Taiwan’s rampant thesis and dissertation plagiarism has reduced the value of degrees, bringing the academic system’s public credibility to the brink of collapse.
Data published on Retraction Watch — a blog that reports on retractions of scientific papers — showed that 73 papers written by Taiwanese researchers were retracted from international journals between 2012 and 2016 due to fake peer reviews, the second-highest in the world behind China.
Based on the size of the academic population, Taiwan was the highest in the world, making it academically a pirate nation.
Academic fraud in Taiwan can be divided into several types: the listing of coauthors; “plagiarism clans,” in which graduate students copy from their adviser’s thesis or dissertation; heavyweight academics using public funds to build academic paper mills; and project teachers or assistant professors hiring ghostwriters to finish their papers.
More recently, graduate students unable to complete their master’s theses and doctoral dissertations have hired ghostwriters to do it for them.
Politicians who buy their way into universities and then hire others to attend classes and ghostwrite their thesis and dissertation are in effect buying their diplomas.
Former minister of national defense Andrew Yang (楊念祖) and former minister of education Chiang Wei-ling (蔣偉寧) were forced to step down in 2013 and 2014 respectively due to allegations of plagiarism and using fake peer reviews.
Even Lee Si-chen (李嗣涔) and Yang Pan-chyr (楊泮池) faced academic scandals during their tenures as National Taiwan University president.
Why do Taiwanese academics continue to breach ethics instead of learning from their mistakes?
Former minister of science and technology Yang Hung-duen (楊弘敦) once tried to comfort himself by saying that this has been a problem throughout history. He said it was a problem with human nature and demanded that universities improve how they teach academic ethics.
Graduate students are required to take an online examination in research ethics. However, passing the test is easy, as they can find the answers on their smartphone while taking the test on a computer. The online examination essentially encourages them to pass an ethics test by unethical means.
In Taiwan, there is barely any mechanism to take disciplinary action against someone who breaches academic ethics. Most only receive a written warning, while their right to apply for national research projects is suspended and awards and prize money are partially reclaimed.
This systemically encourages research fraud.
In the initial investigation of an ethics breach, evidence is often never found, as academics shield one another. In the case of Yang and Chiang, for example, the government merely suspended their rights to apply for national research grants.
Hwang Woo-suk, a South Korean researcher accused in 2005 of fraud, was dismissed by Seoul National University in 2006, prohibited from serving as a professor at a public university for five years, and his pension was halved.
In 2009, he was sentenced to a two-year suspended prison term after he was found guilty of embezzlement, which was later reduced by six months to an 18-month term on appeal.
An old Chinese saying goes: “Academic officials’ shamelessness is a disgrace to the nation.”
In a society where a sense of shame and strict regulations are absent, the public become the victims of academic fraud, while students learn how to live a fraudulent life at school.
Tai Po-fen is a professor of sociology at Fu Jen Catholic University.
Translated by Eddy Chang
Liberal democracy and communist autocracy are at the initial stages of a historic battle. Taipei has chosen its side in this fight and has sought to frame “cross-strait relations” as an international issue, while Beijing says that Taiwan is an “internal issue” and a hangover from the Chinese Civil War. Taiwan’s status as a nation has new clarity and the international community is beginning to defend Taiwan’s democracy. The Washington Post has praised Taiwan’s diplomatic achievements and Australian Minister for Defence Peter Dutton has said that it would be inconceivable for Australia not to join Taiwan and the US in a conflict with
At a time when China continues its assertive policy toward its neighboring countries, the regime of Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平) signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Bhutan last month to resolve a longstanding border dispute. However, this is not the first time China and Bhutan have taken such efforts on this issue. Over the years, China has expanded its claim over territory in Bhutan. China claims over 764km2 of Bhutan’s territory, which includes Doklam, Sinchulung, Dramana and Shakhatoe in the northwestern region and the Pasamlung and Jakarlung Valleys in the central part of Bhutan. Although the two sides held
Thanks to the communist side of the Strait, awareness of the threats facing Taiwan is higher than at any time in the last 50 years. It’s an opportunity to educate the world about all the country has to offer, from public health and disaster relief to entrepreneurship and democratic governance. One of Taiwan’s greatest strengths — its semiconductor industry — however, is also potentially a terrible political liability. Taipei and friends of Taiwan should be careful how they wield it. The idea that China could shut down large swaths of the global economy with an attack on the center of 60%
The world community has just seen an election victory with more than 90 percent of the vote under a dictatorial regime, but Dolqun Isa’s large election win was for a good reason. The World Uyghur Congress’ (WUC) 7th General Assembly was held in Prague, Czech Republic, from Nov. 12 to Nov. 14. The WUC was formed in exile to re-establish the independent state in East Turkestan — officially called Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region by China. At that meeting, Isa was re-elected to the presidency. He was the only candidate, and before the vote, another well-known Uighur advocate, Abduwali Ayup, said: “Are we living