Also published in The Hindu, Education Plus on 22nd October 2012
Academic integrity is probably one of the lesser taught subjects in the technical education curriculum of India. I didn't even know of the word till I started my masters in the US but there we go. I often work in close relation with my university's career advising coordinator and professors enough to understand its consequences, not just for those found guilty of plagiarism but also for those of us who wish to adhere it. Requesting a professor in a big university for a research position is considered not unlike a wedding proposal. The moment they realize you are Indian, the first concern in their mind is integrity. Its not a stereotype that I would think of as uncalled for, having myself witnessed cases of plagiarism on a weekly basis among Indian students. Yet, the pool of brilliant students who come to US for higher education and internships is always on the rise and so is my concern.
I have heard from a professor once that an IITian applied for an internship. He usually doesn't even open these kind of mails unless he has a position open and once he did. The student in question said he was interested in turbine engine automation systems and was engrossed by one of the papers in the same topic that the professor has written. Unfortunately for him his crawling code has backfired and the professor to whom this email was sent turned out to be an expert in artificial intelligence, not really related fields.
Incidents like these make the professors in the US wary of students from India who are genuine. A lot of really good candidates miss out on opportunities because of others who consider these internships as all expenses paid foreign trips. These incidents continue once the same student comes to the US to pursue his masters. I was recently involved as an advisory in a resume plagiarism investigation in my university. Some well-minded senior has shared his resume in the hope that others might be helped, but unfortunately his resume was copied word-word by around 50 odd students while applying for the same part-time job within a span of 2 hours. Needless to say no Indian was hired for the position.
Most research students who publish their work on a regular basis are usually aware of the consequences of plagiarism and usually care about academic integrity. They know how difficult it is to bring about new ideas and there by know the value of others' work. But it is plagiarism that arise on these small scale that create the bigger problems. From assignments to exams we are used to or atleast witness instances of academic dishonesty, but if you are aiming for an admit in a reputed international university please practice integrity. Integrity is much like volunteerism, its not an act but a virtue. If found guilty, could lead to serious consequences including deportation and retraction of degree. Most importantly, as men and women of science it is our duty to credit those who deserve.