A startling report indicates that over 100 academics associated with 33 universities across the nation may have engaged in fraudulent practices concerning their research undertakings. It not only sheds light on the unethical behaviour exhibited by some academics, but also exposes the shortcomings in the country's research and development (R&D) financial allocation system.
This revelation comes from the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research, and Innovation (MHESI), following a disclosure that a researcher at the Chulabhorn Royal Academy was dismissed for purchasing research for their academic work.
Academic fraud in Thailand first gained attention this year when suspicions arose regarding two academics -- one from Chulabhorn Royal Academy and another from Chiang Mai University. They were believed to have paid to be credited as authors on research papers written by others, which were subsequently published in academic journals, mostly open-access ones.
In response, MHESI directed universities to investigate whether similar misconduct had taken place in their academic communities. The preliminary findings revealed an alarming trend that more than 100 academics, affiliated with 33 universities nationwide, may have submitted papers that were procured online to claim authorship.
The outcome of these investigations underscores not only the prevalence of unethical and irregular practices among academics but also the systemic flaws within the nation's R&D promotional framework. While higher education academics face high pressure to produce research and academic output to bolster their profiles, the funding allocations to support such scholarly endeavours are mismatched.
Over the past five years since the creation of the MHESI, the government has shifted its approach to funding R&D. This shift focuses primarily on large-scale projects that align with certain industrial sectors chosen by the government, featuring collaboration with companies and potential commercialisation.
Conversely, smaller projects on fundamental scientific research have been ignored, despite the undeniable role such research plays in strengthening the nation's scientific and technological fundamentals.
While the intention behind this change is laudable -- to promote R&D that can eventually expand to commercial interests-- it has proven to be impractical and has led to the exploitation of the country's research resources.
Academics and researchers who lack connections with major corporations and influential figures find themselves devoid of financial support. Consequently, many are forced to seek the favour of phu yai, influential members of their academic circles, to secure financial backing for their work.
This translates into a loss of opportunities for students to engage in research alongside their instructors, inhibiting skill cultivation. The current approach to allocating research funds has inadvertently dismantled opportunities to nurture new, promising researchers. This flaw has driven certain unscrupulous academics to pursue shortcuts, resorting to tactics such as purchasing pre-written research papers online.
Of course, the country requires high-quality research that is usable -- not simply that which is kept in library to gather dust. However, the system behind financing research must be far from one-size-fits-all, as this approach is both impractical and detrimental to the nation's R&D capabilities.