Academic fraud is cheating in relation to any type of academic performance. Academic fraud has been a concern for centuries and still comprises a threat to societies. Competition intensifies progress and advancement, however, sometimes this is at the cost of ethical as well as financial challenges. Fraud may engage students, their teachers, researchers and other professionals.
Freedom et al (2004) describe a case of historical injustice concerning congenital heart disease called patent arterial duct. Galen, an Ancient Greek anatomist (AD 129–200) was the first to describe the vessel. Though he did not understand its function in complete, the researcher suggested its importance in blood circulation. However, this is Leonardo Botallo, a sixteenth century Italian physician who served for the French monarchs is generally known to be the discoverer. Botallo was engaged in anatomical studies and described some other heart conditions and, of course, acknowledged the patent arterial duct. He was the first to give details to many anatomical formations, but due to misinterpretations and, later, careless translations, his name became attached to the arterial duct for centuries.
Academic dishonesty may have many reasons, both subjective and objective. Max Eckstein (2003) from the UNESCO International Institute for Educational Planning suggests the following subjective causes: the circumstances, ambitions, competitive energies, inner predisposition to ignore the rules, and objective patterns: pressure by the society, the family, and colleagues, defects in the institutional policy.
Academic fraud can take variable forms in the electronic era. Eckstein (2003) points out the following kinds of fraud:
1) Examinations. This is the most familiar type of cheating. It used to be notes in socks or written arms long ago, and now electronic devices that can transfer the question to anyone outside the classroom come into application. The Center for Academic Integrity at Clemson University reports ‘more than 75 percent of college students cheat in some way on school work or exams at least once during their undergraduate careers’. Teachers may open exam papers ahead of time, thus informing students, or sale question papers and answers. Some other sophisticated methods of fraud include impersonation of a candidate by another person who would perform better. And, at last, as Internet has covered the world, once an exam paper is opened in one geographical area, it may easily become available to other students from the next time zone
2) Plagiarism. The time and educational demands require academic productivity to grow. Today, Internet search engines allow any interested person to access published papers or even dissertations within seconds. Of course, students are generally encouraged to apply to reliable sources of information, but ‘cut and paste’ activity is the closest step to perform. Moreover, numerous Internet commercial services offer pre-written academic papers, or assist to do simple re-writing by using other authors’ results.
3) Fraud in research. Professionals are sometimes tempted to behave unprofessionally in search for novel ideas, scientific discoveries, chasing for primacy and grants. Extreme cases of such behavior need to be punished. A well-known US research laboratory has withdrawn a paper of its coworker who announced the discovery of new elements and dismissed the scientist.
4) Diploma and credentials. Personal recommendations have been a common practice in the times of early growth of higher education. Nowadays, with the expanding educational network, it has been substituted by different kinds of certificates. Thus, history of employment is often presented differently from the actual curriculum vita. Michael Swango, a serial murder-physician killed his victims during his duties by injecting ‘drugs’ or poisoning his patients. Swango falsified his criminal records and managed to apply to notable hospitals in the US and in Africa. Swango might have killed as many as 35 patients as he moved from hospital to hospital, lying about his background. Forged diplomas are believed to have been widely used for job applications in China and Japan. Unaccredited institutions that require minimal training, but provide diploma enjoy international notorious fame.
5) Educational policies and academic fraud. Since educational establishments may qualify for extra resources when certain social or academic indicators prevail, institutional falsification of records may take place.
6) Academic fraud globally. Developing nations experience similar troubles of academic corruption, with the exception of lack for efficient authorities to observe or to surcease the process. In India, a group of rascals collected payments promising to guaranteed admission to postgraduate programs. The cheaters advertised themselves in local newspapers and sent answers for applicants to medical schools upon fees received.
In conclusion, Eckstein (2003) notes:
‘… many different kinds of behavior … represent different degrees of
seriousness, in how they affect the integrity of their respective academic settings.
Some are acts by individuals, others are the products of organized or commercial
fraud, and yet others are the result of systemic misconduct involving insiders in
the education system such as professionals, administrators, and other
functionaries. Expansion of education to increased numbers of candidates,
particularly at the more advanced level, and the geographical spread of educational
opportunity around the world are two recent developments that have spurred
opportunities for examination malpractice and the motivations for academic fraud
Academic cheating effects on the students, their teachers, scholars, institutions, educational network and the society as a whole. Should a student start cheating he or she will very probably continue to do so while studying further or may fraud at job. Not all graduates with diploma face the real life and work demands at equal possibilities because even with the same grades actual skills will vary. This is especially true for medical students. Gulli et al (2007) report doctors who cheated at medical schools are three times more likely to be disqualified for unprofessional behavior. Economically, a cheating student makes the professor to fail in manufacturing knowledge. Moreover, academic cheating in basic science may have disastrous impacts on the national economy, manufacturing or individuals’ health. The poor outcomes of graduates will for sure result in their alma mater prestige lowering. An institution infamous for corruption scandals and cheating incidents cannot support its reputation. Therefore, potential donors and employers may not get interested in cooperation. An employer who fires a cheating worker incurs large expenses: to replace an employee would cost 10,000 USD.
To achieve academic honesty is a challenge. Students, teachers, and researchers must mobilize in cooperation with authorities to provide capable educational systems. As soon as the society becomes aware of the nature and forms of academic fraud, efforts must be concentrated on ethical education, reduction of excess pressure upon students, and understanding of teachers.