Whistleblowers: Academic claims Seoul credit for others' work

August 1, 2003

A US academic could face the sack after The THES discovered that he had plagiarised almost an entire research paper on the Korean stock market, lifting data figure-for-figure and falsely attributing the analysis to the South African stock market.

In what campaigners have described as the most shocking case of academic plagiarism ever uncovered, The THES has learnt that Christopher Ngassam, an assistant professor at the business school of Norfolk State University in Virginia, US, has copied almost word-for-word a 1995 article in the British-based Journal of Business Finance and Accounting ( JBFA ) for his 2002 article in the Canadian Journal of Comparative International Management . The academic affairs office of Norfolk State confirmed it was investigating the matter under its guidelines.

Dr Ngassam's article, published last year, is lifted from a March 1995 article by Korean academics Sang-Bin Lee and Kwang-Jung Kim. The JBFA article is called "The effect of price limits on stock price volatility: empirical evidence in Korea". Although it uses exactly the same data and analysis, Dr Ngassam has called his: "Effect of price limits on volatility and stock returns in emerging markets: evidence from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange".

The JBFA article begins: "Stock price volatility has received much attention in the popular press over the last few years, especially since the stock market crash of October 19 1987."

Dr Ngassam's paper starts in almost identical fashion: "Stock price volatility in developing and emerging markets around the world has received much attention in the popular press over the past few years, especially since the stock market crash on October 19 1987I" Dr Ngassam's article goes on to reproduce the JBFA article almost verbatim, page after page. All the tables in the JBFA article are copied exactly. One, titled "Price Limit on Different Stock Price Levels in the Korean Stock Market", has simply been retitled by Dr Ngassam: "Price Limit on Different Stock Price Levels in the JSE (Johannesburg Stock Exchange)". All seven tables are duplicated figure for figure.

The conclusions of the two pieces are uncannily similar. The Korean authors' JBFA article states: "The results show that price limits serve to reduce stock price volatility."

Dr Ngassam writes: "The results show that price limits serve to reduce stock price volatility," but unlike the Korean authors, he adds: "Some very basic questions remain unanswered that future research needs to address."

A spokeswoman for the Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards said: "This is certainly the most shocking case I have come across."

Basu Sharma, editor of the Journal of Comparative International Management , said he was "deeply disturbed" by the plagiarism. He said he would remove the article from the journal's website and publish a notice on the "fraud" in the next issue. He said it was not always easy to detect academic fraud and the journal community needed to think of new ways to catch the perpetrators.

Richard Briston, managing editor of the JBFA , said it was ironic that the case had emerged shortly after a BBC survey found that student plagiarism was widespread. "Plagiarism by academic staff is vastly more serious, particularly when it involves the appropriation of a paper published by another academic and its presentation under an entirely different geographical area of research. The THES is right to draw attention to misconduct of this sort, for it has serious implications for journal editors, reviewers, researchers and universities themselves in their capacity as employers."

Dorothy L. R. Jones, associate vice-president for academic affairs at Norfolk State, said: "The office of the vice-president for academic affairs is aware of this situation and is adhering to the guidelines outlined in the 2000 Norfolk State University faculty manual. Since this is a personnel issue, we cannot provide any additional information at this time."

Dr Ngassam was unavailable for comment.

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