23 February 2018

The Scientist: Dealing with Unethical or Illegal Conduct in Higher Education

......... cases of faculty wrongdoing that got swept under the rug by universities. In some instances, accusations are never properly explored. When complaints are investigated, the internal inquiries are typically conducted behind closed doors, where a committee of the accused’s colleagues, not quite impartial, listens to the case and makes a judgment.
“Academia is one of the last bastions where power imbalances spill over into the governance system, including faculty disciplinary committees that are charged with objectively judging their peers”. As a result, justice is not always served.



Nature: Science needs to redefine excellence

What does excellence mean? How is it measured? When do we know that we have reached the required standard? These are difficult questions, but if the excellence agenda is to be taken seriously, they must be asked — even if they cannot be adequately answered.

First, the idea of excellence as a measure of research quality makes many people uncomfortable. And second, these people — despite their discomfort — cannot suggest anything better, given that science and scientists must meet political demands of accountability and assessment.


08 January 2018

20 December 2017

Aliran: Academics lament ‘glorified high school teachers’ at varsities


 “glorified high school teachers” refers mainly to the currently prescribed duties of university academics to just deliver set lessons, with lesson plans, objective and outcome prescribed. Teaching is to prepare students for employment and to cater to the needs of the industry.

Many of the problems faced by local universities are also blamed on the obsessive pursuit of enhanced Key Performance Indicators (KPI) and the desire to have good academic rankings.

“The quality of teaching has been basically reduced to student evaluation scores, which meet the ‘quantifiable’ requirement of the KPI mode, as well as the accreditation auditing system, which is also highly stifling.

“These systems also entrench standardisation – asking questions with model answers that perpetuate memorisation and regurgitation – and elevate form over substance. We became only concerned that the documentation is in order, not whether we were equipping students substantively and effectively.”

“KPI is designed not to make an outstanding scholar out of a lecturer, but simply to satisfy the university’s need to move up the ranking. It strips the passion out of being a scholar since one no longer does something for the sheer joy of doing it – but for the sake of number-crunching.

“It robs academia of its soul and turns lecturers into automatons.”

04 December 2017

THE: Authorship wars: academics outline the rules for recognition

"The final draft came back and all we had was a red circle around my boss’ name and an arrow that pointed to the front of the authorship list.”

"...... the head of department who insists on being named on every paper that comes out of their fiefdom, despite having had no input into most of them." 

"........ the colleague who masterminded an entire research project but got no publication credit since they moved to another institution before it was completed."

",,,,,, the PI of a collaborating lab, who used their greater seniority to make themselves the senior author on the paper, despite most of the project direction having been carried out by the more junior PI.

5,154-strong author list for one recent paper in 2015, ran to 24 pages, while the research itself, plus references, spanned only nine.

ghost authorship, gift authorship


Malaysian Academics Movement (MOVE/GERAK)
Media Statement
30 November 2017

The Malaysian Academics Movement (MOVE/GERAK) is shocked and appalled that the management of the University of Malaya (UM) has the gall to remind its academics to restrain from issuing public statements. This restriction may include not informing prospective students about available degree programs and their structures. Even lectures and publications are not spared from this muzzling. It also seems that academics should stop publishing research papers, and it is an oxymoron that the reminder was sent out by the UM Integrity Unit.

Issuing public statements is one of the required performance of academics. The UNESCO ‘Recommendation concerning the Status of Higher-Education Teaching Personnel’ clearly support this contention.

Article 26 of the Recommendation clearly states that:
“Higher-education teaching personnel, like all other groups and individuals, should enjoy those internationally recognized civil, political, social and cultural rights applicable to all citizens. Therefore, all higher-education teaching personnel should enjoy freedom of thought, conscience, religion, expression, assembly and association, as well as the right to liberty and security of the person and liberty of movement. They should not be hindered or impeded in exercising their civil rights as citizens, including the right to contribute to social change through freely expressing their opinion of state policies and of policies affecting higher education. They should not suffer any penalties simply because of the exercise of such rights. Higher-education teaching personnel should not be subject to arbitrary arrest or detention, nor to torture, nor to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. In cases of gross violation of their rights, higher-education teaching personnel should have the right to appeal to the relevant national, regional or international bodies, such as the agencies of the United Nations, and organizations representing higher-education teaching personnel should extend full support in such cases.” 

The UNESCO General Assembly, including Malaysia, approved the Recommendation on 11 November 1997. This makes it obligatory for all Malaysian universities to diligently comply with the Recommendation.

UM has academic freedom as one of its core values. This latest ill-conceived reminder seems to ask the academics and UM to deviate, not just from its core values but also from functioning as a proper university. This will definitely kill the fighting spirit of the academics working for UM to become a world class university.

GERAK demands that UM retract the reminder and bring back academic freedom as one of its core values. UM’s position as a high ranking university will be in jeopardy if no action is taken.

GERAK also urges the Vice Chancellor to meet with UM academics union, the ‘Persatuan Kakitangan Akademik Universiti Malaya’ (PKAUM), in the spirit of collegiality, to work together to allow UM to continue to be the top university in Malaysia and do better internationally. We have been informed that no meeting has taken place since the new Vice Chancellor took office about a month ago.

On behalf of GERAK,

Rosli Mahat
General Secretary
Pergerakan Tenaga Akademik Malaysia (GERAK)

Tel: +60166205242