Dark and mysterious ways of Turkish academia

Professor Debora Weber-Wulff addresses some of the dark and mysterious ways of Turkish academia on her blog. Academic misconduct is apparently wide-spread, largely ignored and is condoned making for a culture with very dubious ethics which has become self-perpetuating . It does not paint a very pretty picture but it is noteworthy that the picture is coming to light only because of the work of a group of other academics. But to break out of the vicious circle will not be so easy.

The Dark Alleys of Turkish Academia

I published a short note in September 2012 about the work of a group of academics in Turkey. A. Murat Eren has now organized a translation of their work into English so that a wider group of scientists can take a peek into the very dark alleys of Turkish academia. …..

….. And then there is the list of academics in Turkey with the most retractions to their name — and their current occupation. Let me quote these here, because it is so shocking:

Only one of the authors with multiple retracted papers is not affiliated with academia. Anyone who knows how difficult it is to get a paper retracted will understand the depth of concern here. How can these people teach at university and mentor doctoral students when they themselves have multiple retractions to their names?

The same chapter also reports on the Sezen case, one that I blogged about in June 2012.

Eren’s conclusions:

  • Turkey’s bad academia is self-perpetuating.
  • People who have committed ethical violations in their dissertations and publications are allowed to become thesis supervisors. Students who are misguided by these create dissertations that equally violate ethics, publish insignificant or duplicated papers, and some of them become the new academic generation, in turn completing the cycle.
  • One of the major problems that perpetuates this cycle is the difficulty of access to dissertations. University libraries limit access with arbitrary reasons, and improvements in YÖK Thesis Archive are far from solving the problem in practice.
  • Even when a dissertation is accessed and plagiarism is seen, penalties are far from being deterrent, due to legal and executive roadblocks.
  • While advanced societies take science theft very seriously, actors of science theft in Turkey silently go on with their duties, thus deleteriously undermining the credibility of the field.
  • Even though today’s scientists in Turkey are not proactive, and they are mostly mute unless they have to defend themselves, I believe that self-criticism will become a way to reveal and eventually eradicate academical problems in Turkey in the future.

I am indebted to the Turkish scientists who have worked on this. I have corresponded with them and did some proofreading on the English version. I hope that this will shine a bright light down the dark alleys

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