February 25, 2019

Turkey: The big business of academic ghostwriting - Deutsche Welle

In Turkey, many students are using ghostwriting services to write final papers and dissertations. DW takes a look at what has become a booming business.
Turkish universities are facing a new, not very academic challenge: ghostwriting. From bachelor's and master's theses to doctor's dissertations — almost any form of written academic paper can now be ordered, for a price, from specialized companies.
Particularly at private universities, there is a veritable boom in such ghostwriting. Turkey has 63 private universities, most of them established within the past five years.
A short search on online academic forums found that some 50 companies are operating on this ghostwriter market. They ask for the equivalent of between €500 and €3,000 ($567 and $3,400) per paper. That tots up to revenue of more than €25 million per year.
Private universities to blame?
According to Gorkem Dogan, the chairman of Egitim Sen, a union for those working in education and academia, this significant rise in the number of ghostwritten dissertations has been caused solely by the uncontrolled increase in the number of private universities.
Dogan recalled the fact that many university teachers lost their jobs when a state of emergency was imposed following the failed coup of June 2016. Many more than 100,000 public service employees were formally suspended from their jobs, while more than 6,000 academics were made unemployed just by a special decree from President Erdogan.
"It may be hard to prove whether the suspension of these academics caused the marked increase in ghostwriters or not. But it is a fact that the suspensions were another real blow to Turkey's already shaken academic sphere," Dogan said.
The main users: Medical students
A DW reporter pretending to be a student writing his master's thesis asked a representative of a ghostwriting company about the going prices.
The employee said that he himself was an academic. "I am also on the examination board for both the doctoral viva and the thesis defense," he said. "I write any academic paper for 7,000 Turkish liras (€1,200)."
It became clear during the discussion that the company has specialized in medicine, clinical psychology and management. "About 70 percent of the students we cater to are from medical faculties. When we write a paper for them, we make use of the know-how of surgical or orthopedic specialists, for example. The experts we work with receive a monthly fee of €800 to €1,200 from us. Our prices for medical papers start at €1,700," the company representative said.
He said that these academic papers were invoiced. "It is not illegal, but perhaps somewhat unethical," he said. When asked whether there were problems with the examination board, he answered: "I am a member of the board myself and mostly take on the role of the person asking critical questions. What is more, the board includes friends of the advising professor. One will speak out against the paper; the other will praise it in the highest terms. And the third is there to tie up the deal."
No legal penalties
In Turkey, ghostwriting is not subject to any legal penalties. Agencies and companies that write academic papers for money operate under the name of "academic consultants." The fee received is booked under "office work."
If, however, a university does find out that a paper has not been written by a student his or herself but by a third person, the student can expect to be suspended. She or he will also be asked to rework the paper.
Back in December 2016, the Turkish higher education council, YOK, proposed making academic ghostwriting punishable by fines. The council considers such activities as plagiarism. It said that if a university teacher were discovered to have been the author of a student's paper, she or he should face exclusion from the university, which is tantamount to a dismissal. But these proposals remained just proposals.
Türkei Istanbul Boğaziçi Universität Junge Menschen auf Rasen vor Gebäuden (Universität Boğaziçi) Ghostwritten papers are less likely at established universities like the Bogazici University in Istanbul.
Difficulty finding evidence
The private universities in the Istanbul districts of Uskudar and Nisantasi are among the institutes that are often suspected of allowing or encouraging ghostwriting. We confronted Sevil Atasoy, the vice chancellor of the Uskudar University, with the accusations that theses at her institute were being ghostwritten for money. She responded by calling on those making such accusations to present their proof.
Atasoy said that five academic staff were on the committee for a thesis defense, one of whom was from a different university. "Our staff are conscientious and work in a highly professional manner," she said. "For every dissertation that is presented, an evaluation is made as to whether it contains any indications of plagiarism, for example. Our advisers accompany every paper from the first to the last line anyway."
To this day, Atasoy said, there has never been a well-founded accusation regarding ghostwriting.
'Too few tenured professors'
Vahdet Ozkocak, who heads OGESEN, the union of teaching staff, is of a different opinion. He believes that the number of ghostwritten papers has risen significantly. He said there were too few experienced academic staff and tenured professors. According to Ozkocak, the ghostwriters of the dissertations are, however, very experienced, several of them being themselves academics.
He said that YOK had known about this ethical problem for years, but had never taken measures to curb it. Despite talk of a "new higher education council," nothing "new" had ever eventuated, he said. "We can't solve our problems like this. Setting up a ministry for university affairs is urgently necessary," Ozkocak said.
At established state-run universities, passing off ghostwritten papers was difficult, according to Ozkocak, while private universities saw students only as paying customers. He lamented what he called a massive loss of competence at universities over the past 20 years.
"Without recognition, competence and patriotism, the teachers turn to the unethical occupation of ghostwriting," he said.

