Inconsistent Responses to Notifications of Suspected Plagiarism in Finnish Higher Education

Abstract

All higher education institutions in Finland are committed to following the guidelines of good scientific practice and procedures to handle allegations of misconduct compiled by the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity. However, there is no research available in what way institutions follow these guidelines. This article analyses the current practices of defining and dealing with plagiarism in published Master’s theses. The data consist of 29 written notifications of suspected plagiarism in Master’s theses that were sent to the rectors of universities and decisions on these 29 cases. Inductive content analysis was used to classify the decisions according to definitions of plagiarism, processes to deal with suspicions and sanctions for plagiarism. Due to inconsistency and perplexity in some of the decisions, classifications are overlapping. The main actor in the process is the rector of the higher education institution who bases the decision on the views of preliminary enquirer. Preliminary inquiry has replaced investigation proper and this allows the procedures to remain internal and local. There is no consensus of the definition of plagiarism, and the sanctions for plagiarism vary from nothing to an attempt to revoke a Master’s degree. The adherence of the higher education institutions to the national ethical guidelines is not optimal and leads to inconsistent responses to notifications of suspected plagiarism.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

References

  1. Act on the Openness of Government Activities 621/1999. https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/1999/en19990621_20150907.pdf. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  2. Ahjopalo, J. (2019). Ylempien amk-tutkintojen plagiointisoppa sakenee – nyt jo 26 selvityspyyntöä epäilyttävistä opinnäytetöistä./Plagiarism soup thickens in UASs Master’s degrees – now already 26 requests of investigation about suspicious theses. YLE News 14.1.2019. https://yle.fi/uutiset/3-10584725. Accessed 9 September 2019.

  3. ARENE (The Rectors’ Conference of Finnish Universities of Applied Sciences). (2019). Plagiointi on aina väärin ja vastuu siitä on ensisijaisesti tekijällä./Plagiarism is always wrong and the responsibility lies primarily on the author. http://www.arene.fi/ajankohtaista/arene-plagiointi-on-aina-vaarin-ja-vastuu-siita-on-ensisijaisesti-tekijalla/. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  4. Boehme, O., Föger, N., Hiney, M., Peatfield, T., Petiet, F. (2016). Research Integrity Practices in Science Europe Member Organisations SURVEY REPORT https://www.scienceeurope.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Science-_Europe_Integrity_Survey_Report_July_2016_FINAL.pdf. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  5. Furedi, F. (2017). Universities blame others for plagiarism. They need to look at themselves. Guardian 27.2.2017. https://www.theguardian.com/education/2017/feb/27/universities-blame-plagiarism-frank-furedi. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  6. Glendinning, I. (2013). Plagiarism policies in Finland full report. Impact of Policies for Plagiarism in Higher Education Across Europe. http://plagiarism.cz/ippheae/files/D2-3-10%20FI%20RT%20IPPHEAE%20CU%20Survey%20FinlandNarrative.pdf. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  7. Horbach, S., Breit, E., Mamelund, S-E. (2018). Organisational responses to alleged scientific misconduct: Sensemaking, sensegiving, and sensehiding. Science and Public Policy, 46(3), 415–429, https://academic.oup.com/spp/advance-article/doi/10.1093/scipol/scy068/5230895. Accessed September 9 2019.

  8. Kvalnes, Ø. (2015). Moral reasoning at work: Rethinking ethics in organizations. Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Google Scholar 

  9. Kämäräinen J., Moore E., Mönkkönen I. & Saarti J. (2015). Systemic disturbances in thesis production processes. In Kurbanoglu S., Boustany J., Špiranec S., Grassian E., Mizrachi D., Roy L. (eds) information literacy: Moving toward sustainability. ECIL 2015. Communications in Computer and Information Science 552, 489–498. Springer, Cham.

  10. Moore, E. (2008). The four stages of addressing plagiarism. A paper presented in the 3rdInternational Plagiarism Conference, Newcastle, England. http://etico.iiep.unesco.org/sites/default/files/the_four_stages_of_addressing_corruption.pdf. Accessed 12 September 2019.

  11. Moore, E. (2009). Tapaukset Jari Vilen ja Carl Öhman/Cases Jari Vilen and Carl Öhman. Plagiointitutkija-blogi/Plagiarism Researcher Blog. http://plagiointitutkija.blogspot.com/2009/12/tapaukset-jari-vilen-ja-carl-ohman.html. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  12. Moore, E. (2014). Accuracy of referencing and patterns of plagiarism in electronically published theses. International Journal of Educational Integrity 10(1), 42–55. http://www.ojs.unisa.edu.au/index.php/IJEI/article/viewFile/933/656. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  13. Moore, E. (2015). Differences in local responses to plagiarism in Finnish higher education. In Plagiarism Across Europe and beyond – Conference proceedings/2015, 134–146. Brno: Mendel University. http://academicintegrity.eu/conference/proceedings/2015/Moore_Differences.pdf. Accessed 9 September 2019.

