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New laws on the cards to curb malpractices in academic research

ISLAMABAD: To prevent malpractices in academic research and to establish an anti-plagiarism system in the country’s higher educational institutions, a bill is likely to be presented on the floor of the House on Wednesday (today) whereas a consensus is abounding in the academic circles.

A draft bill titled “the Prevention of Malpractices in Academia Act, 2016”, is going to be presented in the National Assembly (NA), by its member Shakila Luqman, for house legislation.

According to the act, it is expedient to provide measures for curbing plagiarism, academic dishonesty, academic malpractices and sub-standard research.

The academic dishonesty was defined as “to exploit one’s authority in the course of academic guidance, research and teaching or which encouraged a sub-standard or plagiarised research”, whereas an academic malpractices means “whosoever coerces or intimidates in the course of teaching and research as well as gets involved in the demonstration of nepotism, favoritism and biasness”.

It states that a Redressal Inquiry Committee (RIC) wil be constituted in each university by its administration in consultation with the Higher Education Commission (HEC).

As for as the committee’s members, it comprises three members, one of whom shall be amongst a senior rank not below BPS-21 of the HEC who shall act as the Chairperson of the committee, one officer not below BPS-20 from the Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training and one from the senior management of the concerned university/institution.

The Committee would accuse the charges and statement of allegations levelled against the person through a formal written receipt. The accused will be directed to submit a written defence within seven days.

As per submitting bill, the RIC shall submit its findings and recommendations to the Competent Authority (vice chancellor of the concerned institution) within 30 days of the initiation of inquiry. If the committee finds the accused to be guilty, it shall recommend to the competent authority for imposing one or more of penalties.

In the introducing bill, there are two kinds of penalties that are minor penalties and major penalties. Four different kinds have been explained in the minor penalties, as A: Censure B: Withholding for a specific period, at an efficiency bar in the time-scale, otherwise than for unfitness to cross such a bar.

C: Stoppage, for a specific period, at an efficiency bar in the time-scale, otherwise than for unfitness to cross such a bar. D: Recovery of the compensation payable to the complainant from pay or any other source of the accused

Whereas major penalties classified in five forms as a:reduction to a lower post or time-scale, or to a lower stage in a time-scale. B: Compulsory retirement. C:Removal from service. D: Dismissal from service and a fine shall be in addition to the penalties.

The Act also revealed about the status of the complainants as if the submitted complain would be proved false, he/she shall have to lose the admission in the concerned institution, adding that in case of a person who had filed a false written complaint on the behalf of a student, is liable to pay the amount not less than 500,000 rupees to the person against whom the complaint was moved.

Daily Times has spoken to the faculty members of many universities, renowned scholars of the country and research fellows. They have different consensus as some of them are of the view that the bill will provide the unbridle power to Higher Education Commission (HEC) while some other appreciated the bill.

According to satisfied looking scholars, the bill will curb the malpractices in the academia whereas the opposing segments opinioned that after the approval of the said bill, the independency of the universities might get compromised.

A mathematics professor at the International Islamic University (IIU) who wished not to be named, said the HEC should also blacklist the complaint whose complaint against any scholar is proved baseless and false. The professor said, once he was also blacklisted by the HEC, in its plagiarists list on false allegations and was removed again after he proved some certain sort of documents to the commission.

According to the the earlier HEC plagiarism policy “If the case of plagiarism is not proved and it is confirmed that a false allegation was lodged, the head of the organization/ institution will inform the complainant’s organisation and will recommend disciplinary action against the complainant, to be taken by his / her parent organisation”.

However, the commission so for did not explain that how kind of disciplinary action would be taken against the lie of the complainant.

As per the HEC official website, there are over 40 blacklisted faculty members serving in various universities and Degree Awarding Institutions (DAIs) across the country. Whereas a couple of months ago such scholars doctoral degrees had been cancelled.

Source: Daily Times

Byline: Faisal Kaleem

November 23, 2016

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