Aca­demics stole work

CityPress - - News - MSINDISI FENGU msindisi.fengu@city­press.co.za

Al­most a dozen aca­demics at North-West Univer­sity (NWU) are un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion for pla­gia­ris­ing the work of other aca­demics and or­gan­i­sa­tions in their re­search ar­ti­cles. City Press has learnt that the 11 aca­demics – some of whom hold pro­fes­sor­ships and doc­tor­ates – were re­ported to the Coun­cil on Higher Ed­u­ca­tion (CHE), an independent statu­tory qual­ity as­sur­ance body.

Most of the aca­demics in­volved work in the fac­ulty of nat­u­ral and agri­cul­tural sciences and were based at NWU’s Mafikeng and Potchef­stroom cam­puses.

The most se­nior aca­demic ac­cused in the scan­dal oc­cu­pies a se­nior man­age­ment po­si­tion at the Mafikeng cam­pus.

In most cases, the aca­demics had co-au­thored pa­pers with oth­ers al­legedly in­volved.

A whis­tle-blower close to the stu­dent body re­ported the mat­ter to the CHE and the de­part­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing.

One of the ex­am­ples of al­legedly pla­gia­rised work is from an em­ploy­ers’ hand­book on man­ag­ing HIV/Aids in the work­place pub­lished in 2003 by the Thai­land Busi­ness Coali­tion, Em­ploy­ers’ Con­fed­er­a­tion of Thai­land and the In­ter­na­tional Labour Of­fice.

The hand­book states: “Pro­vid­ing work­place care and sup­port helps to en­sure that em­ploy­ees with HIV/Aids re­main healthy and pro­duc­tive at work.

“In ad­di­tion, care and sup­port pro­grammes can boost work­force morale by show­ing that the com­pany is truly con­cerned about the health and well-be­ing of its em­ploy­ees.”

How­ever, the study co-au­thored by a se­nior NWU aca­demic and pub­lished in 2013, which is cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion, dealt with “chal­lenges HIV/Aids poses on the nurs­ing work­force in ru­ral health set­ting in Vhembe dis­trict, Lim­popo province, South Africa”.

The study states: “Pro­vid­ing work­place care and sup­port helps to en­sure that em­ploy­ees with HIV/Aids re­main healthy and pro­duc­tive at work.

“Care and sup­port pro­grammes can boost work­place morale by show­ing that the or­gan­i­sa­tion is truly con­cerned about the health and well-be­ing of its em­ploy­ees,” reads an ex­act quo­ta­tion from the 2003 hand­book that was not cred­ited.

CHE CEO Pro­fes­sor Narend Bai­j­nath con­firmed that the al­le­ga­tions were re­ported to the coun­cil.

“Once they were brought to my at­ten­tion and duly con­sid­ered, it was ad­judged as be­ing out­side our re­mit,” Bai­j­nath said.

“In the light of the se­ri­ous­ness of the al­le­ga­tions, the CHE re­ferred them to the univer­sity on 10 May 2016 for in­ves­ti­ga­tion, for it is an in­ter­nal mat­ter within the au­ton­omy of a higher ed­u­ca­tion in­sti­tu­tion.

“It is not some­thing that the CHE can in­ves­ti­gate it­self, for it does not fall within the re­mit of the CHE’s man­dates, but the man­age­ment and gov­er­nance struc­tures of the univer­sity it­self.”

NWU spokesper­son Louis Ja­cobs said the univer­sity was in­formed of the mat­ter by the CHE “upon which an in­ves­ti­ga­tion against 11 aca­demic staff mem­bers com­menced”. Ja­cobs said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was at an ad­vanced stage.

He also said the univer­sity would not re­lease fur­ther par­tic­u­lars on the staff mem­bers in­volved. He would also not com­ment on whether any ac­tion had been taken against the aca­demics im­pli­cated.

“The lay­ing down of any sanc­tion lies with the pre­sid­ing of­fi­cer of a hear­ing, and a sanc­tion will be made based on the sur­round­ing facts and cir­cum­stances as well as the de­gree of pla­gia­rism,” he said.

“One can thus not spec­u­late on what the sanc­tion would be. It must, how­ever, be em­pha­sised that pla­gia­rism is con­sid­ered a very se­ri­ous of­fence and is han­dled ac­cord­ingly.”

Higher ed­u­ca­tion de­part­ment spokesper­son Madikwe Mabotha said the mat­ter had not yet been for­mally brought to the at­ten­tion of the de­part­ment and re­ferred ques­tions to the univer­sity.

The de­part­ment of higher ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing al­lo­cates a R120 000 sub­sidy to uni­ver­si­ties for each pub­li­ca­tion of re­search work in jour­nals, books and pub­lished con­fer­ence pro­ceed­ings, mak­ing the pub­li­ca­tion of schol­arly ar­ti­cles in ac­cred­ited aca­demic jour­nals a large source of in­come for uni­ver­si­ties.

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