Friday, August 17, 2012

Jagdish Bhagwati on plagiarism

Jagdish Bhagwati comments on the Fareed Zakaria plagiarism episode in the FT and then goes to say that it has become a big problem in academia as well. He suggests ways in which institutions of higher education can deal with it:

Universities have become victims of plagiarism by students in an age when there is free access to information and assignments can be written by simply copying huge chunks of text, even entire essays, from the internet.
Once difficult to perpetrate, plagiarism is now so easy that a university such as Columbia will explicitly warn incoming students of the dire consequences, such as expulsion, if a student is caught...a remedy that I find useful is to ensure that a fraction of the grade depends on multiple-choice examinations where one cannot steal or copy.... 
...Universities should also ensure that big fish such as Mr Zakaria who are caught plagiarising are firmly dealt with: letting them off with a soft rap on the knuckles can only breed cynicism among students who are exhorted not to plagiarise. Withdrawal of honorary degrees and expulsion from boards of trustees are among the punishments that should be automatic once plagiarism has been acknowledged.
Much of the plagiarism is, I guess, wilful but, in a PC and Internet world, there is a heightened probability of oversight. You are writing up an article for a newspaper or magazine, you find something you can use, you cut and paste and then carry on with the rest of the piece, hoping to cite the reference later... in the rush to meet the deadline, you forget to reference the quote.... You attach the article and press the 'Send' button, heaving a sigh of relief..... until all hell breaks loose.

This must be every writer's nightmare, particularly columnists who are under pressure to regularly churn out pieces. Every columnist must hope and pray he doesn't get tripped up. This is, of course, not to justify the failure to cite sources.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Deadlines & pressure can be no excuse to not cite the source of content.

Do you columnist press the send button and it gets printed immediately? Isn't their an editing process? Isn't their an undertaking that you ought to give to News Agency that there is no element of plagiarism and if there is any, author has cited the reference & acknowledge the genesis author.

So 'Lethargy' by columnist, excuse of pressure & deadline and missing process of editing & undertaking - CANNOT be the reason to elude of your ethical & moral responsibility.

Just think - Tomorrow some one else may copy your that very article (that you wrote in pressure) and publish elsewhere giving excuse of pressure - Will you be ok with it.

Suppose a columnist copies a page or para of your book of Mathai. Will you be offended or will you be empathetic?

Think over.

T T Ram Mohan said...

Anonymous, I wasn't try to justify the failure to cite under deadline pressures, just saying that one is more vulnerable to a lapse under deadline pressures. I have corrected my post in light of your feedback, for which many thanks.

-TTR

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