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Friday, August 19, 2011

Research integrity - Part 3

Continuing on my ranting on research integrity. This time, focusing on "translation".

I have noticed some researchers (this time, mainly postgraduates) who would refer to a material in one language (for example Arabic or Japanese) and would translate it into English. The way it is done is as if the researcher himself/herself wrote the text without actually indicating and crediting the original source of reference.

There is no problem if one wants to refer to sources in other languages. However, to uphold integrity of the research, the original material should be given due credit. Just because the researcher translates the text, say from Japanese to English, that does not give him/her the right to say that it is his/her original work. We have to remember that plagiarism is the act of presenting other people's work (even in other languages) as our own.

I remember listening to a talk given by Dr Zahazan Mohamed recently. He said that Imam Malik (who lived nearly 13 centuries ago), the author of the renowned kitab, al-Muwatta', had his work copied and imitated by other so-called scholars of his time. Some even used the very name of the kitab without changing it from al-Muwatta' and yet claiming that it was their original work. Imam Malik knew of this but he let it be. The irony is that after all these centuries, people today only refer to the original al-Muwatta' written by Imam Malik. This, according to Dr Zahazan, is due to the fact that Imam Malik wrote the magnum opus with sincerity and integrity. It is these qualities that helped the original al-Muwatta' to stand the test of time.

As such, I believe research work which is copied-and-pasted and translated without giving due credit will never stand the test of time. Sooner or later, people will dismiss such work as lacking originality, or worse still plagiarised work. At the end of the day, people will forget such work.

On the other hand, research work which is done with sincerity, honesty and integrity will stand the test of time, and will continuously be referred to by others.

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