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Good practices

Digitization to fight plagiarism

Nigeria’s Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), which funds the country’s public higher education institutions, will begin digitizing scientific theses and papers written by its students and faculty and storing them in a newly created National Research Repository. The aim is to preserve the knowledge produced by Nigerian universities and give the public open access to research results. The idea is also to combat scientific misconduct in the country. “A major benefit of digitization is that it will assist us in checking for plagiarism. We want to discourage this practice by researchers at any level,” said Suleiman Bogoro, TETFund’s executive secretary, while presenting the initiative at a workshop for librarians from institutions across the country, according to the journal’s website The Nation.

A 2018 survey by Nigeria’s National Universities Commission (NUC) showed that there was some degree of plagiarism in roughly 60% of essays produced by undergraduates that year. The proportion of master’s dissertations containing excerpts copied from other sources without proper citation was 15%, while among doctoral theses the rate was 8%. The problem extends all the way to the top of the academic ladder and has long been fought by higher education institutions. In 2013, the University of Calabar fired four professors accused of plagiarism: Azubuike Iloeje and Maurice Bisong from the Literary Studies department, Oden Ubi from the marketing department, and Paulinus Noah from the linguistics and communication studies department. In another rumored case, two professors from the economics department at the University of Port Harcourt were prosecuted for copying the work of Nigerian academic Victor Dike, from the School of Engineering and Technology at National University Sacramento in the USA.

According to Bogoro, the main challenges of the theses digitization program are related to budget limitations and the need to expand the organizational and technical capacity of libraries nationwide. Initially, electronic platforms for the submission of academic papers will be created, while library managers will be given online training on how to deal with the new system. The program will be funded by TETFund, whose budget is supplied by a 2% education tax on Nigerian business profits and covers academic development projects at 226 higher education institutions in the country—it was about US$700 million last year.