Spirits of the market

October 17, 2013

Your piece on essay mills is a little harsh (“We can write it for you wholesale”, 10 October): after all, they simply satisfy a demand in an education market. In the same way, ghostwriters, often hired by pharmaceutical companies, help fill the pages of many of our top medical journals. Medical writers routinely produce papers that will be published in scholarly journals under the names of academics who may not even have read them. Business is business and academic credibility comes cheap these days.

More common still is “ghostauthoring”, whereby a prestigious academic name is added to an author list to increase the chances of publication in the sort of journals admired by research excellence framework panels. That, too, is business. Just like essay mill customers, these academics are claiming authorship of papers they have not written. No wonder universities are reluctant to crack down on students who go where the market leads.

Stuart Macdonald
School of Business
Aalto University
Finland

 

Your investigation of plagiarism and essay mills hits on one detail that suggests a way forward: checking essay references to see how accurate they are. The footnote is an undervalued element of academic life and the more rigour and focus that can be brought to it, the better. Just one small footnote, however. Many academics whose work is without question their own sometimes supply infuriatingly non-specific notes on occasion. Obviously I never do this myself…

Keith Flett
London

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