Inside Story

Inside Story: Rogue Academics in Sri Lanka

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This investigative report is open for response as the accused have been named by the reporter-editors

As funny, stupid and pseudo-intellectual as it may sound, the above title of this article is not what I initially intended to give it. The originally intended title is along the lines of “A Case of Serial Plagiarism…” or something like When the Vice Chancellor is a Plagiarist – more on this in the later parts. Now welcome to some enlightenment.

Presented below is a summary of findings we had the misfortune to make after having a compelling urge to study the academic profile of this intellectual from South Eastern Sri Lanka: Professor Aboobacker Rameez. A. Rameez is currently the Vice Chancellor of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka since 2021 and a professor in sociology at this higher education institution since 2019. Some readers would also be familiar with the name from many op-ed articles he has authored for Colombo Telegraph, references to which can also be found at his Google Scholar profile page and Research Gate profile – maintained for a delicate balance between keeping it clean and being still stocked with stuff, reportedly due to Webometrics ranking requirements. Some of his newspaper-published scholarly works being listed in these research database profile pages were published by the online Tamil news website jaffnamuslim.com.      

While lacking the necessary tools and this being a pastime activity triggered initially by personal pursuits, and despite the attempts of the university administration headed by A. Rameez himself to repeatedly deny information on his publications he used for his promotion as a professor by merit in response to right-to-information requests, we were still able to find to our own shock and surprise the fact that serious acts of plagiarism and academic-mafia-like practices had been freely allowed in the most carefree ways.

Evidence in summary:

  • A. Rameez stole nearly 80% of the abstract of a published journal article covering actual research conducted in Nigeria and he published it as an abstract of his own work carried out in Sri Lanka
  • A. Rameez stole written content from another published, properly peer-reviewed Scopus-indexed journal article and composed about 3-pages long content, without a single modification, for his own article submitted to the journal run by his own faculty

A formal complaint regarding this matter has been made to the Council of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka via the Registrar of South Eastern University of Sri Lanka. All the council members of SEUSL have been presented with evidences of these offenses, which are termed Research Fraud in the language employed by UGC for describing offenses of this nature.

An extended summary of our findings is presented below for the amusement of the general public who are contributing financially and in various other ways directly or indirectly for the proliferation of activities of the sort that is being reported here.

  1. A. Rameez plagiarized nearly 80% of the abstract of O. Odaman et al. (2014)

A. Rameez, being the primary and corresponding author has published an abstract in the South Eastern University Arts Research Session 2015. The title of the Abstract is “Ageing and Health Seeking Behaviour: A Medical Sociological Approach to Nintavur Divisional Secretariat, Sri Lanka”. The following table shows a side-by side comparison of passages extracted from the abstract submitted by A. Rameez for publication against the abstract of a research article that had already been published.

Rameez et al. (2015)Odaman et al. (2014)
It focused on the most common health related problems of elderly: revealed where the elderly goes to seek medical care when sick, and those financially responsible for his/her medical needs.It focused on the most common health related problems of the elderly; revealed where the elderly goes to seek medical care when sick; and those financially responsible for his/her medical needs.
The findings show that, the majority of the elderly persons had age associated physical illnesses such as blood pressure, cardiac problems, diabetes, joint pains, kidney infections, cancer and tuberculosis that take a long time to heal.Majority of the elderly persons (62.7%) had age associated illnesses such as blood pressure, cardiac problems, diabetes, joint pains, kidney infections, cancer and tuberculosis that take a long time to heal.
More elderly males than female counterparts were found to have patronized traditional healers, resorted to self medication using local herbs or visit chemists’ shops whenever they were sick.More elderly males than their female counterparts were found to have patronized traditional healers, resorted to self medication using local herbs or visited chemists’ shops whenever they were sick.
This research suggested that, the government should puts in place programmes that would ensure good health behaviour and elderly people should be provided free, accessible and comprehensive health care in hospitals and other health care centres.It is recommended that elderly people should be provided free, accessible and comprehensive health care in hospitals and health centers because they would utilize the health services when available, accessible and affordable.

Notice that the work allowed to be published by the editorial committee of the Book of Abstracts of South Eastern University Arts Research Session (2015) makes the suggestion, as an outcome of the supposed research findings, that the elderly people should be provided free healthcare in Sri Lanka! We believe that it’s needless to say that unlike in the case of Nigeria, the Governments of Sri Lanka have been providing free healthcare for all of its citizens in all of Sri Lanka not only at the time this abstract was being presented and was being issued in print, possibly out of public funds, but since long before that until now and far into the future for sure.

If word counts are to be used as a crude estimate to indicate the severity of the rogue academic conduct with such a shallow level of sophistication in carefree plagiarism, we observe that of the 185 words that have been originally used for composing the abstract of Odaman et al., the abstract of Rameez et al. employs more than 80 percent of the words (149 out of 185) to compose itself.

The abstract published by Rameez et al. can be found in the Book of Abstracts published by SEUSL on 22nd December 2015.

This abstract can also be found at http://ir.lib.seu.ac.lk/handle/123456789/1532

The figure below portrays A. Rameez in the act, with hijacked text highlighted in yellow:

The work published by Odaman et al. can be found here. The article has been published in Vol. 7, No. 1 (2014), pp. 201-210 of International Review of Social Sciences and Humanities (ISSN 2248-9010 (Online), ISSN 2250-0715 (Print)).

