Moroccan Researchers Move Against Plagiarism After Study Finds It Widespread
In a move aimed at combating plagiarism in research, the Moroccan Association for Research and Ethics is organising a workshop on academic integrity to train university researchers on sound scientific practice, after a recent study revealed many violations.
The study, titled “Exploring Scientific Misconduct in Morocco based on an Analysis of Plagiarism Perception in a Cohort of 1,220 Researchers and Students”, was published in August in the journal “Accountability in Research”.
It was prepared by Khalid El Bairi, an early career scientist; Nadia El Kadmiri, a researcher at Taroudant Polydisciplinary Faculty of Ibn Zohr University; and Maryam Fourtassi, a researcher in the Faculty of Medicine and Pharmacy at Abdelmalek Essaadi University.
El Bairi, the study’s principal investigator, told Al-Fanar Media that Moroccan universities were working to develop guidelines for research integrity after the study reported significant plagiarism among some professors.
The study attributed this academically unethical behaviour to some professors’ and students’ lack of knowledge about research integrity. It recommended that training in research ethics be included in Moroccan curricula and that research integrity offices be established on campuses.
El Bairi said the study was based on a 23-question survey taken by 1,220 respondents, covering all universities in Morocco.
The respondents included undergraduate students (31.4%), Ph.D. students (26.6%), scientific graduates (19%), Ph.D. holders and postdoctoral fellows (12.2%), and university professors (10.7%). Most of the respondents were women (69%).
Unintentional plagiarism accounted for many of the instances of plagiarism reported by the Moroccan scholars surveyed. “This form of plagiarism is well-known among scholars whose native language is not English, such as Moroccan students”, the study’s authors wrote.
While 93 percent said they knew about plagiarism, many were unable to identify correct definitions of plagiarism from the survey’s multiple option questions. Nearly 60 percent of respondents were unaware that copying a text and citing the reference, but without paraphrasing, was considered plagiarism.
After being provided with accurate definitions of plagiarism, almost half (49%) of the respondents admitted there was some form of plagiarism in their research.
About 60 percent stated that their academic institutions had not given them any training on plagiarism and research integrity.
The study revealed that the Retraction Watch database, which monitors withdrawn studies and research from around the world, counted 13 Moroccan studies that were retracted because of academic plagiarism or scientific misconduct, accounting for 45 percent of all retracted research published by Moroccan scientists.
Reasons for Plagiarism
The study noted that plagiarism was not always intentional. Unintentional plagiarism, in fact, accounted for many of the instances of plagiarism reported by the Moroccan scholars surveyed. “This form of plagiarism is well-known among scholars whose native language is not English, such as Moroccan students”, the authors wrote.
“Remarkably, the available evidence demonstrate [s] that when scholars are trained on research integrity, their attitude about this issue can be improved and changed.”
Time constraints on writing an original text and researchers’ inability to paraphrase were also among the most prominent factors associated with plagiarism.
Notably, the study found that respondents who considered plagiarism a serious issue in academic research committed significantly less plagiarism.
It also observed that the higher the respondent’s academic degree, the less plagiarism was observed. Participants’ increased ability to identify plagiarism was also significantly associated with lower instances of plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct.
Ways to Reduce Plagiarism
The picture that the study reveals is not entirely bleak, however. It suggests a number of ways to reduce plagiarism through academic interventions, such as providing research integrity training for Moroccan students and researchers.
More than a third of the survey’s respondents answered that such training was not common in Moroccan higher education institutions. In contrast, Moroccan researchers whose work was published in peer-reviewed journals committed significantly less plagiarism because they had often had training.
One point that stood out in their analysis of survey responses, the authors wrote, was that “the risk of plagiarizing was reduced drastically when participants had a positive ethical attitude toward plagiarism.”
They added: “Remarkably, the available evidence demonstrate[s] that when scholars are trained on research integrity, their attitude about this issue can be improved and changed.”
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