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                                   Ethics Issue in an Academic environment

Introduction: –
Ethics is a very complex term to explain and understand. With the growth of human civilization, the complexity of life and the order of the society have also witnessed a multifaceted and multidimensional change. To maintain and upgrade the order of society and to exhibit a qualitative improvement in the individuals thought and approach order, a strict social grammar developed over period of time. Ethics can be defined as those directive moral principles, which are acceptable to the society in general and which always guide each and every individual of the society about their deeds and misdeeds. Ethics is a requirement for human life. It is our means of deciding a course of action. Without it, our actions would be random and aimless. There would be no way to work towards a goal because there would be no way to pick between a limitless numbers of goals. Even with an ethical standard, we may be unable to pursue our goals with the possibility of success. To the degree, which a rational ethical standard is taken, we are able to correctly organize our goals and actions to accomplish our most important values. Any flaw in our ethics will reduce our ability to be successful in our endeavors.

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A proper foundation of ethics requires a standard of value to which all goals and actions can be compared. This standard is our own lives, and the happiness, which makes them livable. This is our ultimate standard of value, the goal in which an ethical man must always aim. It is arrived at by an examination of man’s nature, and recognizing his peculiar needs. A system of ethics must further consist of not only emergency situations, but the day-to-day choices we make constantly. It must include our relations to others, and recognize their importance not only to our physical survival, but also to our well-being and happiness. For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors – between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.

Life is the process of self-sustaining and self-generating action. Life requires action, and action requires values So that you can live life successfully and happily, you must learn which values to hold and how to achieve them — this is your life as your moral standard. All moral questions (questions of right action) are questions of how to live happily and successfully, and all moral principles must be measured against how they promote and benefit your life and happiness. Your life as your moral standard holds all things promoting your life as the good. To every living thing, there is one primary choice, and that is to live or not — to engage in the action required to further its own life or to engage in action that destroys its own life. The only other alternative is death. Choosing life as your standard of value is a pre-moral choice. It cannot be judged as right or wrong; but once chosen, it is the role of morality to help man to live the best life possible. The opposite of choosing life is altruism: the moral doctrine that holds death as its moral standard. It holds sacrifice as the only good, and all things “selfish” as evil. According to altruism, it doesn’t matter what you do, as long as it does not further your life it is considered good. The more consistently a person is altruistic, the closer their actions are to suicide.

The consistent altruist will give up every bit of food he owns to other people because that is what he considers good, and die because of it. Your life as your standard does not mean Hedonism — the spur of the moment instant gratification, doing whatever you feel like. Your life as your standard means acting in your rational self-interest. Rational self-interest takes into account the long-term effects of every action. Your life as your standard does not mean trampling on other people to get what you want. This is not in your rational self-interest. It is in your interest to be benevolent. Nor does your life as your standard mean cheating people to get ahead, even if they realize it and you never get caught. Fraud is not in your rational self-interest because you lose your independence and you sacrifice honesty to an unreality that you have to maintain to perpetrate your fraud. This is self-destructive in the long run. In order to know what is good, which actions are objectively in a person’s self-interest, we develop virtues, which are principles of action.

In this way this can be safely said that Ethics in its comprehension consists of morality, values, virtue, self-interest, harmony of interests, independence, productiveness, integrity, honesty, pride, justice, benevolence, rationality, metaphysical justice, free will, courage, the trade principle and many more other aspects of social and personal order, which ultimately makes the final face of the society in general.

Ethics and Academic Environment.

In this paper my thrust area of study is the role of ethical values in Academic environment and its impact on Plagiarism, Admission policies, Student code of conduct, Grade inflation, Use of technology for academic cheating and others.

. Many of the major western ethical theories can be used as grounding for placing a value on academic honesty. At the same time, they could be misinterpreted as supporting plagiarism, or in rare circumstances could truly support plagiarism. Exploration and discussion of student and faculty ethical thinking about plagiarism could lead to a greater understanding of the issues. These very simplified interpretations could serve as a starting point to those discussions. Virtue Ethics (Aristotle) : Strive for happiness, to be as fully human as possible, balance between a painful excess of honesty and the vice of dishonesty. Alternative: just plain vice! Note from Dr. Beth Dixon, ” The main question students should ask themselves is: What kind of person do I want to be? Since honesty is a virtue or state of character, to knowingly cheat or plagiarize is to diminish the moral character of oneself…or to fall short of a moral ideal.”

©Ethical Relativism (Williams) : Morality is a product of cultural norms, the culture of academia is to cite. Alternative, student culture might be to plagiarize! Note from Dr. Beth Dixon, “You know, I wouldn’t include anything about moral relativism because it doesn’t have the credentials of a normative theory. It is more like a mistaken assumption about ethics that needs to be corrected when it is articulated by students.”

©Utilitarianism (Bent ham and Mill): The good produces a net benefit, learn and be rewarded. Alternative could be used to justify plagiarism in one class to study in another! Note from Dr. Beth Dixon, “Utilitarianism is hard to use as a way of lobbying against cheating because in some cases it might be morally correct to cheat (according to this theory). But you could put the point in this way: Cheating is wrong in some cases because overall, it produces more unhappiness and emotional pain for all affected by the act of cheating, than would be produced by not cheating. The important feature of this calculation often left out is that those affected include more than the immediate pleasures or pains of the student herself.

