Bangladesh started its journey as an independent country with just six universities. Now the number of public and private institutions is over 150. The universities have conducted thousands of research projects in different fields.
Research projects help university teachers get promotions. But unfortunately, many teachers in the country get promotions by submitting plagiarised research papers.
The universities sometimes cannot take action against such research due to the absence of a national policy for plagiarism. No Bangladeshi university even has a policy for plagiarism.
Although some universities have detection machines for research papers written in English, there is no machine for checking Bangla. As a result, a lot of such cases go unnoticed.
Plagiarism is considered a serious offence across the world. Even India and Pakistan have their national policies for plagiarism.
According to Oxford University, plagiarism is presenting someone else's work or ideas as your own, with or without their consent, by incorporating it into your work without full acknowledgement. All published and unpublished material – whether in manuscript, printed or electronic form – is covered under this definition.
The University Grants Commission (UGC), Bangladesh in its 46th annual report said, "The plagiarism incidents in the country's universities are increasing day by day. Plagiarism cannot be defined in absence of a policy. So, preparing a specific policy is a must now."
It also said that using detection software in ensuring quality and supervising research should be mandatory.
The UGC can also take the initiative to build software for detecting plagiarism from Bangla write-ups, it added.
According to the UGC, more than four million honours, masters, MPhil and PhD students and teachers are in the higher education tier in the country. In 2019, researchers from the public and private universities of the country published around 22,000 articles in national and international journals.
Eminent educationists have also put emphasis on preparing a national policy to check plagiarism.
Professor Nazrul Islam, former chairman of the UGC, told The Business Standard that the UGC can take initiative to formulate a national policy on plagiarism with the consultation of educationists in the country.
"The research organisations or universities should be more cautious in publishing scholarly publications in their journals. It is very difficult to define plagiarism now in the absence of a policy. The universities face problems in taking action against the researchers who submit plagiarised papers," he said.
"The teachers and students have a little knowledge of plagiarism. A policy helps apprise students, teachers, researchers, and staff about plagiarism. That is why, the government should prepare a policy as early as possible," he added.
Professor Dr Naadir Juanid, the teacher of the Mass Communication and Journalism Department at the University of Dhaka, said, "As the topic of plagiarism is less discussed in our country, many people have vague concepts about it. Only by knowing all the aspects of it, one can understand whether there is plagiarism or not. It is a very serious offence in foreign countries."
"University students should be taught about this from the first year. There must be a provision for specific punishment in case of plagiarism in our country and I think the universities should introduce it very soon," he said.
Meanwhile, for the first time, Dhaka University and Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST) have prepared plagiarism policies. The policies are waiting for the approval of the syndicates of these universities.
Professor Dr ASM Maksud Kamal, pro-vice-chancellor of Dhaka University, told The Business Standard, "We will submit the plagiarism policy to the next syndicate meeting for final approval. I believe it will help reduce plagiarism and inform students and researchers about it," he said.
Professor Farid Uddin Ahmed, vice-chancellor of SUST, said plagiarism is a gruesome offence across the globe. Even many professors have lost their jobs for a headline or for a paragraph which they imported from others' writing.
"It was overlooked for many years in Bangladesh. We have taken the initiative to formulate a policy to check plagiarism in research. We might complete it within a short time," he said.
Punishment for plagiarism in India and Pakistan
There are four types of punishment for plagiarism in India.
The first tier, for what it calls "similarities up to 10%," carries no penalty.
The second tier, in which 10% to 40% of a document is plagiarised, requires students to submit a revised manuscript and forces faculty members to withdraw the plagiarised paper.
In cases where 40% to 60% of the document is plagiarised, students must be suspended for a year and the faculty members must forfeit an annual pay raise and are prohibited from supervising students for two years.
Students who plagiarise more than 60% of their thesis must be kicked out of the programme, while the penalties for faculty members are extended to a loss of two years of pay increases and a three-year ban on supervising students.
The penalties would presumably be applied to each offence, and faculty members found to be repeat offenders "at the highest level" would also be subject to disciplinary action, including suspension or termination.
In Pakistan, major punishments for plagiarism consist of dismissal from service or blacklisting, while moderate punishments consist of demotion or blacklisting. Minor punishments consist of: warnings, freezing research grants, stopping promotions, or being debarred from supervisorship of PhDs. Co-authors are equally responsible for plagiarised work.
Recent incidents of plagiarism in Bangladesh
The syndicate of Dhaka University has taken disciplinary action against three teachers for resorting to plagiarism in their academic papers and a PhD thesis.
The convicted teachers are Samia Rahman from the Department of Mass Communication and Journalism, Sayed Mahfuzul Haque Marzan from the Department of Criminology and Omar Faruque from the Department of Islamic History and Culture.
Among them, Samia Rahman has been demoted to the post of an assistant professor from associate professor. Mahfuzul Haque, who is currently on study leave, has to serve as a lecturer for two more years once his leave is over.
Meanwhile, the university syndicate has demoted Omar Farooq from assistant professor to lecturer and cancelled his degree due to forgery in his PhD thesis.