Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Anniversary Book Withdrawn

The Tagesspiegel reports this morning on a withdrawn book.

The prestigious Berlin university medical center Charité is celebrating its 300th anniversary in 2010. In honor of the occasion they put out a book about their history, and commissioned a journalist, Falko Hennig, to assist in producing the volume.

The historian of medicine, Philipp Osten, was looking forward to the book and immediately opened it to the chapter on orthopedics, his specialty. There he discovered about 8 pages lifted from his own book, Die Modellanstalt, without permission and with a different author listed.

He contacted the editors and the publisher, who immediately investigated the allegations. They soon found more plagiarism by Hennig in other chapters, and so they have decided to withdraw the book. The publishers are suing Hennig.

Update: Spiegel Online reports that the Charité's own medical history department did not want to produce such a book. The supposed "authors" of the chapter on orthopedics had no idea that they were authors, and the editors are doing a lot of hand-washing, as they were "only" editors. Spiegel Online also reports that Henning is looking for a good intellectual property rights lawyer, as he reports on his Twitter stream.  

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Research and Progress

During a visit to Sweden I was made aware of this group blog that deals with research. One of the bloggers, retired associate professor in ethics Birgitta Forsman, wrote about scientific misconduct in Sweden.

It seems the government has put forth a new proposition about scientific misconduct. Her major criticism is that much of research today is done outside of universities, and that the local lords have a much too strong influence in the decision about what is worth being researched.

She discusses the STAN study which was published in Lancet. The inventor of a technology that was to be studied (and co-owner of the company that uses the technology and was financing the study) was monitor and responsible for the quality of the study, although he was not listed on the paper.

This is a different kind of scientific misconduct than what has often been linked to here. This is not someone who is not involved in the study putting their name on the paper in order to pad their CV. This is someone who was involved not being listed so that when Lancet asked if any of the authors had any connection to the company whose technology was being investigated, they could all truthfully answer "no".

An investigation into this research deemed it problematic, but not scientific misconduct, begging the question of where exactly scientific misconduct begins.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Ghostwriter

I keep trying to explain to people that plagiarism detection systems are helpless when faced with other forms of academic misconduct. In this Chronicle article a reader sends to me a ghostwriter bares all, and the sight is not pretty. Money is exchanged for papers - the college system is broken. Actually, the moral system seems to be in quite a degenerate state:
I do a lot of work for seminary students. I like seminary students. They seem so blissfully unaware of the inherent contradiction in paying somebody to help them cheat in courses that are largely about walking in the light of God and providing an ethical model for others to follow.
So fellow professors - if you wonder how your incoherent student wrote such a great paper, maybe they didn't.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Copyists, Fakers, Idea Thieves

The German radio station SWR2 broadcast a 30-minute report in German on scientific misconduct on November 10, 2010:  Abschreiber, Fälscher, Ideendiebe.

Interviews with Hans Peter Gumm, Volker Rieble, Ulrike Beisiegel (DFG Ombud for good scientific praxis), Eberhardt Hildt (the whistleblower in the Herrmann/Brack data fabrication case), and yours truely from about 23:00, although the journalist got the name of this blog wrong.

Bush, the Plagiarist

The Huffington Post reports on George Bush's memoirs "Decision Point" - it appears that whoever ghostwrote it prepared a crazy quilt of plagiarisms, including "eyewitness" reports about circumstances that Bush provably did not attend, such as the inauguration of Afghan president Karzai.
Bush "recollects" - in a more literal sense of the term - quotes by pulling his and others verbatim from other books, calling into question what he genuinely remembers from the time and casting doubt on any conclusions he draws about what his mindset was at the time.
Even if we are not awarding Bush a degree for his words, one begins to despair of ever educating people of the difference between writing and copying.

Monday, November 1, 2010

No Free Lunch

Found on a "free essay site":

The next time you see language like this on a paper, it may not be the student writing, but an "excellent" free essay from an essay mill.