A recent study made some alarming findings on the extent of plagiarism and other forms of unethical academic behaviour at Moroccan tertiary education institutions, but also proposes measures to combat this scourge.
These measures include the integration of educational training into the curriculum of Moroccan students and researchers, as well as establishing research integrity offices at Moroccan universities.
The study, ‘Exploring scientific misconduct in Morocco based on an analysis of plagiarism perception in a cohort of 1,220 researchers and students’, was authored by Khalid El Bairi of the faculty of medicine and pharmacy at the Mohamed I University, Nadia El Kadmiri of the polydisciplinary faculty of Taroudant at the Ibn Zohr University and Maryam Fourtassi of the faculty of medicine and pharmacy at the Abdelmalek Essaâdi University.
“To the best of our knowledge, this is the largest study to examine the issue of plagiarism in Morocco and Africa,” it states.
The researchers used a descriptive survey to explore perceptions and attitudes on plagiarism in several categories of scholars, including university professors, PhD researchers and postdoctoral fellows, PhD students, scientific graduates and undergraduate students. The survey also investigated various factors associated with plagiarism with the aim to implement interventions at Moroccan universities.
The survey population of 1,220 was dominated by undergraduate students (31.4%), followed by PhD students (26.6%), scientific graduates (19%), PhD holders and postdoctoral fellows (12.2%), and university professors (10.7%). Most respondents were females (69%) and all Morocco’s public universities and private universities were represented.
The study showed “some alarming findings that need to be seriously scrutinised by academic institutions for better training on research ethics and integrity”. About half of the respondents admitted to having plagiarised text in some way, for instance. And, while most of the respondents claimed to have adequate knowledge of plagiarism, they were unable to select the correct definitions from the options provided.
About 76% of those surveyed consider the citing of a source as an adequate way to prevent plagiarism being detected in their work.
In line with similar studies in other low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), the Moroccan survey confirms that plagiarism is a common issue.
“Regarding plagiarism-associated retractions of publications in Morocco, 13 (45%) were because of plagiarism or overlap among 29 retracted publications associated with various types of scientific misconduct in the Retraction Watch database,” the study points out.