Plagiarism charges: PM seeks clarification from award recipient

Professor blacklisted by HEC for plagiarised research was awarded medal on Pakistan Day.

Riazul Haq March 29, 2015
President conferred Tamgha-e-Imtiaz to him on March 23. STOCK IMAGE

ISLAMABAD: The prime minister’s office has sought clarification from a professor who received presidential award for his research contributions despite being blacklisted by Higher Education Commission (HEC) for his alleged plagiarism.

President Mamnoon Hussain on March 23 conferred Tamgha-e-Imtiaz on Dr Masroor Ikram of Pakistan Institute of Engineering and Applied Sciences (PIEAS) for his “contribution towards the study of science in Pakistan”.

The government later came to know that the recipient was among the blacklisted faculty members for their alleged involvement in plagiarism. The list has been prepared and published online by the Higher Education Commission.

The PM Secretariat and the Cabinet Division finalise the list of recipients of presidential awards every year.

According to sources, the PM Secretariat has written a letter to PIEAS seeking clarification about the case against the professors. “We have written to them because the issue was a matter of concern for us.

Presidential awards should not be controversial,” said an official on the condition of anonymity.

Shamraz Firdous, Ikram’s co-author and from the same department of Physics and Applied Mathematics at PIEAS, has also been blacklisted for the plagiarised ‘research paper’.

Firdous was also awarded by the HEC for his research work on March 13, 2015. HEC, however, later withdrew the award saying that the overlook was due to “lack of coordination”.

Four faculty members of PIEAS have been punished by the HEC for plagiarism in a research paper on laser surgery and medicine. The commission has removed names of the four and many others from its list of approved PhD supervisors and stopped all their grants until January 27, 2017.

National Institute of Laser Optronics is an affiliated body of PIEAS. Its DG, Maqbool Ahmad Chaudhry, refuted all allegations of plagiarism. He said the news items were nothing but sensationalism. He, however, said that the institute was investigating the case.

Dr Ikram, recipient of the presidential award, said the university had replied to the PM secretariat and HEC claiming that action was taken against him without listening to his point of view.

“Review appeal has been submitted to the HEC about the mistake,” he said and denied all allegations. His name, however, is still on the black list, available at the HEC website.

‘Rewarding plagiarists’

Physicist Dr Pervez Hoodbhoy has been writing about the plagiarism and substandard research work being carried out at our universities. He says the HEC and vice-chancellors (VCs) are to blame for the problem.

“They have incentivised academic corruption by paying teachers to publish research papers without actually doing research. The result is plagiarised papers, fake research, and torrents of nonsense that masquerade as research.”

He said the first step to discourage plagiarism is to stop the present practice of rewarding corruption with money, promotion, and awards. “My colleagues and I have pointed out to several examples of completely nonsensical research to HEC and to VCs. We have exposed corrupt practices but it has done no good,” he concluded.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2015.


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