HEC seeks to modify plagiarism policy

Islamabad  -  The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has apparently put the high profile cases of plagiarism on the backburner and shifted its focus on reviewing the policy formulated, The Nation learned on Saturday.

The HEC is holding its 33rd meeting of commission after a lapse of 32 months, and has created a smoke screen on the high profile plagiarism cases on which decisions are to be taken soon.

The 18 members’ commission is discussing the plagiarism cases of its own sitting Executive Director (ED) Dr. Arshad Ali, its ex-chairman Prof Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed and Acting Rector COMSATS University Prof. Dr. Raheel Qamar.

The documents with The Nation said that the commission’s meeting is primarily focusing on reviewing the plagiarism policy, while the high profile cases have been added in the agenda as secondary item.

The proposed document for the discussion on plagiarism cases has blamed media for exploiting the cases and proposed that the policy must be revised.

“The word plagiarism may be replaced by academic misconduct,” said the document.  The proposed document also revealed that the similarity percentage should not be taken as plagiarism and proper investigation should be carried out to establish academic misconduct.

The document said that the HEC needs to establish a designated anti-plagiarism cell with the name “Center for Academic Integrity”.

In case of self-plagiarism, it may be true that the accused has taken multiple advantages of its own work but it may also be considered as academic neglect.

“Review the existing policy in terms of its definition, interpretations and relevant penalties, there is a need to tighten the quality of academic publications, CVs and their assessment and books and journals,” said the document.

The proposed policy document also added that the HEC will be dealing with the appeal system wherein permanent tribunal will be established involving the members from outside the HEC

Official said that the cases of the high profile plagiarism cases were included in the section B, which reflects that the commission’s priority was to change the policy rather than take decisions on the cases as per previous policy.

“Some cases of plagiarism involving senior faculty and professionals have been reported through different sources/news, these instances will be presented on the table for deliberation by the commission,” said the document.

A senior official wishing anonymity said that exonerating the high officials as per new policy will be a reflection of favoritism.

“The new policy approved could be implemented on new cases principally,” said the official.

Official also said that the proposed draft was allegedly prepared by an official who himself was facing plagiarism charges and his case was to be discussed in the meeting.

The official said that so far ex-chairman HEC Dr. Mukhtar Ahmed’s case was considered ‘immature’ in the meeting while discussion. “The commission member has said the case is immature and will possibly be beneficial for ex-chairman,” said the source.

“HEC is close to take an exemplary decision on high profile reported plagiarism cases, while the policy will be also ‘reviewed’ to shut the false allegations practice in future, said the commission chairman, Dr Tariq Banuri during a press briefing held here.

He said the commission’s decision on celebrated plagiarism cases will give a message to all that such practice is not acceptable in research.

However, he also indicated that no one will be victimized nor will the rights be desecrated.  

Meanwhile, the chairman also hinted the reviewing of plagiarism policy calling it a step towards strengthening the policy and discouraging the practice.

“Everyone wants to ‘strengthen’ the plagiarism policy to shut the doors of false allegations levelled by individuals on each other,” he said.

The chairman said that the research work will be sent to other countries to check the originality of the work.

Responding to query regarding delay in taking decision on high profile cases, the chairman said that there is no discrimination in taking decisions on the case of a common scholar or a high official.

“Cases are delayed on every level and such high profile cases were to be discussed on this forum,” he said.

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