  14. Räsänen, L., Moore, E. (2016). Critical evaluation of the guidelines of the Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity and of their application. Research Integrity and Peer Review 1:15. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29451531. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  15. Sievälä, A. (2018). Plagioitu opinnäytetyö hyväksyttiin kolmannessa tarkastuksessa - tutkija uskoo, että plagiointia pääsee korkeakouluissa läpi paljon/ A plagiarised thesis was accepted in the third inspection – researcher thinks that a lot of plagiarism goes unnoticed in universities. Karjalainen 26.5.2018. https://www.karjalainen.fi/uutiset/uutis-alueet/maakunta/item/183648. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  16. Sorjonen, O. (2019). Vilppiepäilyjen määrä Karelia-ammattikorkeakoulussa on ennenkuulumaton - "Plagiointiväite Voi tuhota työuria"/the amount of suspicions of research misconduct in Karelia UAS is unheard-of – “Plagiarism can destroy work careers”. Karjalainen 21.2.2019. https://www.karjalainen.fi/uutiset/uutis-alueet/maakunta/item/210445. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  17. Spoof, SK. (2018). Tutkimusetiikan itsesäätelyjärjestelmä – Suomen malli askel askeleelta/self-regulatory system of research ethics - the Finnish model step by step. Vastuullinen tiede/Responsible Science. Tiedonjulkistamisen neuvottelukunta TJK and TENK. https://www.vastuullinentiede.fi/fi/tutkimuksen-suunnittelu/tutkimusetiikan-itses%C3%A4%C3%A4ntelyj%C3%A4rjestelm%C3%A4-%E2%80%93-suomen-malli-askel-askeleelta. Accessed 12 September 2019.

  18. Statistics Finland. (2017). Ylempään ammattikorkeatutkintoon johtava koulutus lisääntynyt/ Master’s degree education in Polytechnics has increased. https://www.stat.fi/til/akop/2016/akop_2016_2017-04-19_tie_001_fi.html. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  19. Supreme Administrative Court of Finland. (2016). Decision KHO:2016:68. University - Revocation of a university degree - Administrative decision - Appeals - Correction of a factual error – Research misconduct - Plagiarism - Fabrication - Decision to award a university degree - Decision annulled. https://www.kho.fi/fi/index/paatoksia/vuosikirjapaatokset/vuosikirjapaatos/1463137048305.html. Accessed 9 September 2019.

  20. Sutherland-Smith, W. (2010). Retribution, deterrence and reform: The dilemmas of plagiarism management in universities. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 32(1), 5–16.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Sutherland-Smith, W. (2014). Legality, quality assurance and learning: Competing discourses of plagiarism management in higher education. Journal of Higher Education Policy and Management, 36(1), 29–42.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Tauginienė, L, Gaižauskaitė, I, Glendinning, I, Kravjar, J, Ojsteršek, M, Ribeiro, L, Odiņeca, T, Marino, F, Cosentino, M, Sivasubramaniam, S. (2018). Glossary for academic Integrity. ENAI Report 3G. https://www.academicintegrity.eu/wp/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/GLOSSARY_final.pdf. Accessed 12 September 2019.

  23. TENK (Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity). (2012). Responsible conduct of research and procedures for handling allegations of misconduct in Finland. http://www.tenk.fi/en/responsible-conduct-of-research. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  24. TENK (Finnish Advisory Board on Research Integrity). (2018). Investigation of research misconduct in Finland. Responsible conduct of research and TENK. Youtube video of the process. https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=117&v=sNJcuZ%2D%2D1Sg. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  25. UNIFI. (2019). The quantity of degrees taken in universities 2010–2016. Universities Finland UNIFI https://infogram.com/tutkinnot-1ggk2694xlgk2n0?src=embed. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  26. Universities Act 558/2009. https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2009/en20090558_20160644.pdf. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  27. Universities of Applied Sciences Act 932/2014. https://www.finlex.fi/en/laki/kaannokset/2014/en20140932_20160563.pdf. Accessed 18 June 2019.

  28. Weber-Wulff, D. (2014). False feathers. A perspective on academic plagiarism. Springer.

  29. Weber-Wulff, D. (2019). Plagiarism detectors are a crutch, and a problem. Nature 567, 435. https://www.nature.com/magazine-assets/d41586-019-00893-5/d41586-019-00893-5.pdf. Accessed 9 September 2019.

  30. YLE/Finnish Broadcasting Company. (2018). University finds more plagiarism issues with Finns party MP's master's thesis. YLE News. https://yle.fi/uutiset/osasto/news/university_finds_more_plagiarism_issues_with_finns_party_mps_masters_thesis/10372943. Accessed 9 September 2019.

Download references

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Erja Moore.

Additional information

Publisher’s Note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

A publisher's error resulted in this article appearing in the wrong issue. The article is reprinted here for the reader's convenience and for the continuity of the special issue. For citation purposes, please use the original publication details: Moore, E. Inconsistent Responses to Notifications of Suspected Plagiarism in Finnish Higher Education. J Acad Ethics 18, 1–16 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-019-09354-0.

Appendices

Appendix 1

Table 4 Notifications of suspected plagiarism in Master’s theses (2018) and the content of rectors’ decisions (2018–2019)

Appendix 2

Table 5 Examples of plagiarism in electronically published Master’s theses (left column). Comparison text (published earlier) in the right column

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Moore, E. Inconsistent Responses to Notifications of Suspected Plagiarism in Finnish Higher Education. J Acad Ethics 18, 207–222 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10805-020-09366-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • Plagiarism
  • Higher education
  • Ethical guidelines
  • Electronically published theses