Saturday, August 11, 2018

Anti plagiarism efforts in Nigeria

by Salman Hameed

Plagiarism in scientific publication is not a Nigerian issue alone. There have been high profile cases from all around the world. Plagiarism is also not the only issue worth worrying about in science publications: There are key retractions on fabrication of data and then there is the problem of low-quality for-profit journals that would publish anything (for your amusement, here is a paper defending an Earth-centered universe published in the International Journal of Science and Technoledge).


However, it is good to see young researchers in Nigeria taking an initiative to combat some of these issue. From Science:
The experience led Unuabonah to become a leader in a growing movement to combat academic plagiarism in Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation and home to more than 150 public and private universities and colleges. Since 2012, the Nigerian Young Academy (NYA)—an off-shoot of the Nigerian Academy of Sciences (NAS) for
scientists younger than 45 that Unuabonah helped found—has made educating academics about the pitfalls of plagiarism a major focus of its work. The group will hold a session on preventing plagiarism in August at its annual meeting in Ondo City, Nigeria. This past February, a record 350 participants showed up for a daylong, NYA-run plagiarism workshop, and the group soon hopes to arrange at least six more, one in each of Nigeria's six geopolitical regions. 
The fledgling group, which has just 36 members, is also encouraging universities to make greater efforts to detect plagiarism—such as by installing software that can detect plagiarized material—and to penalize those who copy. Last year, NYA itself ejected a member for plagiarism, and it has formally made improper copying a dismissible offense.
One of the problems is that students are often not trained to know what is and isn't plagiarism. We see this issue quite frequently in undergraduate classes. Because of the internet it has also become easy to copy material,  but search tools also make it easy to catch such cases. Nevertheless, this is a real problem and Nigeria's efforts are commendable:
Many Nigerian researchers believe few plagiarists get caught, Okonta's survey suggested. But that may change. In 2013, a group of Nigerian vice-chancellors negotiated discounted subscriptions to the antiplagiarism software Turnitin, which screens documents for borrowed material. And Okonta's university and others have made plagiarism checks a part of faculty promotion reviews. 
Campaigners also want to institute stiffer consequences for copying. “We need to do a lot more sensitization, telling people about the awful side of being caught,” Unuabonah says. “That will send some fear into their hearts.” Recent dismissals of Nigerian academics for plagiarism are helping that cause, says Charles Ayo, former vice-chancellor of Covenant University in Ota, Nigeria. 
Nigeria's two-pronged effort to raise awareness about plagiarism and penalize wrongdoers is a good model for change, says malaria researcher Virander Singh Chauhan, who chairs India's National Assessment and Accreditation Council in Bengaluru and helped write that country's new antiplagiarism rules. “This is not an Indian or Nigerian problem,” he says. “It is a global issue, and technology has made it so very easy and tempting.”
Fellow scientists: lets not cheat!

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