KATHMANDU, Nov 8: Doctors in Nepal who are into teaching are found sporadically to be plagiarizing research papers in order to get promoted to professor or to get scholarships for further studies. However, no one has faced action for plagiarizing due to lack of a record keeping system.
An example of plagiarising concerns an original research paper titled, 'A Prevalence of Thyroid Dysfunction in Kathmandu University Hospital, Nepal' authored by Doctors Madhukar Aryal, Prabin Gyawali, Nirakar Rajbhandari and Pratibha Aryal and published in the Biomedical Research journal in 2010. The researchers told Republica that their work was plagiarized in a paper titled 'A Prevalence of Thyroid Disorder in Western Part of Nepal', authored by Doctors Raj Kumar Yadav of Gangalal Medical College, Pokhara, Namrata Thapa Magar of Gandaki Medical College, Pokhara, Bibek Paudel of Manipal College of Medical Sciences, Pokhara, Naval Kishor Yadav of Manipal College of Medical Sciences and Binod Yadav of Institute of Medicine, Kathmandu.
Similarly, a research paper titled 'Association of Thyroid Dysfunction Among Infertile Women Visiting Infertility Center of Om Hospital, Kathmandu Nepal' and authored by Doctors Bhola Rijal, R Shrestha and Bharat Jha was plagiarised by Doctors Mukesh Kumar Shrewastawa, C. Thanpari, RK Goit, NK Yadav, RK Mittal and V. Rohil, who published it under the title 'Association of Thyroid Dysfunction Among Infertile Women Visiting Nepalgunj Medical College Hospital, Kohalpur, Nepal'.
There are 21,000 doctors registered with Nepal Medical Council (NMC). Among them, more than 3,000 are involved in teaching, according to NMC. There are 22 medical colleges, including in the private sector, under Tribhuvan University and Kathmandu University and with affiliation to foreign universities.
Doctors who do not publish research papers can't be promoted to professor, according to university regulations. A doctor should publish at least one research paper to get promoted to assistant professor, two papers to become associate professor and four for a professorship. “So some doctors resort to plagiarizing,” said Dr Paras Kumar Pokharel, professor at the School of Public Health & Community Medicine, BP Koirala Institute of Health Sciences in Dharan.
It is the responsibility of the Nepal Health Research Council (NHRC) to take action against those plagiarizing research papers, said Dr Dilip Sharma, registrar at NMC. “The responsibility for taking action such as demoting the offenders lies with the university concerned,” he added.
Prof Dr Anjani Kumar Jha, executive chairperson of NHRC, said that doctors need to compulsorily publish research papers to be promoted to professor. “We cannot accuse all doctors of plagiarism but some indulge in it,” said Dr Jha. “It's an ethical issue rather than a legal concern.”
Every medical college or university has its own research journal but all of them do not publish online. “As a result, it will be very difficult to find out what is plagiarized,” Dr Jha said. “Interestingly, the plagiarized research papers are frequently published in international medical journals. If there is any plagiarism, the paper gets retracted.”
When researchers study a given topic, they should register with NHRC and get its permission. But all of their papers are not published by NHRC.
There are about half a dozen reliable medical journals published in Nepal. Only some of them including the journal of NHRC and the Medical Association Journal are listed in the internationally recognized index of journals. “If we are informed about unethical practices, we write to the journal concerned to take necessary action, including retraction and blacklisting,” said Dr Jha. “Other than that, any special policy on taking action against plagiarism is lacking,” he added.
The universities themselves claim to be unaware of plagiarism. “We are unaware of it,” said Dr JP Agrawal, dean at the Institute of Medicine under TU. “I will study these concerns and proceed ahead as per the findings,” he said.
According to Clause 26 (1) of the Copyright Act 2006, a fine of Rs 10,000 to Rs 100,000 or six-month imprisonment or both can be slapped for violating copyright.