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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Research integrity - Part 8

The above picture really does not have anything to do with this posting. It is just for fun. I want to continue my comments on research integrity by focusing on fake professors. While I am not a follower of the Harry Potter series, I am somehow reminded of the professors of Hogwarts, hence the picture above.

Anyway, I read somewhere that "if there are fake students, there can also be fake professors". Sounds scary, doesn't it? But the reality is indeed such that there are frauds who pretend to be professors. In 2007 for example, Wikipedia was rocked by a "scandal" of a contributor (who was actually just a student) pretending to be a professor of religion. This no doubt affects the trustworthiness of the popular free reference portal. This scandal can be read at this link.

In Malaysia, the 2010 National Higher Education Act looks into this matter. Fake professors and bogus PhD holders can be subject to legal action under this act. Under this act, the Ministry of Higher Education is also able to set up a directory of everyone who holds the title of professor, everyone who holds a doctorate degree and everyone who is conferred honorary doctorates. I am not sure whether this database is up and ready, but if (and when) it is available, this database would be very useful.

These are necessary ingredients to safeguard the integrity of research being conducted in research institutions as well as institutions of higher learning. If bogus PhD holders and fake professors are left to carry out research, would their findings be authoritative? What would happen if they are researching in areas that are deemed to be critical to the nation and society? If they hold teaching positions, what will become of the quality of higher education? These are some of the basic concerns if these people are left to their own devices.

At the end of the day, there should be some way to monitor the ever-increasing number of doctorate holders and those who are appointed professors. I have seen some people using the title "professor" which apparently has been conferred to them, usually by overseas institutions. I wonder if they are really professors in the true sense of the word. Do they even know how to carry out research? Do they even teach at universities? Like PhD, the title "professor" commands a certain recognition, prestige and position in society. They are well-respected for their informed opinions and wisdom. If bogus professors are allowed to run free, then the true value of a professorship is diminished significantly.

Let there be quality, not quantity. Then there will be integrity.

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