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JNU first off the blocks to check plagiarism

New Delhi, Jan. 2: An expert panel led by a JNU professor has been working on ways to check plagiarism in the university, in the first such effort by an Indian institution amid fears that up to 28,000 researchers could be involved in unethical practices.

The committee, set up about six months ago by Jawaharlal Nehru University, has been asked to define plagiarism and suggest punitive action.

Professor Karmeshu, who heads the panel, said plagiarism of idea, language or content was a “prevailing practice” in academic institutions. “We will suggest measures to check it and other such unethical practices like authorship manipulation, etc.,” Karmeshu, a member of the faculty of the School of Computer and System Sciences, told The Telegraph.

The university’s effort comes amid an alleged growing trend of plagiarism, which, experts said, could undermine the academic credibility of Indian institutions.

Professor N. Raghuram, who teaches at Guru Govind Singh Indraprastha University and is a member of the JNU expert committee, said there had been no study to suggest the percentage of research students involved in unethical practices in Indian institutions. “But one can safely say it is between 10 and 50 per cent.”

According to a survey conducted by the HRD ministry, 57,346 students were doing their PhD in 621 universities in 2010-11. If Raghuram’s assessment is correct, the number of research students involved in plagiarism could be between 5,000 and 28,000.

Professor Bhalchandra Mungekar, a Rajya Sabha member who headed a panel set up by the HRD ministry to review the National Eligibility Test in 2008, echoed Raghuram. “When I was reviewing NET, I found most students were doing PhD to skip NET for lectureship. I got a lot of complaints that many students were doing cut-paste to prepare their theses,” Mungekar said.

Higher education regulator UGC recently set up a committee under professor Y.K. Alagh to suggest a regulation it could advise universities to follow to check plagiarism. “I don’t know if any university in the country has put in place any regulatory mechanism on its own to check cases of plagiarism. But our Inflibnet has started two online repositories to check duplication of theses. We are in the process of preparing a regulation,” UGC acting chairman Ved Prakash said.

Inflibnet, a UGC centre in Ahmedabad, has started repositories Shodhganga and Shodhgangotri where the soft versions of PhD theses generated from universities and synopses of these theses are being uploaded, respectively.

The regulator last month asked all universities to forward soft copies of the thesis papers to Inflibnet for uploading on Shodhganga.

Inflibnet director Jagdish Arora said nearly 5,000 “genuine” thesis papers had already been uploaded on Shodhganga.

“We have asked universities to run every thesis paper through an anti-plagiarism package and authenticate their genuineness. The guide or the university concerned has to authenticate it. Then we upload on Shodhganga,” Arora said.

The online repository serves two purposes: it acts as a check on plagiarism and makes research papers available to other researchers who can cite such work in their papers.