply towards newspaper articles. I am left wondering why he had to plagiarize to write a newspaper article. The pressure is to get published on peer reviewed academic journals. There is in fact such a high demand that it has given rise to a parasitic industry called predatory journals. They pretend to be peer reviewed academic journal but actually do not peer review the articles. One such institute is the Center for Promoting Ideas which is published from Uttara, Dhaka. The Center for Promoting Ideas publishes a number of journals, almost all of them with the title International, and none of them are peer reviewed. The journals have a number of foreign editors but someone of them explicitly stated that they are not involved with the organisation and have requested the removal of their names.

I can understand why Center for Promoting Ideas does what it does. World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology or WASET is a predatory journal publisher which made about 4.5 million USD in 2017. They have apparently thousands of academic conferences per year but evidence and common sense suggests these are fake events. If you go through their website you will find a number of journal articles and conference papers published by Bangladeshi academics. In there you will find articles by officials of Bangladesh Bank and academics from Southeast University, Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology, Ahsanullah University of Science and Technology,  BGMEA University of Fashion & Technology, Bangladesh Army International University of Science and Technology, East West University, etc. I think if I had searched long enough I would have found academics from all the universities in Bangladesh. Did they know they were publishing in a predatory journal?

How are we expected to teach our students to not plagiarize when many senior academics publish plagiarized newspaper article. I will tell that plagiarizing professor one thing, if he was in my class he would have received a zero. The zero would not only be for the blatantly oblivious plagiarism but also for the fact that he plagiarized from Wikipedia, an academic should know that Wikipedia can’t be viewed as a reliable source as it can be edited by anyone. 

The writer is an international relations consultant and can be reached through mahirabrar.com





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