|The main entrance of Seoul National University / gettyimagesbank|
By Jun Ji-hye
Nearly half of all underage co-authors listed in research papers from Seoul National University (SNU) were the children of SNU professors, a ruling party lawmaker said, Thursday, calling for harsher disciplinary action against misconduct involving research by professors abusing their status.
According to Rep. Seo Dong-yong of the Democratic Party of Korea, who is on the National Assembly Education Committee, the university's 22 research papers that listed minors as co-authors were concluded as cases of misconduct. Among them, nine involved children of SNU professors.
Among the nine cases, four professors listed their own children as co-authors, while five listed children of their colleagues.
Other than children of SNU professors, there were more cases involving children of their acquaintances, such as friends and relatives, Rep. Seo said.
For example, a professor at SNU's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences was found to have listed his own daughter and a daughter of his friend as co-authors of a research paper that contained the results of a microbiology experiment conducted by researchers at his laboratory.
He also asked his colleague to be listed as a lead author instead of himself in order to avoid potential problems if the family relation between him and his daughter were exposed.
Of the minors, nine were admitted to SNU later, although it is unknown how much their "co-authoring" of papers contributed to their admissions.
Even after those cases of misconduct were confirmed, the university imposed only light punishments, issuing a warning against most of the professors in question.
A university official explained that most cases were not subject to disciplinary measures as the university can only take action in cases of misconduct involving research that occurred in the past three years.
"We issued a warning anyway (regardless of the period), considering the severity of the cases," the official said.
In addition, the university's previous explanation about minors' use of its research facilities was found to be far from the truth.
Last year, the university said some students of elite high schools, such as science high schools, were using its research facilities as part of its research and education program.
But no under-age co-authors listed in the research papers in question participated in that program.
"In most cases, SNU professors gave preference to their own children or children of their colleagues, friends or relatives by listing them as co-authors of research papers, although they did not contribute fairly to the research," Rep. Seo said. "As the university receives support from the state budget, stronger disciplinary action will be necessary against any misconduct involving research."
The lawmaker added that appropriate countermeasures should be drawn up to prevent a recurrence of such cases.
Regarding the issue, the university said it will increase the period for disciplinary action in cases of misconduct involving falsified authorship of research papers to 10 years from the current three years.