BHEARD scholar Q&A: Academic integrity

BHEARD asked two of its scholars a few questions about the importance of academic integrity.

BHEARD asked two of its scholars, Macire Kante and Shamsunnaher, a few questions about the importance of academic integrity. Kante, from Mali, recently earned his Ph.D. in information systems at the University of Nairobi in Kenya. Shamsunnaher, from Bangladesh, is studying for her Ph.D. in plant pathology at the University of Florida.

Why is academic integrity important to you as a scholar?


Kante: As a scholar, my career depends on academic integrity. Academia is about how credible you are in your work. That credibility relies on some questions that I always ask myself: Have I correctly grounded my research methods? Do I have the required permits to conduct my research? Do I have the consent of the respondent to use his/her data? Is the respondent of my research aware of what will happen with his/her data? Have I used the materials/tools available to avoid data biases? And so on …


Shamsunnaher: Academic integrity means being honest and trustworthy in academic life. Without it, there would be no way to determine the true merit of a student, because academic dishonesty or misconduct could impact the grades of other students. For example, the student who is cheating in the exam will get higher grades and more likely will achieve top position, though he or she might not have that potentiality.

For students in the classroom, academic integrity means no cheating, no plagiarizing, no sharing assignments with others (if it’s a group project, work together but write your own), no misconduct, no giving or receiving help during exams, no bribing, etc.

For academic faculty and staff, there should be no unfair privilege given to any students – and there should be strong punishment for this offense.

For the scientific community, there should be no fabricating of research data and no plagiarizing. They also need to be aware of fake journals. Good science should not be published in the wrong place.

Why is it important to the global academic community?

K: Inside academia, integrity should be the basis for any research and academic. As stated by Google Scholar, any researcher stands on the shoulders of giants. It therefore is critical to give credit to these giants by not plagiarizing, by being ethically correct in your research. That is the only way that academicians can influence those outside of academia for whom we are researching.

S: Academic integrity is important not only within the university but in the global academic community. An institute’s reputation depends on the future activities and achievements of its students. If a student is honest and trustworthy in his academic life, it is believed that he will be trustworthy in his professional life, too.

Due to Internet facilities, people now have access to online journals and can get all sorts of information needed for their research. It also helps researchers to have new ideas in new directions. Some researchers may have similar interests and try to repeat the experiment according to the published article. If something went wrong (due to misconduct, fabrication of data, etc.) and is proven by the scientific community, the researcher might be forced to retract the paper. Retraction of a paper has a severe impact in the scientific community. Once a paper is retracted, it is hard to publish a future paper in a good journal because of a lack of trust, and it’s also embarrassing for one’s career. 

When you started your graduate studies, how familiar were you with academic integrity standards?

K: I was not really in touch with academic integrity. From time to time, my father (a professor) talked about academic integrity, but it did not really matter to me.

S: I started my Ph.D. program in fall 2014 at the University of Florida (UF). At that time, I was concerned only about cheating and unfair privilege in exams, and had some knowledge of plagiarism but not a clear idea. 

What have you learned since then?

K: I learned about academic integrity during an online course that I took on Research Ethics in early 2016. Since that course, I have become aware of plagiarism in academia, data falsification, data justice, data license, data management, predatory journals, integrity in academia, and the publication process. These help me to be more accurate, rigorous and honest in my publications.

S: Academic integrity is not only important for students but for all personnel related to this sector, like teachers, administrators, etc. Everybody should follow the rules and regulations and institutional honor code. One thing I have noticed at UF is that during the beginning of the semester, all students receive the syllabus along with university policies where academic integrity and misconduct is clearly mentioned. I never saw that in my country. Now I know that academic integrity is not only limited to cheating or plagiarism, but is way more than that.

Based on what you’ve learned, what would you tell new BHEARD scholars?

K: I will advise my fellow and new BHEARD scholars to be committed to their work. The commitment will help you be rigorous in your work.

Do not modify data to fit your hypotheses. Any result, even the one in contrast with your hypotheses, remains a result and publishable. This point will help you to be accurate, to make data “tell, speak.”

Whatever you are working on, someone else has already worked on it. Give that fellow scholar credit for what he/she has done.

Finally, do not publish your good work in a predatory journal or conferences.

S: It is very important to be honest in one’s academic life. It is not only necessary to your career, but your institution’s reputation is related to it. So be very careful about your data and publications. Also, when you go back to your country, some of you will be connected to different journals as an editor or reviewer. Please be very honest with that job. Also, be aware of fake journals.

Since most of BHEARD’s scholars are from underdeveloped countries and corruption is very common, there might not be a strong policy regarding academic integrity. But we now know what academic integrity means, so we should try to build that standard in our home institutions.

Is there anything else you’d like to say about academic integrity?

K: As scholars, our careers largely depend on what we do at the beginning. Start building your credibility by being honest, rigorous and accurate in your work. Only then can we go far with our scholarly careers.

S: It is important for both students and scientists to learn how to complete their work with honesty. BHEARD scholars have enough opportunities to learn that, and we should take advantage of all facilities while we are at U.S. institutions.



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