Posts Tagged ‘Bioscience Education’

“Set a thief to catch a thief”?

January 22, 2011

Earlier posts have dealt with the case of Jatinder Ahluwalia – a pharmacologist – who was found to have deceived his colleagues and probably sabotaged other’s research whose paper published in Nature was retracted. Ahluwalia was then at University College London but is now employed at the University of East London.

Retraction Watch now points out that he has published a new paper – not on pharmacology this time but about plagiarism! The paper appears in Bioscience Education, “Students Turned Off by Turnitin? Perception of Plagiarism and Collusion by Undergraduate Bioscience Students.”

Ahluwalia and his co-author, Andrew Thompsett, did the study

to provide qualitative data on the perceptions of plagiarism and collusion of final year Pharmacology students.

That he is no longer at UCL is understandable but that he is employed in the position he has at the University of East London is less understandable – not least from the perspective of the University. East London University has a history going back to 1898 as an educational institution but only became a University in 1992. It is the 3rd largest university in London in terms of student numbers and the 18th largest in the United Kingdom. But it ranks around 108th of the UK’s 115 Universities. I have difficulty to see how this University (which clearly needs to improve its ranking) could enhance its reputation by employing Ahluwalia. But perhaps Ahluwalia is a good teacher even if his reputation as a researcher in his own field is irrevocably tarnished.

The subject of his latest publication being more a social study rather than hard-core pharmacology is also understandable. And unlike many other sociologists he may have some unique qualifications to study plagiarism.

The paper itself is somewhat negative about a particular commercial product (Turnitin) and therefore of some benefit to its competitors – and that itself rings some alarm bells.

Unfortunately for Turnitin,

The results from the pilot study suggested that students did not find Turnitin (UK) easy to use neither did they perceive it as a useful learning tool.

But some questions also arise as to the the publishing Journal’s wisdom of publishing such a study  – which could be considered  “negative advertising” – and by such an author. Especially since they say that one of their objectives is to disseminate “good practice”.  Even consumer magazines are wary of reviewing just one product in isolation without also subjecting competing products to the same tests. From their website:

Bioscience Education is an online, bi-annual electronic journal owned and published by the Centre for Bioscience. Its aims are to promote, enhance and disseminate research, good practice and innovation in tertiary level teaching and learning within the biosciences disciplines.

Set a thief to catch a thief is a well tried concept but it does require some modicum of common sense.

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