HKU to probe plagiarism case
THE senior lecturer found guilty of plagiarising his colleague's work by the Court of Appeal is to be investigated by a high-ranking Hong Kong University committee.
The university's Vice-Chancellor, Professor Wang Gungwu, has initiated ''procedures for the termination of the appointment of a teacher for 'good cause'.'' Professor Wang ordered the inquiry the day after the Court of Appeal upheld an earlier ruling that Dr Lam Tai-hing had copied a questionnaire drawn up by Dr Linda Koo Chih-ling and Professor John Ho for their research into lung cancer in non-smoking Chinese women.
Following Dr Lam's decision not to appeal to the Privy Council, ''the first step is the internal investigation by the University's committee on personnel matters'', university spokesman Rupert Chan said.
''The next step will be when the findings go to the senate and they will then advise the University's Council on what to do,'' he said.
Professor Wang said: ''I can assure you this is not being taken lightheartedly and the inquiry will be conducted seriously.'' Mr Chan said the inquiry would be ''a lengthy process but we hope to do it as quickly as possible. We want to make sure all is fair and just and above-board''.
The six-year legal saga has been marred by death threats, sexually explicit graffiti, criminal damage and threatening telephone calls, forcing Dr Koo to seek police protection last year.
Lawyers associated with the case were also harassed.
After requesting extra police protection following last month's ruling, Dr Koo said yesterday she was still receiving threatening phone calls but ''not as many as before''.
Mr Chan said the internal inquiry would investigate the allegations against Dr Lam in light of the two court rulings.
''This case has set quite a precedent in the academic world so we will have to be very careful in carrying out our investigations,'' he said.
''We certainly will take the two court rulings into consideration and will have to study them carefully as well as compare and study the questionnaires from an academic point of view.
''We have to satisfy ourselves if the act constituted plagiarism.'' But Mr Chan admitted ''this is our first case of intellectual property rights and we are not too sure where we stand''.
''Many people are of the opinion that plagiarism involves the results and findings of research and not the tools, not the questionnaire, and that the intellectual property laws protect the results and findings,'' he said.
Mr Chan said academics directly involved in the case and experts on the issue of intellectual property would be called before the inquiry.