The Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation (MHESI) has ordered all universities in the country to run a check on their lecturers to see if any purchased academic papers, after cases of ghostwriting were exposed in at least two well-known universities.
The order came in response to a recent report about certain academics who had renamed paid-for reports and claimed them as their own, and even had them published in internationally accredited journals.
It was reported that a lecturer at Chiang Mai University published an academic paper on the subject of nanomaterials, which he allegedly bought, and then paid another 30,000 baht in publishing costs. He also claimed to have authored a number of other works in fields outside his areas of expertise, including farming and cryptocurrency.
"I have already ordered the ministry's Office of the Permanent Secretary to consult with all universities to find ways to deal with the matter and prevent any future recurrences of this incident," said MHESI Minister Anek Laothamatas.
Mr Anek urged universities to proceed with legal action against any staff found to be guilty of, or associated with, ghostwriting or plagiarism.
He said the report has undermined the credibility of Thai universities.
The ministry said it would maintain its policy of aiding researchers to author papers that bolster the nation's reputation, but pay more attention to scrutinising academic journals and providing ethical oversight.
Dr Charnchai Panthongviriyakul, the president of Khon Kaen University, responded to the matter by saying the university has instructed its graduate school and other bodies to scrutinise the research papers of students and root out any suspected cases of ghostwriting or plagiarism.
An investigation is now underway focusing on researchers who authored many works or reports in fields outside their areas of expertise, Dr Charnchai said.
Experts in relevant fields will also inspect research papers prior to their publication, he added.
Dr Charnchai said some researchers may take advantage of a loophole in the university's inspection mechanism that excludes certain types of journals. While these account for less than 1% of all the research carried out at universities, any suspect content can still damage a school's reputation and credibility, he added.
"This is a serious matter. Ethical violations by researchers are considered a serious offence and are subject to punishment," he said.
Somchai Preechasinlapakun, a lecturer at the Faculty of Law at Chiang Mai University, said the country needs to review the way lecturers are assessed to root out any bad apples.