Friday, February 5, 2010

Chinese Paper Mills and Plagiarism

I have previously reported on what I found to be "fake conferences" in China. Forschungsmafia has pointed me to an amazing, unsigned article at the China Internation Information Center.

Prof. Yang Shen (沈阳) of the School of Information Management at the Wuhan University has been working in the area of plagiarism for some time and has developed the ROST system for identifying possible plagiarisms. The team has also started doing empirical analysis on published sources with quite shocking results.

I found an article first published on the "Straits Times" (Singapore) about ghostwriting in English (via a republishing service) that also interviews a ghostwriting company that sees nothing wrong with the service. They quote a Mr. Liu:
'I don't see ghostwriting as unethical,' he said. 'People don't always have time to do everything by themselves, so sometimes they pay to get some help. There's nothing wrong with that.
I beg to differ.

I managed to contact Prof. Yang Shen, although many of the pages are in Chinese - Google Translator does a passable. It seems, though, that he has announced that he is now no longer doing plagiarism work, but data mining work, using a system (ROST) that he built to analyze English and Chinese texts. There was apparently some excitement when Nature managed to place a call....

Anyway, he kindly sent me a pre-print on his investigation. His team examined 57199 documents. The documents are classified as student-written, professor-written, or student-and-professor written. They are also sorted into fields, and for two fields - journalism and communications - a social web of the authors is constructed. The team also evaluated 450 questionnaires that were administered to Chinese Students.

The results are fascinating and quite detailed. Since he has not published it yet, I don't want to go into more details, but I have encouraged him to submit to a European conference on plagiarism.  I am happy that someone is starting to do something about Chinese plagiarism and ghostwriting.

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