Sunday, March 3, 2013

The Dark Alleys of Turkish Academia

I published a short note in September 2012 about the work of a group of academics in Turkey. A. Murat Eren has now organized a translation of their work into English so that a wider group of scientists can take a peek into the very dark alleys of Turkish academia.

Take some time for a long read, there are many pictures documenting the plagiarism. There are ten dissertations, followed by a discussion of the problems involved with dissertations not being published in Turkey. We are really very lucky in Germany that all theses have to be published, as it makes research about them so much easier. There is a long list of excuses given by the libraries for not being able to obtain theses. Istanbul University is my favorite one - you can obtain them, if you fill out all these forms and send money and the moon phase is correct ... [strike that last item].

There is an overview of how many theses are not available at the different libraries -- 40 % of the theses not available at the best library, 66 % at the worst one!

And then there is the list of academics in Turkey with the most retractions to their name -- and their current occupation. Let me quote these here, because it is so shocking:
Only one of the authors with multiple retracted papers is not affiliated with academia. Anyone who knows how difficult it is to get a paper retracted will understand the depth of concern here. How can these people teach at university and mentor doctoral students when they themselves have multiple retractions to their names?

The same chapter also reports on the Sezen case, one that I blogged about in June 2012.

Eren's conclusions:
Turkey’s bad academia is self-perpetuating.

People who have committed ethical violations in their dissertations and publications are allowed to become thesis supervisors. Students who are misguided by these create dissertations that equally violate ethics, publish insignificant or duplicated papers, and some of them become the new academic generation, in turn completing the cycle.

One of the major problems that perpetuates this cycle is the difficulty of access to dissertations. University libraries limit access with arbitrary reasons, and improvements in YÖK Thesis Archive are far from solving the problem in practice.

Even when a dissertation is accessed and plagiarism is seen, penalties are far from being deterrent, due to legal and executive roadblocks.

While advanced societies take science theft very seriously, actors of science theft in Turkey silently go on with their duties, thus deleteriously undermining the credibility of the field.

Even though today’s scientists in Turkey are not proactive, and they are mostly mute unless they have to defend themselves, I believe that self-criticism will become a way to reveal and eventually eradicate academical problems in Turkey in the future.
 I am indebted to the Turkish scientists who have worked on this. I have corresponded with them and did some proofreading on the English version. I hope that this will shine a bright light down the dark alleys. 


  1. I also restricted the access to my thesis because I know that some students in Turkey copy and paste what is already written. That is why, at least for two years, we, as the ones who really worked hard on their thesis, do not let the others see it so that we can publish articles before someone steals our ideas.

  2. Very interesting, the first two examples of METU seem to be weakin terms of plagiarism, the other examples look quite disturbing.


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