Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Academic circular debt


I had written before, years ago... This time I knew what it was, which is why I quit it before in a few months of using it to hone my skills. But now I was at its doorstep, again, or more accurately on the thin line between research writing and writing (others') research. I always had this desistance in mind and denied such service to atleast those who asked for it to use in Pakistan - but to what end? Now when I faced it again, I thought of writing this article. To make sure that I wrote on it some time or the other, I saved this title in my drafts only to wait on it. Today I happened to read the quote, "public enemy # 1 when it comes to writing is procrastination"; I knew what it meant and the first thing I did is to start writing this article.

In writing great, creative, scientific and omni-relevant diverse research, what could offend a writer so much? Was ghost writing the reason? No, most writers write by pen names or ghost write for real people - it never mattered to be known, it only mattered to make known. It was the fact that it was being done for others, students, who would then submit this "plagiarism-less", written-for-them work to an institution as their own to get an MS or a PhD degree. The irony was not lost on me... I was, then, a dropout, writing get-an-A-grade-or-a-refund dissertations and research papers for MS and PhD students of atleast 20 different disciplines on daily basis for a firm.

With this being in a distant past now, I got a call last year while I was busy culminating my startup's recent jump in work flow. They told me they had shortlisted my CV as a research writer. In my subconscious reluctance, "it's weekend, is Monday okay?" is all what I could say to the interview offer. To my wariness, he agreed. Monday, I called back and apologized in advance for non appearance due to fuel shortage hoping he'd cancel it, though I had put off getting fuel in time deliberately. He pro-actively moved it to Tuesday. I couldn't say no to incoming "blessings" now... so decided to go.

Tuesday, on entering the glass office, I was met by the "HR" crew member who took me to write a "test" sample, something I had loathfully endured on numerous content writing job interviews that had brought me to the conclusion that they made all the interviewees write for their clients for free only to hire one, instead of an actual test. After all, this one had inherently crossed the line of morality by their business model. I wrote it anyway only to publish it on my blog, as soon as I got home so that it would get detected as plagiarism if they sold it.

I was then interviewed by a panel of school and university professors (instantly making me loathe the teaching profession for a while). I was right in not assuming it to be an "actual" research organization inspite of giving it the benefit of doubt, but unlike what I had seen before, this was not a firm taking orders on pretext of "not-to-be-copied-help-papers" and getting them written by offshore, overqualified, underachieving freelancers... this was a a fully functional office with cafeteria, rest room, workstations of a 50 writers, based on this industry ready to churn out research articles, thesis, assignments for rich foreign students, paying in dollars online, who didn't / couldn't do their own work due to their disinterest / incompetence.

Speaking of reasoning again, content writers create SEO content under alias and generate leads under company identity, fellows write research for their employers, scholars for universities. Many don't get credited while their organizations profit in some way. Yet the desistance comes when it's done for students. At the same time it's deemed a legit practice to copy edit for a non native scientific researcher; the reason why people like me join, oblivious to the thin line that they would be made to cross by first copy editing, then writing the paper from scratch and then even doing the complete research eventually finding out what it would be used for.

It's a circular debt never spoken of. I pay huge sums of money for my education, carry out and write your research for money, you get a degree based on my work. There is no end being accomplished by the mere exercise of researching on behalf of another, no benefit to the professional world or to the world of technological advancement - the purpose of academic research is fulfilled from the institutional perspective, primary research is still being produced in the same way but in the name of a person who will never be able to develop on it. This is something worse than a scam pyramid scheme that is based on selling "schemes" to reselling customers (you see the recurrence) instead of actual services or products. Money is not the only thing at stake this time, rather the society's intellect as a whole is. When the pyramid collapses just like it eventually does for all Ponzi schemes when the last of the bases get consumed, in this case when there are no more truly educated writers to research for them, the echelons will be as uneducated as the rest and this house of cards will fall... and not beautifully like dominos, it will crumble under its own weight with the linchpin unknown.

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