ABU DHABI // An academic at UAE University has been cleared of plagiarism after an investigation by the university's senior academics.
Dr Hala Elhoweris, a special needs learning specialist, had an article retracted from the journal Educational Studies in 2009 after claims that she had lifted from a similar article published in 2005.
The allegations came to the university's attention when repeated anonymously by fellow academics on a blog called Academics In the Desert.
The site wrote that Informaworld, a database of hundreds of academic articles, had retracted Dr Elhoweris's article, "The effect of the child's disability on United Arab Emirates in-service teachers' educational decisions regarding gifted and talented children", published in Volume 34, Number 5 of Educational Studies, 2008.
Informaworld had issued a statement claiming "some sections of the text in this article substantially reproduced, without proper attribution" an article entitled "the effects of disability labels on special education and general education teachers' referrals for gifted programmes", by Margarita Bianco, published in 2005 in Learning Disability Quarterly, volume 28.
The editors of Educational Studies and its publishers, Taylor Francis Group, had apologised to Dr Bianco.
Prof Rory Hume, the provost of UAE University, said the university investigated the allegations fully in February after being made aware of the website.
"Dr Hala Elhoweris had responded to the allegations in 2009, when they first surfaced, with a thorough response to the editor of the journal in which the article in question had been published, Education Studies," Prof Hume said.
"Dr Hala explained then, and gave direct evidence supporting that explanation, that she had used similar words and phrases in her published work in the journal Remedial and Special Education, January/February 2005, well before Bianco's work was published."
He said it was neither uncommon nor unreasonable for an author to use similar wording to another academic in describing their own work in different articles on similar subjects.
Dr Elhoweris said she had "contacted the publisher [a] long time ago and pointed out the similarities were not the act of plagiarism", adding that she continued to list the paper on her CV because had not been asked by the publishers to retract it.
Prof Hume said the university takes steps to guard against plagiarism. "We are very careful with our students to explain the importance of original thinking and original work, and of proper attribution," he said. "Faculty must therefore adhere to the highest standards."
He said the internet had enabled academics to be more rigorous in checking the authenticity of work.
UAE University, one of three federal institutions of higher education, is pitching itself as the country's leading research university and aiming for recognition for its academics on the world stage.
Thomas Hochstettler, the provost of the American University of Sharjah, said academic integrity was vital to a university's international reputation. "As an institution we won't tolerate plagiarism on the part of our academics, it is a firing offence," he said. "That doesn't mean there aren't grey areas we could need to investigate."