University of Regina professor Shahid Azam is the kind of thesis advisor that gives prospective grad students nightmares.
According to the CBC, Azam lost a paper in Environmental Geotechnics for plagiarizing the work of his student, Arjun Paul, without bothering to cite it. Azam went on to trash the student’s ability to the CBC reporter.
He’s got two excuses, but we’re not sure which is more repugnant – that he wrote much of his student’s thesis for him and so deserves to steal it, or that plagiarism is standard practice in engineering publishing.
Azam said he and Paul published two papers together before Paul published his master’s thesis.
“I did almost the entire writing in the papers myself,” Azam explained.
He said a significant section of Paul’s master’s thesis was a compilation of those two articles, meaning Azam is responsible for that part of the thesis.
Azam went further, saying Paul would have been unable to write parts of that thesis because he didn’t have the technical writing skills necessary and “did not have the experience to select, analyze and interpret data from the literature and draw meaningful conclusions.”
“None of the alleged material in the disputed paper reflected Paul’s original writing, ideas or thoughts because he was heavily dependent on me in all of these areas,” Azam said.
We’ve covered plenty of instances of professors stealing their students’ work, but this is certainly the most unapologetic we’ve ever seen the professor be after getting busted. The award for worst quote in the CBC article (a heavily contested category!) goes to Azam’s lawyer, who noted that the papers did successfully cite
…the ‘giants’ upon whose shoulders his work was based. Arjun is not one of those giants.
We’re confused about the details of the retraction, though. The CBC report states that the paper, “Study on large strain consolidation of mine waste tailings,” was published by ICE in February 2014. It’s not available on the Environmental Geotechnics site.
However, another paper with a similar name, also by Azam, “Large-strain consolidation modeling of mine waste tailings,” is still available via Environmental Systems Research. None of the text quoted in the CBC report appears in the ESR paper.
We’ve reached out to Azam and the journal, and will update with anything we learn.
Hat tip: Dave Liscombe