The figure below shows how A. Rameez et al. did a stealth-mode robbery of the intellectual effort of Odaman et al., with the stolen text highlighted in yellow:

Anyone serious enough to access and look at the actual content of Odaman et al. would appreciate the true effort the original authors have put into their work despite what the title and abstract look like. And those familiar with social sciences will admit that often text itself is the very embodiment of ideas.

  1. A. Rameez published a journal article with 3 pages long content stolen straight from a journal article by Hazleton & Kennan (2000)

A. Rameez, being the sole author has published an article in KALAM -International Research Journal, Faculty of Arts and Culture, South Eastern University of Sri Lanka, Volume X Issue 1, 2016. The title of the Article is “Disasters and Social Capital in Sri Lanka: A Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis”.

A. Rameez’s Publication is available at http://ir.lib.seu.ac.lk/handle/123456789/5251  (available at SEUSL e-repository).

The figure below of the article by A. Rameez, with the stolen content highlighted in yellow, should indicate the proportionality of the content discovered to have been stolen word-for-word from just one single source (other stolen content not indicated):

A. Rameez has plagiarized for his publication from here (Scopus entry: Here )

A. Rameez’s publication (Page numbers 05 to 08 highlighted in Yellow) has copied the above mentioned publication by Vincent Hazleton and William Kennan (Social capital: reconceptualizing the bottom line; Corporate Communications: An International Journal Volume 5 . Number 2 . 2000. pp. 81-86) word for word from page numbers 82-84.

The figure below shows the proportionality of the content stolen word-for-word from the work of Hazleton & Kennan, with the portions in yellow being the stolen content.

Of about nine pages of writing contributed by A. Rameez for this journal issue, about three pages come straight from the composition of Hazleton and Kennan verbatim, even with citations as they appear in the work of the original authors, but without being listed in the list of references of the publication by A. Rameez! For example, we see the original article of Hazleton from year 2000 referring to articles by themselves from 1993, 1998 and 1999; but the article by A. Rameez only has the one by Hazleton from 2000 in his list of references, meaning that the readers (and obviously the reviewers of this SEUSL journal) would have no idea what those articles of Hazleton from 1993, 1998 and 1999 actually were/ are. Other examples include such questions of curious readership of Rameez on where they can actually locate the original works referred to as Monge (1987), Garfinkel (1967) etc., all of which, interestingly are properly listed at the end of the original, genuine work of Hazleton and Kennan (2000). Apart from this 3 pages long direct stealing of written scholarly work by Hazleton and Kennan that I have brought to light here, there are various other curiosity-provoking pointers to other possibly interesting findings that are possible from a thorough investigation on the rest of the 6 pages of this publication by A. Rameez; one such pointer for example is the curious question of what exactly Portes published along with Landolt in year 1996.

These two items above bring to light the evident lack of academic honesty & integrity on the part of Prof. A. Rameez and the evident lack of scrutiny and review practices of any level of rigor concerning the two publications above. It is interesting to note that we don’t see A. Rameez having published any work on healthcare seeking behaviour of the elderly other than the single abstract above plagiarizing the work of Odaman et al. It is also interesting to note that A. Rameez obtained his M.Phil. degree in 2010 by writing a dissertation titled “The Role of Social Capital in Disaster Management: A Study of a Tsunami Affected Coastal Village in Eastern Sri Lanka”, a work possibly very similar in theme to his publication in item 2 above (Disasters and Social Capital in Sri Lanka: A Conceptual and Theoretical Analysis); yet we find him after five years with the necessity to plagiarize to produce 3-pages long content for a journal article on a related topic.

Under these circumstances, it is evident that the intellectual con artist who produced the two fraudulent publications above is guilty of one of the gravest academic offenses: Plagiarism. Being non-hesitant, uninhibited and not-insightful about copying the published, reviewed works of other academics and scholars is a major evidence of academic bankruptcy of the person in concern. With such a history of Research Fraudulence, Professor A. Rameez being a Vice Chancellor of a Higher Education Institution, and thereby being the head/ chairperson/ overseeing authority/ supervising authority on almost all of its academic, academic-administrative and academic-disciplinary matters, can severely affect the academic and administrative integrity of the institution in question. This can lead to demolition of high standard academic culture, accountability and transparency in research and dissemination and the quality of the academic programs offered at the University.

Questions for the readers are below:

  1. What are the roles played by editors and reviewers (if any) of books of abstracts and journals published by the Faculty of Arts and Culture of SEUSL?
  2. What are the impacts on the undergraduate education and examination processes in this Sri Lankan state university
  3. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  4. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  5. When an academic in general belonging a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  6. What are the impacts on the postgraduate education, postgraduate research programmes and examination processes in this Sri Lankan state university
  7. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  8. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  9. When an academic in general belonging a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  10. What are the impacts on the academic administration processes including recruitment of BEST OF THE BEST academic staff and appointment of directors & heads of various divisions & departments at this Sri Lankan state university
  11. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  12. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  13. What are the impacts on the disciplinary processes in academic matters at this Sri Lankan state university
  14. When the Vice Chancellor is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?
  15. When a professor in a certain discipline is a demonstrated plagiarist and a research fraud?