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Prof. found guilty of plagiarism

April 19, 2011

After nearly eight months of investigation, MSU professor Sharif Shakrani was found guilty of plagiarism in findings released by a campus investigative committee this past Monday.

Shakrani, a member of MSU’s Education Policy Center and a professor in the College of Education, was found to have used unattributed material during a 2010 report that examined the potential economic effects of school district consolidation on the state of Michigan.

Shakrani could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Shakrani’s case had been under review since last August, after officials at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, or the Mackinac Center, began looking into the report’s accuracy. The Mackinac Center found irregularities when comparing the report with the Syracuse University study off of which it was based. MSU then took action.

“(Our investigation) looked at copying from other sources without attribution,” said James Pivarnik, a research integrity officer.

Pivarnik conducted the preliminary assessment of the report before passing the results on to a committee of three university officials.

From there, the report was examined by another investigative committee of three people, who conducted interviews and examined evidence in the case before making a decision, Pivarnik said.
“Once we’re finished (with our investigation and the decision), I’m out of it,” he said.

Pivarnik said the next steps in the process are taken by senior associate provost June Youatt.
Youatt said she received information regarding the investigation Monday, and hopes to come to a decision by the end of this week, although she doesn’t know what the consequences will be for Shakrani.

“I need to look at the … kinds of — and range of — decisions that we have made in the past when there have been these kinds of findings,” she said. “It’s important to do a review of the range of actions (we’ve taken in the past).”

Pivarnik said the research integrity office receives numerous allegations of plagiarism a year, but very few result in misconduct findings.

Michael Jahr, the senior director of communications with the Mackinac Center, said the university’s findings in the investigation are crucial for Michigan citizens.

“Our concern was that any research that’s used in the public debate … be accurate and honest,” he said. “The fact that the university found that the study was not good research as well as the fact that it suffered from plagiarized material is important information for taxpayers.”

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