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- Wits University

Wits has embraced Open Access, which refers to the practice of providing unrestricted access to peer-reviewed research journal articles via the internet.

The Library, Research Office, and the Centre for Learning, Teaching and Development (CLTD) at Wits jointly hosted the eighth annual Open Access Seminar in the Senate Room on Monday, 22 October.

“It’s so important that we embrace Open Access and open up research and data,” said Dr. Robin Drennan, Director: Research Development at Wits, who opened the seminar.

“It’s good to grapple with issues and see how Wits handles [these] mixed tensions,” he said, referring to the challenge of, for example, making medical data openly available while simultaneously ethically respecting anonymity. Drennan invited delegates to share their ideas at the seminar, as it is only through such sharing that progress can be made.

Ms Denise Nicholson, Scholarly Communications Librarian at Wits, provided an overview of Wits’ OA policies, which were approved in June. The policies apply to all academic and professional staff at Wits.

Nicholson advised that postgraduate dissertations and theses (master’s and doctoral degrees) are stored on WIREdDSpace  (Wits Institutional Repository on DSpace). Click here for the Libguides, a comprehensive resource for researchers and postgraduate students on publishing (conventional, open publishing and self-publishing) and related issues, including: 

  • Evaluating Journals
  • Accredited Journals
  • Predatory Publishers
  • Ethics and Plagiarism
  • Copyright
  • Myths about Open Access
  • Research Process and Resources
  • Wits Library Services and Resources

Plagiarism in South African management journals: Unethical practices in the academy

Professor Adele Thomas is a Professor in the College of Business and Economics in the Department of Industrial Psychology and People Management at the University of Johannesburg. She is the former director of Wits Business School. The self-professed “academic activist” intently investigates plagiarism. Thomas delivered findings from a study in which she investigated the incidence of plagiarism in 19 management journals.

Thomas defined plagiarism as the verbatim or near-verbatim copy of text and submitting the work of another as if it were your own.

“It is ‘the act of making one’s own that which rightfully belongs to another’ and it attacks the core value of academic integrity,” says Thomas.

Student plagiarism is internationally recognised and researched – plagiarism in faculty, less so. However, faculty plagiarism is on the rise, says Thomas, and it’s linked to the proliferation of journals

Thomas’ study (which continued an earlier study) suggested that experienced researchers (as opposed to young, naïve scholars) plagiarise and that in developing countries, in particular, rules of research protocol may be obscure. Institutional factors can promote plagiarism (were reputation is based on research output at the expense of quality), the study found, as does persistence of the “publish or perish” syndrome and institutional reward incentives such as attracting research grants, promotions, or salary increases. Furthermore, ‘cut and paste’ tech enable plagiarism.

The following conditions at universities make plagiarism easier, according to this study:

  • Excessive competition
  • Higher value placed on research output than the quality
  • Disproportionate rewards for publication
  • Unjust working environment
  • Insufficient checks and balances

Furthermore, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DOHET) pays scholars up to R120 000 per article for publication in specific journals.  The study found that DOHET paid up to R13m for articles that showed more than 24% plagiarism on Turnitin, a commercial, internet-based plagiarism detection service. The DOHET has since elected to re-examine its subsidy policy to address exploitation.   

Thomas recommended vigilance of the research that universities are producing and zero tolerance for a culture of cheating. Universities need to balance [research output-related and rankings] information with quality assurance and promote research ethics within a context of multiculturalism.

“The moral climate of the university can influence faculty and student behavior. Thus, addressing faculty plagiarism should be essential,” says Thomas.

Wits and Massive Open Online Courses

Dominique Wooldridge is the team leader and content developer in the eLearning Support and Innovation Unit in CLTD. She shared an update on the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) available on the WitsX platform.

“Everything is open access and free,” says Wooldridge or students can choose to receive a verified certificate for a small fee.

WitsX currently has nine MOOCs, which 52 000 students worldwide have completed and WitsX has issued 1050 certificates. The first MOOCs, launched in 2016, have been successful:

The MOOC, Introduction to Stewart’s Model of Physiological Acid-Base Chemistry, is aimed at physicians, ICU nurses and others working in acute care, and provides an introduction to Peter Stewart’s model of clinical acid-base chemistry.

“Professor David Ruben found a chemical approach to explaining the Ph levels in your blood,” says Woodridge of this seemingly obscure but popular MOOC. 

MOOCs developed in 2018 include Civil Society and African Media Policy in the Digital Age and Activism and Citizen Journalism through Media.

MOOC on Digital Transformation launches 7 November

“On 7 November 2018, we’re launching a MOOC on Digital Transformation and the IT Team. This course will help you understand what digital transformation truly mean, how it impacts organizations and how it changes the role of the IT team,” says Wooldridge.

Sign up. It’s free!