Also, we need to include the long-range consequences of the action for the student, the pleasures or pains of faculty, other students, parents, etc. How you spell these Authors who present the words, data, or ideas of others with the implication that they are their own, without attribution in a form appropriate for the medium of presentation, are committing theft of intellectual property and may be guilty of plagiarism and thus of research misconduct. This stricture applies to reviews and to methodological and background/historical sections of research papers as well as to original research results or interpretations. If there is a word-for-word copying beyond a short phrase or several words of someone else’s text, that section should be enclosed in quotation marks or indented and referenced to the original source. The same rules apply to grant proposals, to clinical research protocols, and to student papers submitted for academic credit.

An author should cite the work of others even if he or she had been a co-author or editor of the work to be cited or had been an adviser or student of the author of such work. Plagiarism not only violates the standard code of conduct governing all researchers, but in many cases could constitute an infraction of the law by infringing on a copyright held by the original author or publisher.

The work of others should be cited or credited, whether published or unpublished and whether it had been written work or an oral presentation. Each journal or publisher may specify the particular form of appropriate citation. One need not provide citations, however, in the case of well-established concepts that may be found in common textbooks or in the case of phrases, which describe a commonly used methodology. Special rules have been developed for citing electronic information

Members of a research group who contribute to the work of the group that is later incorporated into a proposal or protocol are entitled to be consulted and informed as to what their role will be if the proposal is funded or the protocol approved, although a charge of plagiarism in the proposal or protocol can usually not be sustained in cases where such members are not later included as part of the team that conducts the approved or funded research.  Such researchers who are excluded from subsequent research are entitled, however, to be considered for co-authorship in publications if their contributions merit it.

2. Misuse of Privileged Information

One particularly serious form of plagiarism is the misuse of privileged information taken from a grant proposal or manuscript received for peer review. In such a case, the plagiarism is a serious matter of theft of intellectual property because it not only deprives the original author of appropriate credit by citation but could also preempt priority of first publication or use of the original idea to which the source author is entitled. Also, one who breaches confidentiality by showing a privileged document to an unauthorized person can be held to a shared responsibility for any subsequent plagiarism of the document committed by that unauthorized person.

3. Data

a. Integrity of Data

Fabrication and falsification of research results are serious forms of misconduct. It is a primary responsibility of a researcher to avoid either a false statement or an omission that distorts the truth. In order to preserve accurate documentation of observed facts with which later reports or conclusions can be compared, every researcher has an obligation to maintain a clear and complete record of data acquired.  As stated in the University’s Guidelines on Data Retention and Access, “records should include sufficient detail to permit examination for the purpose of replicating the research, responding to questions that may result from unintentional error or misinterpretation, establishing authenticity of the records, and confirming the validity of the conclusions.”

Meticulous record-keeping is a sound scientific practice which provides an accurate contemporaneous account of observations that become a permanent reference to the researcher who otherwise might not remember several weeks, months, or years later exactly what had been observed or what methods had been used. It is also an accurate record for others who may want to replicate the observation or to apply a method to other situations. In addition, it is an aid in allowing the eventual sharing of information with others and as documentation that might disprove any subsequent allegation of fabrication or falsification of data.

In many fields of laboratory research, it is standard practice to record data in ink in an indexed permanently bound laboratory notebook with consecutively numbered pages. Research methods, including statistical treatments, should be either described in the notebook or referenced by citation to some other primary or secondary source. Information on materials used, along with their sources, should be recorded. Entries should not be erased or white out. If mistakes are to be corrected, a thin line should be drawn through the erroneous entry so as not to obscure it and an initialed dated correction written separately near the original entry or in the margin. All entries, or at least all pages of a notebook, should be dated and initialed. Such records may be important at a later date in establishing scientific priorities or intellectual property claims.

All data should be recorded contemporaneously with the production or observation of the data. If some data are obtained as printouts from instruments or computers, these printouts should be appropriately labeled and pasted into the notebook or, if pasting is not possible, stored securely and referenced in the notebook as to storage location. If unique critical materials, such as cell lines, archeological artifacts, or synthetic chemical intermediates, are prepared or discovered, they should be preserved and appropriately labeled, and explicit instructions should be written in the notebook as to where they can be found. Extensive data sets may be stored either as hard copy or on disks. In such cases, carefully documented definitions for codes should be stored, together with rules for applying them to the clinical or field data and notes.

Conclusion: –
A detailed study of  “ Ethics issue in an academic environment” has clearly established that in the recent time ethics in academic environment   has also been compromised at many forums and in place of strict guiding principle, ethics has become an issue of convenience. Since this has become a general phenomenon, no serious discussion is on the card to tackle and improve this very-very important ingredient to maintain a high standard of academic discipline. This is dangerous for the society in general and this would bring a very undesirable result in the time to come. This is high time, when every effort should be made from every corner of the society to strengthen the edifice of academic structure by bringing back the ethical discipline in the academic environment.

                                                                       References

·         Be beau MJ, “Moral Reasoning in scientific Research”, (1995), P/242

·         Dr. Beth Dixon, Plattsburgh State University, Personal communication, Oct, 31,2003

·         Gibaldi J; “Integrity of the Writers of the research paper” (1998), P/ 35

·         Macrina FL, “ Scientific Integrity” (1995), P/132

·         N.Crane “Science & Electronics” (1993) P/ 44

·         RL Pensar, “Research Ethics: Cases & Materials” (1999) P/143

 

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