Innovation boss in duplication row

Paper sprouts fresh charges against Thai official found to have plagiarised PhD. Paul Jump writes

April 19, 2012

Credit: Alamy
New crop: asparagus paper queried

Concerns have been raised that a leading university and an academic journal in Thailand have failed to act against a senior government official, who was found by a university investigation to have plagiarised his PhD thesis and who has also been accused of plagiarising an academic paper about organic asparagus production.

Supachai Lorlowhakarn is the director of the National Innovation Agency, an agency of Thailand's Ministry of Science and Technology. He was awarded a PhD from Chulalongkorn University in Bangkok in 2008, despite already being the subject of plagiarism allegations.

Times Higher Education understands that an internal investigation by the university concluded in April 2010 that 80 per cent of Dr Lorlowhakarn's thesis was plagiarised from several sources, including a United Nations technical assistance report and a field study in organic asparagus production commissioned by his agency.

Dr Lorlowhakarn did not respond to requests by THE for comment.

Chulalongkorn's governing council is reported to have appointed another committee in January 2011 to consider whether Dr Lorlowhakarn's PhD should be revoked, but the university has released no information on the subject and did not respond to THE enquiries.

It is also alleged that an article published in 2008 in the Scopus-indexed Thai Journal of Agricultural Science, "Organic Asparagus Production as a Case Study for Implementation of the National Strategies for Organic Agriculture in Thailand", on which Dr Lorlowhakarn is listed as first author, was also plagiarised from the same sources, as well as from an article previously submitted to another journal by the authors of the UN report.

PhD students at Chulalongkorn are required to publish a paper in an international peer-reviewed journal in order to graduate.

Wageningen Academic Publishers, which holds the copyright of the original article - eventually published as a book chapter - has demanded that the Thai journal retract the paper.

However, the company's editor, Lieke Boersma, said she had been "unpleasantly surprised by [the journal's] unwillingness to approach the situation in a serious way".

The journal's editor-in-chief, Irb Kheoruenromne, a soil scientist from Bangkok's Kasetsart University, told THE that he would not retract the paper unless he were presented with a court document proving that it constituted a breach of copyright. He said there were many reasons for this, chief among them being the fact that the paper was published "before any other documentation that shows the copyright".

He also said that one of the authors of the UN report and of the paper allegedly plagiarised, agricultural consultant Wyn Ellis, was also the original source of the plagiarism accusations and a fellow PhD candidate of Dr Lorlowhakarn at Chulalongkorn.

Mr Ellis declined to comment.

Apirux Wanasathop, a former member of the National Innovation Agency board, said that Chulalongkorn must punish Dr Lorlowhakarn if it wanted to live up to its slogan of being "the pillar of the kingdom".

He described the case as "a shame to the country, the ministry and the university".

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