The (2010) article The Shadow Scholar by the infernal Ed Dante jolted many academics into awareness of ghostwriting in academia. Soon proclaimed as one of the most widely-read pieces in the Chronicle of Higher Education’s history, the article made it impossible to ignore the issue. However, little dialog was occurring – at least in N. America, and with apparently few exceptions in the UK, it seemed hardly to be taking place globally either.

I became entrenched in the topic in 2012 through an international student I knew who was enrolled in a UK postgraduate program. Sadly, she had contracted out her MA thesis and shared with me – after the fact – all the communication and dimensions of the custom writing industry, still in relative infancy. Such exposure and further research into the market made me develop and share at the ICAI Texas conference (2013) “The ‘Promise’ of Ghostwriting – Unique Voices & Service Sophistication.” The session was not swarming with delegates – as was the case in sessions focused on plagiarism – leading one attendee who was later to become a distinguished researcher on the topic declare: “this is one of the most important presentations happening at this conference and there’s only a few of us here!” Growing pains aside, few really wanted to know this ‘baby’.

However, a critical mass had clearly begun to incubate and an idea beginning to take shape at a later ICAI conference (Vancouver, 2015). Outside the formal conference sessions, an informal discussion at an added end-of-day meeting was meant to explore political advocacy – developing a hub to move Ontario legislation forward on the growing essay mill problem – and later hopefully serve as a model for other geographic areas. Attendance was by invitation, with some participants having a legal background while others simply maintained a strong desire not to stay idle on “the contract cheating problem.” That day, a couple of ICAI Board members working intently with a handful of others shared possible legal options by informing us of The Contract Cheating Advocacy Project.

Back then, the fact that so many colleagues were utterly ignorant of student outsourcing of academic work, the dimensions of the commercial industry and the ramifications to the education sector made those of us attending that ad hoc meeting recognize the critical need for concerted efforts.

Labor & the IDoA

The 1st IDoA (2016) saw the creation of a tool kit to assist first registrants to the initiative – 22 in total. Showcasing of individual IDoA success stories over the next two years and the subsequent ‘adoption’ of the initiative by ‘parent figures’ (a planning committee) saw the numbers in the 4th IDoA (2019) more than quintuple to 117! This past year’s addition of an international Student Steering Committee to the Planning Committee has harnessed youthful insight, critical to the initiative’s further development and leadership. This 5th IDoA hopes to reach 200+.

While global challenges in the form of pandemics may be daunting in different ways, they cannot thwart our continued effort. This year, the impact of our virtual messages on the IDoA will hopefully be even stronger during our Live Feed as we come together to discuss and share our overall integrity messages as a global community.

At the end of the day – or the 20 hours – we will surely prove the adage: it takes a village – because we are a village!

Join our growing global community on 21 October; keep nurturing the child that allows us to speak up and out against contract cheating.