Saturday, November 8, 2008

Iranian Minister of the Interior caught without titles

Spiegel Online is reporting that the Minister of the Interior of Iran, Ali Kordan, doesn't have either am Iranian Bachelor's or a Master's degree, as he had claimed, and that the honorary doctorate that he supposedly was granted from Oxford University is a fake. The mistakes in spelling on the document are apparently a dead give-away, and Oxford has no record of having given him a degree. A spokesman for Oxford noted that honorary doctorates are awarded to scientists and scholars, not politicians.

The Iranian parliament was not amused, and has fired Kordan. The prime minister, Mahmud Ahmadinedschad, said he didn't care about any pieces of paper, he was only interested in results. Of course, he now has a problem. Since he himself fired nine ministers over the course of the past three years because of differences of opinion, and Kordan is now the tenth minister to leave his position, the constitution of Iran insists that Ahmadinedschad now ask parliament for a vote of confidence.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

A new test of plagiarism detection systems

The research group at the FHTW has again tested plagiarism detection systems. We have extended our collection of test cases and now also have a selection of collusions - slightly changed papers that strongly resemble other papers - so that we can check how well software can find collusions. We also included a paper stored in a closed database (Springerlink) and one which we copied by typing up a page we found on Google books. An additional nasty test case replaced the letter "e" in a paragraph with the letter "ε". It still looks okay at first glance, but many systems were not able to find the plagiarism.

The results are, as always, not exciting. Software just cannot find translation plagiarisms or plagiarisms that are taken from books. Teacher, however, are often very good at spotting "fishy" texts like this and can even find sources using search machines. Even removing all the test cases with this kind of plagiarism from our evaluation, we still had no software that was given the grade of "very good". The systems have gotten slightly better, however.

We also evaluated the usability of the systems - many have lots of problems in this area. A particular problem is the numbers reported - it is often not clear, what the numbers or percent values given mean. And the reports are sometimes not very useful or the system is difficult to use in a university setting. Having to submit papers one at a time and having to wait a longish period between each test is not acceptable.

One system - one of the worst - has forbidden us from giving their name. We just refer to them as XXXX. The ranking is:

Good Systems (Grade "B")

Satisfactory Systems (Grade "C")

Acceptable Systems (Grade "D")

Not acceptable Systems (Grade "F")

Collusion Detection Systems

Good Systems

Satisfactory Systems

The complete test is available (in German) at as well as an E-Learning unit on plagiarism.