Almost 150 days has passed since the launch of this weblog. To borrow a phrase from Charles Dickens It had been the best of times; it had been the worst of times. Have we been prepared for such an outpour of frustration, grievance and dissatisfaction? Some of us have been more vocal, while others believed in silent support.
We cannot however dodge the real issue here. The issue is that what we are concerned about right now had not been wrought overnight. It had been the culmination of almost 3 decades of mismanagement that would no doubt could have led to the Romanization of Science. Romania in 1989 was experiencing the same episode in its science and technology under Elena Ceausescu, the wife of the last Romanian Despot, as we are experiencing right now. People who barely can write their names in English and yet claim to have earned PhD from Oxford, McDonaldization of higher education in form of Islamic Azad University Outlets, and the total non-investment of assets for the student population. I remember the first time I enrolled at Sharif University of Technology. I was being paid 3000000 rials a month in today’s monetary value, I had access to various libraries and bookshops., enjoyed social standing as a student. We were also taught a course in understanding and communication of sci-tech information which also dealt with the protocols regarding citations and plagiarism issues.
Today our students do not receive any of the benefits. In their drive to assuage their sense of management inadequacies, the powers-that-be at the Ministry of Science, Research and Technology have plunged us all into a mindless number game. While one should applaud every effort made to honor Iranian men and women of science and arts, what would be the use of the bean counting when there is no clear system of innovation. In a recent study conducted in University of Tehran, it was demonstrated that while the ratio of ISI-ranked articles to patent to was close to 1:1 in the United States and Japan, it was somewhere around 180:1 . The ratio of students to instructors at some institutions is quite hilarious. At our department, it is somewhere around 30:1?!
Then with the rising inflation and shrinking purchasing power, a typical university instructor also needs to jump through the hoops to prove that his/her wage is well earned. With this situation it would be a miracle if nothing gives. So should we be surprised about the spate of plagiarism, self-promotion and empty-packing among the academia and the students? One of the reasons I embraced Professors against plagiarism was the fact that I witnessed how a professor sequestered the work of her student as her own and that I saw how easily some people are willing to toy with the future of a promising student without any hesitation.
The surprising fact is that in spite all these, the Professors against Plagiarism does launch and receives attention against such backdrop. But where should we go from here? Given the amount of news and tidbits I receive from various people disclosing varying degrees of plagiarism and academic misconduct, I believe that the best course of the action is to provide a set of protocols and procedures for the Iranian academic institutions. Better if we call them guidelines. We need to define what sort of the role we wish to play in our drive to sensitize the public to the blight of plagiarism and what I call politically motivated academication. Perhaps we should consider an annual review awarding the Iranian academic institutions with golden raspberries or Pear commensurate with their degree of of anti-plagiarism regulation.
I have been in contact with several publication ethics group abroad to license their materials for distribution in Iran. I have also been taking to parties interested in sponsoring a symposium on academic ethics. I have talked with several colleagues who have agreed to incorporate grounding on publication ethics in their courses. But more than most, we need to make universities to adopt a universal approach to plagiarism within the framework of a more rational peer acknowledgement process.
With best regards
Information Studies Lab
University of Tehran