Are our undergraduate engineering (BE) students being forced to publish papers?

Since the fake paper I managed to publish this weekend, I’ve been hearing disturbing reports that even undergraduate students are being forced to publish papers by college authorities.

It is my understanding that there are no University requirements that make it mandatory for undergraduate engineering students to publish papers either as a part of their BE Project, or anything else.

Update: Looks like I was partially mistaken. Here is the University of Pune’s BE Computer Engineering Syllabus. With reference to BE Projects, on page 56, bullet #5 says this:

Students must submit and preferably publish atleast one technical paper in the conferences held by IITs, Central Universities or UoP Conference or International Conferences in Europe or US.

My reading of the line indicates that submission is compulsory, but publication is not. Also, at least they’re clear in specifying what is an acceptable conference. But still, in my opinion, this can’t end well…

I have first hand experience with this. A student group who did their BE Project with me a couple of years ago were desperate to get their BE Project published (in fact, as I pointed out in my previous article, this incident is what started off the thought process that culminated in my fake paper this weekend). I protested that this requirement makes no sense, and forced them to go to their college and get the issue clarified. They came back to me and reported that they were told by college authorities that it was a mandatory requirement. What if the students were unable to get your paper published? The students were told to attach rejection letters from the conference – but submission was compulsory, they were told. At that time, my worry was that all these BE students would submit substandard BE Project reports as research papers to conferences and spoil the reputation of Indian researchers. Little did I know that the papers would actually get accepted by the conference they submitted the paper to.

Now comes something even more ridiculous.

Check out this notice from a prominent Engineering College in Pune:

Notice making it mandatory for students to publish papers
I was sent this image of a notice put up in a prominent local Engineering college, and was told that this requirement was made mandatory by the college for 3rd year BE students (October 2013). I was told that most of the students did publish papers. I have not yet verified whether this is indeed all true, but based on my past experiences, I am sure there are colleges where the students are indeed to forced to try to publish papers during their undergraduate studies.

(Note: I am neither disclosing where I got this information from, nor the name of the college – because I don’t want the students to get into trouble, and also because I’m not particularly interested in targeting any specific person or institutions. I’m more interested in seeing how we can change the system.)

I was told that this notice was a requirement for 3rd year engineering students last semester (Fall 2013)!! The only good news here is that the students were being reimbursed for (part of(?)) their expenses. But other than that, there are so many things wrong with this picture.

The worst thing was pointed out to me by a friend on Facebook:

Also, do point out that student themselves are so indoctrinated, they actually, sincerely believe that publication is a requirement. This is why the market is ripe for [conferences like these].

I know firsthand that students believe that such publications are actually good for them and their resume. I guess I am an idiot for arguing with them that this is not true.

Is this a common occurrence? Are other BE colleges making such arbitrary publication requirements? What can/should be done about this?

4 thoughts on “Are our undergraduate engineering (BE) students being forced to publish papers?”

  1. The problem is certainly with the “education system”. And the root is the ridiculous policy to have published for their BTech and MTech degrees. I think there is no such rule at the IITs for BTechs or MTechs or MScs. So, this can be addressed through a clarification about or modification of the rule, if existing, from AICTE itself. I have seen how hard it is for engineering PhD’s to get a publication, that too in a conference, in the well accepted IEEE conf.s or likes. So it is ridiculous for students of BTech and MTech to publish in INTERNATIONAL conferences. May be the college managements are also involved who might be getting some commission for every student of theirs attending such non-sense conferences. Except for the premier institutes of our country – not just IITs or NITs, but some like BIT(S) – (hope they stay there atleast and not fall), many of the engineering and science colleges are abysmal with the quality of staff, labs, and mangement. Such ridiculous rules are going to make the students position more worse. Does any of these colleges give a full semester for doing their project?

    Fake academic papers racket caught in china :
    http://www.economist.com/news/china/21586845-flawed-system-judging-research-leading-academic-fraud-looks-good-paper

    Not every conference proceedings/publications are filtered. If I recall correctly, the publication agency has to ask for evaluation firms like Thomas Reuters or others. Only very few publication agencies – generally established publication houses who also started an open access jouranl – would be using such plagiarism scanner softwares. These firms dont do it for free nor voluntarily. The burst of open access publication, of course free-of-charge initially and for a pay later on, has inflated and spread academic publication fraud as never before.

    An article by Prof. Higgs, who is recently awarded a Nobel price, is very relevant to this crisis :
    http://www.theguardian.com/science/2013/dec/06/peter-higgs-boson-academic-system

    1. @Raj, I completely agree. We need to focus on improving the quality of our education and our faculty, and making ridiculous rules about publications isn’t the way to go about it.

  2. I am amazed on how the Pune University expects all the students in BE to be able to write and publish papers. In fact I think the idea of a paper itself is being diluted by the university. Navin, it might not be a bad idea to have a series on what makes a good paper.

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