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PU Ex-psychology student reports 'theft' of thesis

Lahore, June 02, 2008: A former student has added her bit to the plagiarism saga that has gripped the Punjab University's Psychology Department for some time now, demanding credit for research – five papers in all -- that has been published under the name of the department's current chairperson.

An email identifying a former PU student Aalia Shah as the sender has been sent to the Punjab University vice-chancellor, the Higher Education Commission, the Journal of Pakistan Psychiatric Society (JPPS) and the editors of Illness, Crisis and Loss in the United States. It alleges the publication of research work actually conducted by Ms Shah under the name of the department's head, Prof Yasmin Farooqi.

The email to the PU VC, HEC and two journals' editors carries some seven attachments of different related documents. Ms Aalia Shah says she was a student of the applied psychology department (session 1997-1999), and she did her MSc final year thesis 'Pre-Post Evaluation of Depression and Anxiety among Patients undergoing Mastectomy and Hysterectomy' with Prof Farooqi as her preceptor.

She says Dr Farooqi has published five papers and presentations based on her research work. As a proof of her claim, she has included as attachment the email through which she had sent the papers to Dr Farooqi. "These research papers were primarily authored by me and thus are my intellectual property. The publication of this material under Dr Farooqi's exclusive name without recognition of my authorship and contribution constitutes plagiarism and theft of intellectual property," the message reads.

Ms Shah in her email maintains she had tried to contact Dr Farooqi several times to determine the nature of this omission. It was when she did not get any response from her that she decided to contact the vice chancellor of the Punjab University, the HEC and the editors of the two journals.

In answer to an e-mail from this correspondent, Ms Shah said she did not hear back from the PU VC, HEC and JPPS, but the editors of Illness Crisis and Loss were prompt in their response. "While investigating my claim, the editors came across another article Dr Farooqi and I had already published in another journal (Shah, Aalia, and Yasmin Farooqi. 2003. "Pre-Post Evaluation of Depression and Anxiety in Patients Undergoing Mastectomy and Hysterectomy." Pakistan Journal of Psychology. 34: 19-43.)

She says that this article was very similar to the one published in Illness Crisis and Loss. As the journal has a policy of accepting only original unpublished articles, she said, the editors were retracting the said article and publishing an errata note directing readers to the above mentioned article where I am listed as the primary author.

"It is a sad state of affairs when senior and qualified teachers … resort to such unethical behavior. My only aim throughout has been to get due credit for the hard work that I put into these projects," Ms Shah says.

In an earlier email message to Dawn, Prof Farooqi had stated: "Ms Shah did collect the data for Hysterectomy and Mastectomy cases for which I gave her co-authorship on two published research papers. Since she has been unable to continue with her studies in the field of psychology and in the area of cancer despite being in USA for last several years, I was the one who wrote the entire paper on Mastectomy, which later on was published in ICL (Illness, Crisis and Loss)."

In the same message, Prof Farooqi had held on to her position that "no co-authorship can be considered for this paper." By way of proof, she stated that "all of the tools for data collection were derived from my translated and adapted version of BDI approved by (the) American Psychological Corporation, USA. Thus, the whole of the research methodology dealing with methods for data collection, research design, tests/questionnaire and statistical analyses were carried out by me because Ms Aalia Shah did not know the ABC of research projects…she cannot claim that I stole her research project. Instead, I wrote the whole of the thesis for her in order to help her benefit from the experience of conducting research on cancer. If Ms Shah is the principal investigator then she should show the original data along with (sic) the signed questionnaire of the research subjects."

When contacted, PU vice-chancellor Prof Dr Mujahid Kamran said that he had somehow missed the email message sent by Ms Aalia Shah.

HEC Executive Director Prof Dr Sohail Naqvi said that he did not know about the latest development in the plagiarism case. He, however, said the HEC was firm on its zero-tolerance policy on plagiarism. Dawn
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