If proposed new regulations are approved, researchers who have papers ghostwritten would need to return their government funding, because the draft would classify the practice as misconduct, Minister of Science and Technology Chen Liang-gee (陳良基) said on Monday last week.
The ministry last month proposed draft amendments to its Guidelines for Handling and Investigating Research Misconduct (學術倫理案件處理及審議要點), which governs researchers’ applications to the ministry for project funding or academic awards.
Having a paper ghostwritten is a breach of research ethics and investigations would be able to go back 10 years, the draft says.
Legislators across parties continue to be concerned over the prevalence of university students in Taiwan using thesis ghostwriters.
At a meeting of the Legislative Yuan’s Education and Culture Committee last year, Legislator Hung Tzu-yung (洪慈庸), then of the New Power Party, questioned the practice, saying that it costs about NT$120,000 to hire a ghostwriter and that students can require that the thesis be written by a professor or someone with a master’s degree.
Hung asked how the ministry would tackle the problem of research funded by the government being written by ghostwriters.
Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Ko Chih-en (柯志恩) at the time urged the ministry to implement penalties for project leaders who hire ghostwriters.
From January to June, 11 researchers were punished for misconduct, mostly for plagiarism, fabrications and falsifications, the ministry said.
Among them, eight researchers were banned from applying for ministry funding for one to five years, three were given a warning and one needed to return NT$600,000 in funding, it added.
Researchers with a record of misconduct would first be investigated by their institutions, which are responsible for supervising them, the ministry said.
The ministry said that following an investigation, it would convene a task force of at least three members from the researcher’s field, or experts in related fields, to review the institution’s report, adding that instances of grave misconduct would be further examined by its ethics review committee.
A retroactive investigation of misconduct should be conducted within 10 years, but this does not apply in cases with ongoing funding or those that could jeopardize public interests or safety, it added.
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