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Kyoto Univ. revokes doctorate for plagiarism in 1st move of its kind since foundation

Takao Hirajima, executive vice-president of Kyoto University, is seen during a press conference regarding the school's cancellation of a doctoral degree, at the university campus in Kyoto's Sakyo Ward on May 25, 2021. (Mainichi/Norikazu Chiba)

KYOTO -- Kyoto University announced on May 25 that it has revoked a doctoral degree conferred to a former graduate student after it emerged that their thesis contained plagiarism from another person's academic papers. It is the first time for the prestigious school to invalidate an academic degree since its inauguration, according to faculty staff.

    The doctoral thesis, submitted by Jin Jing, a then student at the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, was titled, "On reflexive pronouns in Japanese and Chinese languages." The university, renowned for spawning a number of Nobel laureates, awarded the student a doctorate in 2012. However, following the revelation of plagiarism, the school is poised to revoke the doctoral thesis.

    In August 2020, Kyoto University announced that it had confirmed 11 instances of dishonesty in a paper the former student had presented to the annals for an academic course they belonged to, including the failure to cite sources at nine places and the borrowing of others' ideas, and that it had recognized them as plagiarism. According to the university, the doctoral thesis in question was almost a reappropriation of the paper published in the annals.

    The institution received tips on suspicion of plagiarism in May 2019 and had since launched an investigation. The former student is quoted as telling the school that they "neglected to annotate citations." The university withheld the ex-student's current profession, age, gender and other details, saying they constituted "personal information."

    At a press conference on May 25, Takao Hirajima, executive vice-president for education, information infrastructure and library services at Kyoto University, offered an apology and said, "We will thoroughly ensure further enhancement of research ethics and research integrity education."

    Professor Yasuo Kojima, head of the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, stated, "It's difficult to say the (doctoral) adviser is not liable at all, but they will not be subject to punishment as five years have passed since their retirement."

    (Japanese original by Norikazu Chiba, Kyoto Bureau)

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