PhD research is fallible despite vigil— Chintha’s bloopers a case in point

Chintha Jerome
Chintha Jerome. Photo: Manorama

Thiruvananthapuram: The PhD dissertation of Kerala State Youth Commission Chairperson Chintha Jerome has become a subject of derision for glaring errors. It is surprising how her guide and the experts who evaluated it could not spotting the blunders, especially when there is intense scrutiny of the dissertation paper by three experts by way of the mandatory Open Defence session prior to awarding the PhD.

As reported earlier Changampuzha Krishna Pillai's poem titled ‘Vazhakkula’ was attributed to another poet Vyloppilli Sreedhara Menon in the dissertation. 

Two of the three experts who evaluated Chintha’s dissertation are from outside Kerala. They might not know who wrote the poem ‘Vazhakkula’. It has to be assumed that the third expert on the panel also did not notice this mistake.

How the expert panel is constituted?

The guide recommends to the University the members of the experts’ panel that evaluates the dissertation. In the University of Kerala, 12 names must be suggested in this manner for the evaluation of the dissertation. This includes 3 Keralites who are out of the University, seven who are out of the State and 2 foreigners.

The Vice-chancellor then selects three from this list and sends them the dissertation for evaluation. This is supposedly done by the VC in a confidential manner. However, most of the time, the dissertation is sent to the persons preferred by the guide and the PhD candidate using connections and influence.

Earlier, experts returned the dissertation for correction if any errors were spotted. This practice is also not much effective.

As per the proceedings, after the Open Defence, the chairman recommends that the research fellow is eligible for a PhD and the Syndicate approves it. Later, errors may be noticed while uploading the dissertation on the UGC website.

Software to check plagiarism

Different universities in Kerala follow different mechanisms to check the authenticity of the PhD dissertation submissions. Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) uses 2 independent software – Urkund and iThenticate - to check and find plagiarism. Here, it is mandatory that the dissertation must be submitted along with a ‘No plagiarism certificate’ from the University library.

The University of Calicut and Mahatma Gandhi University too use the software to check if the submitted dissertation is similar to any other dissertations. If any glitch is found, it is returned for correction. It can be resubmitted after the correction. When a problem is found after awarding the PhD, the Senate is authorised to take it back.

Violations galore at Sanskrit University

Irregularities mar research projects in the Sree Sankaracharya University of Sanskrit at Kalady. The appointment of research guides has come under scrutiny here.

Even as a court trial is on, the former Vice Chancellor completed the proceedings for appointment of teachers. They were also appointed as research guides even before their probation period was over.

The High Court had to stay the admission of a research scholar in the Department of Malayalam Language for violating the norms of the University Grants Commission. It is alleged that the rank list in this case was prepared without considering the marks in the entrance examination. (While the written examination is for a total of hundred marks, it is 700 marks for the interview.)

Candidates ranked 2, 4 7 and 8 in the entrance were given low marks during the interview, thereby pushing down their ranks in the list to 15, 36, 33 and 17 respectively. As the candidate 'preferred' by the authorities get more marks in the interview, the candidates who got high marks in the written exam go down in the list.  

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