Do countries and institutions have a political interest in allowing researchers to plagiarize scientific research? I am wondering if there might be any political interest in allowing plagiarism in research, because as far as I know there's none, but I am thinking I might have overlooked something as some countries have high rates of plagiarism and I would like to know if every country and institutions have an interest in preventing plagiarism or not.

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    By "plagiarism" do you mean "industrial or scientific espionage"? I can't really think why passing someone else's work off as your own would be of benefit to a country, but there have been a bunch of stories of countries' nationals (China being the worst offender, at least from the volume of stories I've heard) sending confidential scientific or industrial research back to their home countries. Was that the kind of thing you were thinking of
    – divibisan
    Aug 11, 2020 at 1:40
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    I think you may be confusing plagiarism with industrial & military espionage. Plagiarism only applies to scientific papers &c, and once you publish your research, it's out there for the whole world to use and build upon. Indeed, that's the point of publication. About the only thing you can't do with published work is to claim it as your own.
    – jamesqf
    Aug 11, 2020 at 4:59
  • I think the answer turns on whether you mean internal or external (global) political incentives. Convincing your own people that they (collectively) are awesome and that their people solved X etc., thereby boosting their morale and their feeling that the country/government is good and right as-is, is much easier than convincing the world, especially global academia itself. Aug 11, 2020 at 11:53

2 Answers 2


At least in most mainstream STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) neither countries nor institutions are the primary protection against plagiarism. New knowledge is disseminated via peer-reviewed journals and conferences which are typically run by for-profit commercial academic publishers and plagiarism is detected either via automated checks on submitted text, or via expert reviewers identifying matches with the existing literature.

Since funding and promotions are heavily correlated with the weight of researchers publication history, there are perverse incentives to publish false, plagiarized or self-plagiarized research, and an industry of "predatory journals" (and resort-like conferences) have sprung up to support this. Many of these are based in rapidly developing countries, but this is also an audience with a growing need to publish and (historically) less stringent checks on the quality of publications at the funding/promotion stage. That does seem to be something which is changing, (or at least, changing countries) as the rapid expansion in the higher education area in various high population countries slows down.


Plagiarism (narrow definition): Pretending that the work of another author is yours.

Plagiarism (expansive definition): Failure to follow current academic practice on citations. This includes citing your own work as required.

By either definition, the policy of allowing plagiarism would turn the academic institution into something of a diploma mill. This provides graduates the "unfair advantage" of having a degree they did not really earn, but only until the rest of the world catches up and starts to discount all the degrees awarded by that institution. I can see no advantage for an entire country to do that, since a country cannot pocket the tuition fees, shut down, and disappear once word gets around.

This is different from having a national policy to shift from vocational to academic tertiary education, with possibly lower academic expectations from those newly invented tracks. In some countries, kindergarten teachers don't need an academic degree. In others they do, and it is probably fair to say that this degree tends to be "easier" than qualification to teach at the college level. But that does not mean those students cheat! They must honestly meet the requirements of their track.

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