Remembering Dr. Tracey Bretag

Yesterday, the academic integrity world was saddened to learn about the passing of Dr. Tracey Bretag.

A professor at the University of South Australia, Tracey has spent the past decade at the forefront of the academic integrity field. She has long been a driving force for research in the space as well as pushing for policy improvements that shift the way academic integrity is looked at and handled.

More than just an amazing researcher, she was also an incredible human being. Known for her warmth, kindness and generosity, her loss will be felt well beyond the academic world. My thoughts are with her friends and family at this time.

To pay tribute to Tracey, I wanted to quickly look back over some of her biggest accomplishments and show how her work will live on. Her mark on the field of academic integrity is as deep as it is important and her work will continue to be a cornerstone in the field for many years to come.

Highlights of Tracey’s Career

Note: For a more thorough recap of Tracey’s career, please see her personal page at the University of South Australia website.

Tracey was a tireless worker in the field of academic integrity and has published her research in over 40 academic journal articles and book chapters. However, not content to just research the issue of academic integrity, she aimed to help improve the current climate.

Those efforts included being the founding editor for the International Journal for Educational Integrity, which publishes research related to academic integrity. She is also the editor of two books the Handbook of Academic Integrity (2016) and A Research Agenda for Academic Integrity (2020).

But more than just her writing, she also led through her actions and the groups she participated in. She was the former Chair and Founding Member of the Asia-Pacific Forum on Educational Integrity and a former President of the Executive Board to the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI).

She also led several other projects such as the Academic Integrity Policy Toolkit, which produced a toolkit to be used by universities to improve their processes for handling academic integrity.

In addition to all of that, she was also a regular speaker at conferences including the International Plagiarism Conferences. There I was fortunate enough to see her speak at the fifth and sixth conferences.

She was, without a doubt, a tireless advocate for change and improvement in the academic integrity space and her drive for change was matched only by her drive to perform research in the field.

Example Research

Choosing highlights of Tracey’s research is nearly impossible. Her university page lists more than 20 research publications in the last 11 years alone. Nearly all of her research was on academic integrity, ethics or related fields.

However, the work of hers that drew the most attention was a 2019 survey where she and fellow researchers collected responses from some 14,000 university students in Australia to learn what types of behavior students engaged in and what may have shaped their behavior. They did this by separating their group into a “cheating” and “non-cheating” group and seeing how responses to questions varied.

They found that, “cheaters” were less likely to see academic integrity violations as being “wrong”. However, when they instead separated the students by whether they were LOTE (language other than English), that difference did not appear. This means that the focus on LOTE students has little to do with ethics and more to do with support as “cheating” students did report they felt less supported by teachers and the school.

Also interesting was that, of the students that did engage in contract cheating, very few did so for money. This is supported by other research that she has performed.

Obviously, this is just one study among dozens of publications that carry her name. However, it shows her tireless effort to truly understand academic integrity and then use that understanding to craft better policies. She was an amazing force in the field and will be dearly missed.

Thank You Tracey

Tracey’s passing is an immeasurable loss for everyone who knew her. Even if, like myself, you only met her a few times she left a strong impression. Her work, her energy and her compassion came through in everything she did and the academic integrity world is very fortunate to have had her as such a strong advocate.

Thank you Tracey for all that you did and all that you will continue to do as both your work and your memory live on.

You will be deeply missed but never forgotten.

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