Education
4:30 pm
Tue April 19, 2011

MSU finds one of its education professors guilty of plagiarizing

Michigan State University has found one of its education professors guilty of plagiarism in a 2010 report about school consolidation.

The Booth newspaper chain commissioned MSU professor Sharif Shakrani to do a study about school consolidation. Shakrani’s study found Michigan could save more than $600 million by consolidating school districts.

But now an MSU committee says Shakrani lifted full paragraphs from another study and didn’t cite the source. And they say he’s guilty of doing the same thing in three other articles. Here's an excerpt from an email MSU spokesperson Kent Cassella sent Michigan Radio earlier this afternoon:

Michigan State University Research Integrity Officer (RIO) Jim Pivarnik has finished his evaluation of the plagiarism allegation against Dr. Sharif Shakrani.  An investigative committee found Dr. Shakrani to be guilty of research misconduct.  The committee believes there were clear instances of plagiarism in the report “School District Consolidation Study in 10 Michigan Counties,” which was publically available on the Education Policy Center’s website when the RIO examined it on Aug. 19, 2010. These included full paragraphs identical to those found in other sources, without attribution.

In the course of the investigation, the committee also found clear instances of plagiarism in three articles published from 2008-09 under Dr. Shakrani’s name in the MSU College of Education publication “New Educator.” All three articles contain substantial material that is identical or nearly identical in wording to that found in other sources, without attribution.

Michael Jahr is with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, the group that originally brought the plagiarism allegation to light. He says "our real concern is that if we’re going to have a policy conversation and look for ways to save taxpayers money, that it be done in an honest and academic way." He says "skewed or sloppy" research is "a disservice to voters and taxpayers in Michigan."

Jahr says the Mackinac Center did a similar study a couple years ago and found that school consolidation would not save the state that much money. Here's more from the Mackinac Center:

A 2007 study on school consolidation by Andrew Coulson, a Mackinac Center adjunct fellow and director of educational freedom at the Cato Institute, found that the potential savings from consolidating excessively small districts in Michigan is about 12 times smaller than the potential savings from breaking up excessively large ones. Coulson said that the maximum total annual savings due to district breakups would be approximately $363 million, while consolidations could save state and local governments at most $31 million annually.

MSU says any disciplinary action for Shakrani is under review.