With incidents of plagiarism in university research lately making the headlines, the University Grants Commission (UGC) now plans to have a central research hub in place and buy universities anti-plagiarism software to check the menace.
The tertiary education regulatory body says the central research hub will be connected to all universities across the world digitally, and published academic works will be stored there automatically.
The software the UGC purchased and installed at universities will also be attached to the central system. The mechanism will detect if there is any copy-paste in academic works by teachers or students. The system will be able to scrutinise both Bangla and English copies.
A meeting of the UGC on 12 June came up with these anti-plagiarism measures.
Prof Md Alamgir, a member of the UGC, said the Research Support and Publication Division of the University Grants Commission will supervise the anti-plagiarism system, and take immediate action if it finds any unethical practices in academic works.
"I believe such incidents [of plagiarism] will drop substantially once we set up the central research hub at the UGC," he added.
Echoing him, another UGC member, Prof Abu Taher, told The Business Standard that plagiarism in research will be almost impossible as the advanced software system can detect everything that is copied. "I believe the software will play an important role in curbing plagiarism and ensuring the quality of research," he noted.
Sources at the UGC said the regulatory body had its plan of establishing the research cell for at least a couple of years. But the UGC members could not implement it. At the latest meeting, the UGC Research Support and Publication Division was tasked with the job.
According to the UGC, it will purchase the anti-plagiarism software "Turnitin" for the universities. Teachers' and researchers' works will be fed to the software's "authenticator part" while students' papers will go through the "feedback studio".
The UGC will provide the software to 30 public universities initially, and gradually all universities will be brought under the software coverage.
Currently, 17 universities use the software on their own.
No policy yet to check plagiarism
Plagiarism is considered a serious offence across the world. Neighbouring India and Pakistan have their national policies regarding academic plagiarism.
According to Oxford University, plagiarism is presenting someone else's work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material – whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form – is covered under this definition.
Bangladesh has over 150 public and private institutions. The universities conduct thousands of research projects in different fields every year.
Research projects help university teachers to get promoted. But many teachers have been making the headlines with partially or completely plagiarised research papers.
The universities sometimes cannot take action against unscrupulous researchers as plagiarism is not defined centrally since the country has no national policy against plagiarism. The universities define plagiarism as per their respective university acts.
There is no system to verify the papers in Bangla, though some universities have anti-plagiarism software. The result is that unethical practices go unnoticed in most of the cases.
Now in the face of overwhelming plagiarism complaints, the UGC has decided to formulate a central policy in this regard.
The UGC in its 46th annual report said, "Incidents of plagiarism in the country's universities are increasing day by day. Plagiarism cannot be defined in the absence of a policy. Therefore, preparing a specific policy is imperative now."
Educationists welcome UGC moves
Noted educationists of the country have welcomed the recent initiative of the UGC, and said it will be "an extraordinary turn" for higher education.
Professor Syed Anwar Husain, former Dhaka University history teacher, said he rarely finds a unique academic work as most research papers are prepared with an eye to obtaining promotions in the university.
"The central research hub will be a very good initiative," he said.
Professor Emeritus of Brac University Manzoor Ahmed said, "I want to see the UGC as the strongest regulatory body. And of course it must exercise control on all research conducted at the public universities. To me, the UGC steps to deal with plagiarism are very positive."
Recent plagiarism incidents
After a long investigation, the Dhaka University syndicate recently took disciplinary actions against three teachers for resorting to plagiarism in their academic papers and a PhD thesis.
Samia Rahman from the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Sayed Mahfuzul Haque Marzan from the Department of Criminology and Omar Faruque from the Department of Islamic History and Culture are the convicted teachers.
Of them, Samia Rahman has been demoted to the post of an assistant professor from associate professor while Mahfuzul has to serve as a lecturer for two more years once he returns after his academic leave. Meanwhile, the university syndicate has demoted Omar Farooq from assistant professor to lecturer and cancelled his PhD degree due to forgery resorted to in his PhD thesis.