Verdict in for UW professor accused of plagiarism

00:09 Jan 11, 2013 · News · By Elizabeth Bate

Courtesy University of Waterloo
Professor Li (left) and Ph.D. candidate Yasaman Daghighi — co-authors of the offending paper. Professor Li will have no access to labs or campus during his four-month suspension; he will be re-instated in August.

Engineering professor Dr. Dongqing Li is found guilty of misconduct in research; suspended without pay for four months

In a fall from grace unlike any other in UW’s history, renowned mechanical and mechatronics engineering professor Dr. Dongqing Li was found guilty of charges of misconduct in research owing to negligence in professorial duties Jan. 8.

The charges, laid April 23, 2012, resulted from a the publication of a paper by Dr. Li and a Ph.D. candidate he was advising, Yasaman Daghighi, in Microfluidics and Nanofluidics in 2010. The paper was copied in large chunks, up to 11 per cent including the original title without citation, from Dr. Martin Bazant of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Todd Squires of the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In a released statement, Li admitted his role in the scandal and apologized for his actions and his delay in admitting to the plagiarism.

“Academic and scholarly integrity is the most important aspect of my work. I apologize to those impacted by my actions, including my colleagues and students, the university and the research community,” said Li.

The professor will be suspended from the university without pay for four months, commencing April 1, 2013, and will have no access to the university or its facilities during that time. After the four months are up, Dr. Li will be reinstated fully to his position at the University of Waterloo.

When asked about the punishment imposed, Vice-President of University Relations Tim Jackson said it was determined appropriate by all those involved in the investigation.

“During his suspension he will be relieved of all of his duties and responsibilities — no access to labs or campus,” he said, noting that for a researcher not to have access to his work or facilities is a serious outcome.

“It shows that the university takes academic integrity extremely seriously.”

In a released statement, President Feridun Hamdullahpur expressed his thanks to those involved in the investigation and his dismay at the act itself.

“I am deeply troubled by any allegation of academic misconduct involving our students, faculty or staff. Academic integrity is expected from all members of our campus community. It is a core value encouraged through education and by example,” he said.

Although the incident was investigated, Jackson said there is no larger discussion about academic integrity or rethinking of policies regarding the issue going on at UW.

“Academic integrity has always been an integral part of the values of this institution,” he said. “I don’t think our views (on academic integrity) are any different than they were a year ago or will be a year from now.”

With no other allegations of plagiarism surrounding Dr. Li or his department the university does not expect any more questions to arise from the incident and considers it closed, Jackson said.

Under University of Waterloo Policy 71 regarding academic integrity, as well as privacy regulations, the university is unable to discuss allegations against students and cannot reveal what punishment, if any, Daghighi will face.

The Ph.D. candidate supervised by Li was the lead author on the paper and was still accessing her office at the university in the early part of the Fall 2012 term, however no further information was found on the student.

Jackson said cases like Dr. Li’s are extremely rare, and in fact, this was the first such incidence of academic integrity issues at this level by a faculty member at University of Waterloo. In his statement, Hamdullahpur agreed with Jackson’s assessment of the level of academic integrity shown by the university community.

I am “proud to see [academic integrity] upheld by the vast majority of our students, faculty, staff and alumni,” he said.

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