November 1, 2018

DEF CON 26 - Svea, Suggy, Till - Inside the Fake Science Factory

"Fake News has got a sidekick and it's called Fake Science. This talk presents the findings and methodology from a team of investigative journalists, hackers and data scientists who delved into the parallel universe of fraudulent pseudo-academic conferences and journals; Fake science factories, twilight companies whose sole purpose is to give studies an air of scientific credibility while cashing in on millions of dollars in the process. Until recently, these fake science factories have remained relatively under the radar, with few outside of academia aware of their presence; but the highly profitable industry is growing significantly and with it, so are the implications. To the public, fake science is indistinguishable from legitimate science, which is facing similar accusations itself. Our findings highlight the prevalence of the pseudo-academic conferences, journals and publications and the damage they can and are doing to society. "

July 26, 2018

New international investigation tackles ‘fake science’ and its poisonous effects - ICIJ

Hundreds of thousands of scientists worldwide have published studies in self-described scientific journals that don’t provide traditional checks for accuracy and quality, according to a new journalistic investigation.
Dozens of reporters from media outlets in Europe, Asia and the United States have analysed 175,000 scientific articles published by five of the world’s largest pseudo-scientific platforms including India-based Omics Publishing Group and the Turkey-based World Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, or Waset.  In addition to failing to perform peer or editorial committee reviews of articles, the companies charge to publish articles, accept papers by employees of pharmaceutical and other companies as well as by climate-change skeptics promoting questionable theories.
Some of those publishers send targeted emails to scientists who are under pressure to publish as many articles as possible in order to obtain promotions and improve their curriculum, according to the findings by Norddeutscher Rundfunk (NDR), WDR and Süddeutsche Zeitung.
In addition to the German outlets, a group of more than a dozen media organizations including the New Yorker, Le Monde, the Indian Express and the Korean outlet Newstapa took part in the investigation. The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists facilitated the collaboration.
Although the existence of these internet-based pseudo-scientific journals is not new and has been warned against by universities and research institutions, its recent rapid growth — with the number of publications put out by the top publishers tripling since 2013 and involving some 400,000 scientists – set off alarms among former Nobel Prize winners.
The credibility of science is at stake, said U.S. physician Ferid Murad, the 1998 winner of the prize in physiology or medicine. Randy Schekman, a U.S. cell biologist who was among the 2013 winners of the Nobel prize, said that he was horrified that scientists were publishing in such journals. “This kind of thing has to be stopped,” said Robert Huber of Munich, who was awarded the prize in 1988. “If there is a system behind it, and there are people who aren’t just duped by it but who take advantage of it, then it has to be shut down,” said Stefan Hell, a Nobel laureate in chemistry.
Those journals contribute to the production and dissemination of “fake science” by failing to uphold basic standards of quality control, the report said. In Germany alone, more than 5,000 scientists — including those supported by public funding — have published their articles in such predatory journals, which have been increasing for the past five years.
While those journals’ publishers claimed that a panel of scientists is in charge of verifying the accuracy of the papers, the investigation showed that articles are published within a few days of submission without any vetting process.
In one case, an article in the Journal of Integrative Oncology stated that a clinical study had shown the extract of propolis, a secretion that bees use to glue hives together, was more effective than chemotherapy in treating colorectal cancer. The study was fake and the authors were affiliated with a research center that doesn’t exist, Le Monde reported.
After the journalists questioned the journal about those findings, the article was deleted but an archived version is still available online.
Omics, which published the journal in question, claims to have published over 1 million articles and is currently being investigated by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission for alleged fraudulent claims, according to the Indian Express. A spokesman has denied any wrongdoing and defended the integrity of its publications.
Reporters from the media outlets involved in the investigation successfully published numerous non-scientific papers with the publishers whose practices they were examining and also participated in several of their conferences.

July 1, 2016

Plagiarism scandal hits Turkish academia - Hürriyet Daily News

Some 34 percent of academic theses in Turkey have high plagiarism rates, according to a report by the Education Policy Research and Application Center (BEPAM) of Istanbul’s Boğaziçi University. 
In its study on the “quality of academic writing,” BEPAM examined 600 theses in total, including 470 master’s theses and 130 doctoral theses written between 2007 and 2016, daily Cumhuriyet reported.  
Some 477 of these theses were written in public universities, 123 were in private universities, 89 were written in English and 511 were written in Turkish. The researchers used the “Turnitin” plagiarism program and similarity index to examine the theses selected. 
The study revealed “heavy plagiarism” in 34 percent of the theses. The rate was 46 percent in private universities and 31 percent in public universities. 
Meanwhile, in a similarity index that indicates whether scientific studies are “original,” Turkey’s average was found to be 28.5 percent, compared to a world average of 15 percent. This similarity index rate was 24 percent in English theses and 29 percent in Turkish ones. It was 28 percent in public universities and 31 percent in private universities, showing that theses written in public universities are in a slightly better condition than those written in private universities. 
The initial aim of the BEPAM study was not to examine plagiarism rates, but the high number of plagiarized theses led researchers to look more closely. 
The number of plagiarized studies in public universities was 150 (31 percent) and 57 (46 percent) in private universities. This number was 173 (36 percent) in master’s theses and 34 (26 percent) in doctoral theses. It was 25 (28 percent) in English theses and 182 (35 percent) in Turkish ones. 
Institutions such as Boğaziçi University, the Middle East Technical University (ODTÜ) and Bilkent University provide education in English, and seem to be in a relatively better condition in terms of plagiarism and similarity. 
‘Serious ethical issue’ 
Researcher Dr. Ziya Toprak, who conducted the study, said the results showed that many Turkish students “do not know how to write theses,” while academics do not know how to teach thesis writing. 
Toprak noted that there are no Academic Writing Centers at any university in Turkey that see writing as a primary instrument of knowledge production.
“Unfortunately there are serious ethical issues in our country. Certainly, there are many who unknowingly plagiarize. The findings of the research focus mainly on the theses that have high levels of plagiarism, so clearly plagiarism is at serious levels. We are not talking about a few lines or a paragraph. It was done deliberately, indicating a serious ethical issue,” he said.

