Saturday, January 4, 2014

Guest Post: Plagiarism has been left unpunished

This guest post is from Kayhan Kantarlı, a retired professor of physics from the University of Ege in Turkey. He published a first version of the article on his blog on December 10. I edited the article somewhat and am publishing this version here with his permission, as I do not read Turkish and am unable to verify the sources. -- dww

 By Prof. Dr. Kayhan KANTARLI
Retired Professor of Physics, University of Ege
Obedience, on the part of scientists, to universal scientific ethics is a must; plagiarism/scientific fraud is a shameful act. In a country where scientific fraud is not punished and/or covered up, one cannot talk about modernity and the scientific world of this country has no respectful place in the eyes of the global scientific community. In modern countries, the punitive sanction protecting the scientific world from plagiarists is nullifying the degree (e.g. M.Sc. or Ph.D, etc.) and removing him/her from the university. Although most of the plagiarisms that are uncovered are unfortunately covered up –, our country, Turkey, does also apply this sanction.
In accordance with the Disciplinary Regulations of the Members of Staff in conformity with the act of Higher Education Council (Turkish – YÖK), “to declare that the scientific paper or whole or partial work of somebody else without giving reference to it” is plagiarism, in other words is a fraud and the sanction is “removing him/her from the university”. This definition also has an international acceptance.
After Turkish Higher Education Council has adopted a principle with which the evaluation of scientific papers is being done not by the quality of the papers, but rather the number of papers published by a member of staff, it cannot be denied that the number of papers as well as the amount of fraudulent research has increased in Turkey. 
The present situation is such that plagiarism is so widespread and profuse that this situation has been the major problem of our universities. In response to this problem, in the year 1998 an article is added to the 11th item of Disciplinary Regulations of the Members of Staff defining that plagiarism is a shameful act deserving a sanction of removing from the university. But, this burdensome sanction, instead of creating a deterrent effect, has been ineffective due to the YOK’s policy not to implement it with a scientific understanding and impartiality. Particularly plagiarism and other fraudulent research of proponents of YÖK have been protected from sanction, therefore the 11th item is ineffective and the wound is still bleeding.  
While the situation rests in this critical position, the decision reached in September 2012 by the Plenary Session of Administrative Law (Divisions of Council of States) relieves plagiarism completely from sanction and this is the first time that public opinion has become acquainted with this decision.  In that decision it is stated that the sanction put forward in the Disciplinary Regulations of the Members of Staff as “to remove the member of staff from the university because of committing plagiarism is not covered in either the YÖK act No. 2547 nor in the public employee act No. 657”, therefore is unlawful (*).  
By the decision of Divisions of Council of States, the sanction “removing from the university” proposed for shameful act of plagiarism for scientists has been annulled. This annulment means that unless an act clearly states that plagiarism is a crime, it can be lawfully committed. 
Because the Disciplinary Regulations of the Members of Staff had been put into effect by the YÖK act No: 2547, the lawfulness of the decision for sanction reached by Divisions of Council of States is disputable.
In this case, what YÖK was expected to do was to take initiative in order to get rid of the unlawfulness and ask the Ministry of Education and the Parliament to enact a law. Nevertheless, YÖK has not taken an initiative to get rid of the legal loophole ever since September 2012. Circular order on the decision reached by Divisions of Council of States sent to the universities by YÖK also sent to faculties by the rectorship (*) appearing in the website of Istanbul University confirms this unlawful situation.    
The sanction “removing a member of staff from university” proposed in the Disciplinary Regulations of the Members of Staff has been annulled by a judicial act. In this respect, YÖK Presidency committed a crime by not filling the legal loophole; it is a breach of duty. In the circular order (*) sent to the universities by YÖK on September 2012, it is required that “in the inquiries claiming the presence of plagiarism, proceeding should be carried out in accordance with the relevant law”. But negligence in this respect ended in not punishing those found to have committed plagiarism since September 2012. YÖK’s circular order means that any member of staff in any university going through an inquiry about well-established plagiarism can keep working at the university as if nothing had happened.            
On the other hand, in accordance with the decision reached by the Divisions of Council of States, all the sanctions of “removing a member of staff from the university” due to plagiarism given in the past are “annulled by law”.
This situation gives an opportunity to those who had been removed from the university due to plagiarism, to return to their job in the universities and claim compensation of reparations, salaries and all sorts. Such an implementing causes a monetary damage of government and worse than that, means rewarding a shameful act of plagiarism. This is a scandal could never be seen in a modern country. 
I invite relevant authorities to take measures against the president of YÖK who committed the breach of duty by letting the collapse of scientific ethic in universities.  
We should not let this legal loophole created by the Divisions of Council of States causing plagiarism be unpunished forever. Legislative bodies should immediately take the necessary legal arrangements and bring an end to this situation, which only encourages those with a tendency to commit scientific fraud.  

(*)  The sources are the Divisions of Council of States and circular orders by YÖK and the rectorship of the Istanbul University. One can reach the source from the address given below

Edited to fix numbers issue

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