Monday, August 13, 2007

Plagiarism Decrease on use of Detection Software?

The German online SZ-online (Süddeutsche) reports that a dean of a business school has said that the amount of plagiarism has sharply decreased since they started using plagiarism detection software.

Now, I know of no method for actually measuring the amount of plagiarism, as we can only measure the plagiarisms that we actually find. And the intermediate results of my plagiarism detection software test are not encouraging.

It may be that this works as a psychological deterrent - but as soon as students wise up to the fact that the software doesn't catch everything, things will probably return to normal.

Or is anyone aware of any research that a) measures the actual amount of plagiarism or b) that detection software works as a deterrent?

In lieu of scientific findings, this is just wishful thinking.

Friday, August 10, 2007

German "Researcher" discovered to be a plagiarist

A German "researcher" has been discovered to be a plagiarist. Hans-Werner G. (Articles in Spiegel, Süddeutsche, Die Welt) has been discovered not only as having plagiarized some of his publications, he also made up an institute at the University of Maastricht in Holland that he was supposedly working for.

The journal "Research Policy" has just published a retraction of a 14-year-old article by G. In an editorial the journal states that "the article from 1993 is a clear and serious case of plagiarism", according to Spiegel.
During the course of the investigation other plagiarisms were discovered, included a plagiarism from a researcher in Zimbabwe of a plagiarism that G. published.

What shocks me more than this - I have many such cases and accusations that I hear about - is the reaction of the readers in the online forums attached to the articles. Many state things like:
  • You can't keep writing things different
    Sure you can - each writer has his or her own voice and style when writing. There are so many different words to choose from, it is nearly impossible to select the exact same wording and structure, and that over many sentences, as someone else.
  • Who can remember all the things they ever read?
    Well, if you are not writing down what you read and taking notes, then you are doing shoddy research. You don't just read a bunch of stuff and then write. You have to carefully note down who said the stuff you are building on - or refuting.
  • There is so much published, no one can read it all.
    Of course - but no one insists that you have all of the possible sources in what you write, just that you give credit to those who inspired you.
  • 90% of all dissertations are plagiarisms
    This may be the case - but then they are not dissertations. We need to be taking more care to teach students and young scientists what scientific work is all about, how you give credit, how you write down your own ideas. And we have to set a good example, and not plagiarize ourselves!
  • Poor bloke, it's publish or perish out there!
    Well, we have to get away from this basing all decisions on who gets jobs and research money on impact factors and citations indexes and number of publications. There are so many publications and so many illegitimate ones out there. You can found your own "International Institute for Whatever" by just setting up a web page and printing cards - like G. did, his newest affiliation is the "International Institute for Technology Management and Economics", at the same address as his home telephone number listing.
We have to find new ways of judging what good science is - and who the people are who are doing good science. The methods we currently used are broken, beyond repair in my opinion.

A funny aside is that the guy is an economist (Ökonom in German), according to Spiegel, but the not-so-exact Welt has tried to translate this for the "man on the street" and thought that the "Öko" meant "ecological" (which it does in some cases, but not this one) and thus has him as an "ecology scientist". Why on earth an ecology scientist would be writing about SDI (the Strategic Defense Initiative that blew millions (billions?) of dollars attempting to defend against the "Russians" over 20 years ago) is beyond me.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Plagiarism Discussion in German Schools

I am very happy to announce that the German publisher Cornelsen is coming out with a new German school book for 9th graders (to be used in the states Hesse and NRW) that is republishing one of my articles about plagiarism: "Der große Online-Schwindel", which was published in Spiegel-Online a few years ago.

They've chosen just 2 pages out of this long essay that was published in 4 parts. It is good for pupils at the 9th grade level to be discussing plagiarism outright as a topic, and not because the teacher caught a cheater and now has to discuss the topic with the class. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, as the saying goes.