February 9, 2016


Our precious Press, 
According to the information stated in the press recently, Higher Education Council (Yüksek Öğretim Kurulu (YÖK)) abdicates its duty to investigate plagiarism and scientific fraud (*). Either it abdicates or continues to share its authorization with the universities as they’ve done so far, it doesn’t matter, indeed. However, it has been proven with the experiences so far that Higher Education Council tends to cover up its own academicians’ scientific corruption with the ‘don’t let it go out of this room’ mentality.
On the other hand, Higher Education Council encourages the attempts of plagiarism by ignoring them so far (**) (***).
Although the situation is desperate in terms of both HEC and universities, that Higher Education Council fades from the scene passing the buck to the universities and trying to make a law meaning ‘don’t mix me with this work’ threatens that the future of science ethics will be even worse.
Instead of suggesting an objective (x independent) scientific investigation and inspection method to prevent scientific theft, Higher Education Council tries to say ‘may each university cover up its plagiarism on his own’ by declaring that they will abdicate its duty to investigate this.
Whether Higher Education Council abdicates investigating scientific fraud or it continues to take responsibility with the universities, scientific malpractice will continue to be ignored and therefore increase rapidly unless an objective National Science Ethics Council (NSEC) is founded.

Provided that it will protect and supervise of science ethics in the basis of universal science ethics norms, an independent National Science Ethics Council should be founded which will serve as an academic honour council and will work with special methods apart from the scope of authority of universities and Higher Education Institute which focuses on ignoring. Higher Education Council should keep “plagiarism and scientific fraud crimes” separate (x and independent of the investigation of these crimes), while transferring its authorization about discipline regulations, with a law which they are trying to make, to the universities and Higher Education Council should transfer investigating these crimes to the independent ‘NATIONAL SCIENCE ETHICS COMMITTE’ which will be founded, not to the universities.
Universities, other research institutes and Higher Education Council should only be responsible for implementing the decisions taken by this new council NSEC. It should be arranged as a legal arrangement about how this kind of new council will occur, working procedures, what the actions and sanctions, which are against the scientific ethics, are and more importantly, what kind of responsibilities Higher Education Council and the directors of universities will have, while performing this new council's decisions with a consensus of universities, academics’ organizations and Science Academy. Scientific fraud can only be prevented with such an independent formation in earnest.

Emeritus Prof. Dr. Kayhan KANTARLI 

All Academics Association (TÜMÖD) / Representative of Izmir


(*)http://www.milliyet.com.tr/yok-yetkilerini-kismen-devrediyor-gundem-2150583/, http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/yok-universiteler-icin-yeni-disiplin-yasasi-taslagi-hazirladi-40016441

(**) as it can be seen in the archive section of the most reliable portal on plagiarism
(https://plagiarism-turkish.blogspot.com.tr) of our country, it has been published 402 essays and news about scientific fraud and plagiarism in the last decade and almost all of them are being criticized and condemned due to the irresponsibility of Higher Education Council and the universities which focuses on cover up. Only in 2007, there had been 82 news and articles regarding to plagiarism which academics got involved in and most of their names were stated clearly. This internet portal shows that plagiarism is still very common in the universities. There are numerous people who has the title as professor, associate professor, assistant professor, research assistant involved in these lots of plagiarism cases and there have not been any obstacles for those to be appointed to the academic and administrative services.

(***) Also see

November 25, 2015

200 South Korean Professors Charged in Massive Plagiarism Scam - TIME

Some 200 professors from up to 50 universities are implicated.
South Korea is set to indict 200 professors from several of the country’s universities for alleged copyright violations after they republished books by other authors under their own names, the Korea Herald newspaper reported Wednesday.
Professors from 50 universities, as well as four employees of a publishing company, are implicated in the scandal, Korean prosecutors said, with most of them having already confessing their involvement.
The professors’ actions were reportedly done in a bid to boost their academic standing before rehiring-related assessments. The Herald also reported that many of the original authors were also complicit in the scheme for fear of invoking the publishers’ displeasure over future book deals.
If found guilty, the accused will likely face immediate dismissal as well as up to five years in prison and fines equivalent to over $43,000.
[Korea Herald]


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