Accuser becomes the accused in plagiarism scandal

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A professor's claims that his text book was plagiarized backfire amid counter-allegations

A university professor who accused another lecturer of plagiarizing his work has in turn been accused of copying text from a book published in the US.

On April 27, the Ministry of Education and Training announced that a disciplinary committee at the Ho Chi Minh City University of Industry had decided to censure Dr. Phan Thi Cuc, head of the school's Finance and Banking Faculty, and three other lecturers in her faculty, for using documents written by other authors in two books without permission.

"Tai Chinh Quoc Te (International Financial Management), published in 2008, contains portions from a book of the same title published in 1996 by a group of authors at the HCMC University of Economics led by Prof. Tran Ngoc Tho.

The other book compiled by Cuc's group in 2008 was "Nguyen ly thuc hanh bao hiem (Insurance Principles And Practice), which contains several similar chapters of a book of the same title published in 2007 by lecturer Nguyen Tien Hung, also from the HCMC University of Economics.

In her report to the State Professor Title Council an agency that advises the Prime Minister on whether or not he should grant, or remove, the title of professor and associate professor to teachers Cuc admitted she had failed to verify thoroughly the origins of the chapters compiled by others in the group.

The case expanded after Tran Ngoc Tho, the alleged victim in Cuc's case, was then accused of plagiarism for basing his book on "International Financial Management by Prof. Jeff Madura of Florida Atlantic University in the US.

In whose words

Tran Ngoc Tho from the Ho Chi Minh City University of Economics has been accused of plagiarizing "International Financial Management by Jeff Madura from Florida Atlantic University with his book "Tai Chinh Quoc Te(INSET)

Tho said that he "confirmed that there was no copying in his book and that he had not even heard of Madura's book until recently.

"The text book Tai Chinh Quoc Te was written some 14 or 15 years ago and was the country's first book on the issue. We had to prepare for two or three years.... There was no concept of international economy at that time. We had to ask our friends abroad to carry books home [they were not officially imported or printed in Vietnam]. And from those books, we compiled information, and updated our own information on global finance and Vietnam's status, he said, adding that they hadn't listed all references in the book.

Asked why Jeff Madura's book was not listed, Tho said his book was compiled by five authors who based their research on many different documents and he hadn't been able to oversee every aspect of the project.

"In case the group failed to list all materials they had referenced, we only listed main documents. It has been a long time and I can't remember if portions of Prof. Jeff

Madura's book had been translated [and used in my book] or not.

"We will buy that book and convene the group to review each chapter in our book. If it is true [that the group had used Madura's book], we will correct it in the next reprint, he said.

Thanh Nien Weekly asked Prof. Madura for his opinion on the issue.

Madura authorized Cengage Learning, the holder of the copyright to his book, to answer on his behalf.

The company's Director of Rights Protection & Enforcement William A. Sampson told Thanh Nien Weekly that Cengage Learning wanted to work with Vietnamese and American authorities to investigate and address the issue.

He said they would peruse legal action if they found evidence that Tho had plagiarized Madura's work.

"Once we have confirmed that the text in question misappropriates material written by Prof. Madura we will write Prof. Tran Ngoc Tho a letter demanding that he cease any further distribution and sale of the unauthorized text. We would also demand that Prof. Tran Ngoc Tho compensate Cengage Learning for the damages suffered as a result of his activities.

Not just an aberration

The Ministry of Education and Training has ordered a review of textbooks in all universities nationwide after a slew of recent plagiarism accusations.

In a recent interview with Thanh Nien, Do Tat Ngoc of the State Professor Title Council said part of the problem was that many instructors were not even aware that they were not allowed to copy from previously printed university textbooks when publishing their own new books.

"These are actually pieces of work with copyrights, not just material for their students, he said.

But some authors, educators and publishers don't seem to know and/or care about this.

Ly Kinh Hien, a lecturer in the Korean Studies Faculty at the HCMC University of Social Sciences and Humanities, has recently been accused of illegally translating a dictionary by Baek Bong Ja of Yonsei University in South Korea and publishing it as his own under the title "Tu dien ngu phap tieng Han (Korean Grammar Dictionary), the Tuoi Tre newspaper reported on May 17.

Hien said Ja had gifted him the book at a seminar in South Korea a long time ago. "At that time, there was a dearth of Korean grammar textbooks in Vietnam. I have translated parts of his book for teaching. In 2004, I contacted the South Korean Consulate to ask for permission to publish my book and they supported my idea, Hien was quoted by Tuoi Tre as saying.

However, Hien blamed the designers for failing to note on the cover that it was a translation, the Tuoi Tre report said.

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