Tuesday, January 25, 2011

And another one

Last year I was "asked" to contribute to a journal that I considered fake, Modern Applied Science, and I blogged about it.

This year it is not so generic, they refer to a paper that I published online a few years ago:

Dear Debora Weber-Wulff,
I read your article of “Learning Software Engineering via Internet” on line.I know that you are an expert in this area.

I am Cindy,the editor of "International Education Studies (IES)" ,which is a peer-reviewed, open access journal, published by Canadian Center of Science and Education.The scopes of the journal include, but not limited to, the following topic areas: education, training and educational administration.The journal is published in both printed and online versions. The online version is free access and download.Please click on "about" above to see information on editorial board, policies, submissions etc.

It’s my honor to invite you to contribute manuscripts to our journal. Please find more details athttp://www.ccsenet.org/journal/index.php/ies/index/.

If you have any questions, please contact with me at: [].

It is appreciated if you could share this information with your colleagues and associates. Thank you.

Best Regards,
Cindy Xu
International Education Studies
Canadian Center of Science and Education
Add: 4915 Bathurst St. Unit #209-309, Toronto, ON. M2R 1X9
I love the language misuse and the missing commas after periods.  Google now has Streetview here, so we can see that the Canadian Center of Science and Education is in a shopping center:
Finchurch Plaza, 4915 Bathurst St., Toronto, Ontario

and it has interesting neighbors: an Asian  grocery, a Subway, a nail studio, a dentist, a florist, a shoe repair, a podiatrist. And not to forget the Buck Stop. 

Is this a legitimate scientific endeavor? I think not.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Spam Publishers

A former student alerted me to this company this morning, VDM publishers, operating out of Mauritius. She was written to on Xing, a business social platform, in German by the "Acquisition Editor" from VDM Publishing House, Ltd. He noted that he had happened upon her bachelor's thesis while browsing the web at our school and found her thesis interesting. He requests that she send him her email address so he can send her information about publishing her scientific work. She was quite thrilled by this, but luckily Skyped me first to ask it it was permissible to publish her thesis herself. Now, I used the Vienna Development Method (VDM) in my doctoral thesis, so I thought I would just check up on what kind of publisher it is, as I generally smell a rat at cold calls like this.

Oh dear, just as I suspected: This is what I normally call a "fake publisher", but should perhaps call a spam publisher, "Verlag Dr. Müller". The Wikipedia article linked to above references an article in the Berner Zeitung from 2009 about this publishing house that purports to publish scientific books under diverse imprints such as Alphascript, Betascript, FastBook Publishing, Fromm Verlag, Saarbrücker Verlag für Rechtswissenschaften, Lambert Academic Publishing, etc. etc.

What they seem to do is to pick up free content, such as the Wikipedia, or bot around looking for students that have just completed their theses, and ask if they may publish them as books, offering a free copy of the book to the author. And since the books have an ISBN number (although the country code for the publications is from Algeria or other exotic places), this sounds like a great idea to a young graduate. I checked to see how you find the correct title for her thesis at our school - the only way is to use the public OPAC at the library, but there is a helpful search function there for theses from our school that can then be listed in the order received into the library.

The books are offered at a stiff price (30-60 €) via online booksellers such as Amazon. There are lots of "novels" such as the works of "Lambert M. Surhone, Miriam T. Timpledon, and Susan F. Marseken", who have collectively published > 81214 (!) books on subjects from M16 Rifles to Sine Waves. Many include - according to the cover - "High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles![sic]", and for only 34,99 € instead of 36,99 €. What a deal for content you can have for free and current on the Wikipedia itself. The "abstract" of these books is often the first few sentences from the Wikipedia article.

I just checked amazon.com, there "
Lambert M. Surhone" has 230,556 publications this morning. Wow, that's impressive. I've found a German blog post on this from April 2010 in basicthinking.de and two US bloggers, chrisrand.com and Real-Time Rendering. According to Chris Rand, Amazon had stated that the books are being "retired". No sign of that in January 2011. Real-Time Rendering suggest writing a bot to publish reviews on all of the books that they are Wikipedia copies - any takers?

This is just one more example of why the "simple" system that is being instituted in Germany to measure publishing output "quality" in Germany is broken. Only publications with an ISBN or an ISSN are deemed legitimate, in Berlin anyway. Anyone can - and does - publish anything at a print-on-demand publisher. And who can tell from the fancy names that this is not a high-quality publisher?

And for the customers? Caveat emptor.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Results of the Plagiarism Detection Software Test 2010

We held an online press conference today, one in German visited by over 30 persons and one in English with 16. There were journalists, bloggers, system developers, and interested university people from Germany, Switzerland, Austria, France, Netherlands, Spain, Finland, England and the USA gathered to listen and to ask questions. It was great that we were able to use the Adobe Connect system that the DFN provides for German universities, thanks a lot!

I am exhausted after the effort of concentration, and we still are not done with the entire web site, but it is coming along slowly. We have the results in English for the first time, the link is http://plagiat.htw-berlin.de/software-en/. We will be growing the web site over the next few weeks.

The top group only found between 61% and 70% of the plagiarism, so our best grades were just a C- for effectiveness. We were also evaluating usability and professionalism this year, and were able to demonstrate that one system resells access to another system (without permission) and another runs a term paper mill from the same street address and almost the same telephone number.

The systems in the top group are PlagAware, Turnitin, Ephorus, PlagScan, and Urkund.
The long version of the report is also available online.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Plagiarism Detection Software: Silver Bullet or Waste of Time?

„Plagiarists beware – we use software!“

Many universities attempt to coerce their students into compliance with good scientific practice with the use of plagiarism detection software. And there are many systems that offer such services. They suggest a fast, cheap, and easy way to winnow out the plagiarists from the honest authors. But do they work as promised?

Prof. Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff, professor for media and computing at the University of Applied Sciences HTW Berlin has been testing plagiarism detection systems since 2004 and has published widely on the topic. In this fourth test series that was just completed at the end of 2010 26 systems out of 47 available systems were closely examined. Particular focus was given to seeing how well the systems detect a known amount of plagiarism, and how they react when offered original material.

Prof. Weber-Wulff and her student research assistant will be presenting what works – and what fails spectacularly – in an online press conference. 

Online Press Conference: „Plagiarism Detection Systems“ 

Friday, January 7, 2011

9:00 UTC (10:00 German time) in German: https://webconf.vc.dfn.de/plagiat10/
Technical prerequisites: Standard browser with Flash
Technical problems can be solved half an hour before the conference by
 Katrin Köhler, Tel: +49-30-5019-3499

15:00 UTC (16:00 German time) in English: https://webconf.vc.dfn.de/plagiarism10/
Technical prerequisites: Standard browser with Flash
Technical problems can be solved half an hour before the conference by
 Katrin Köhler, Tel: +49-30-5019-3499

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Sportswriter suspended

A sportswriter for ESPN in the USA has been suspended for lifting text from a columnist and using it word for word in his television commentary of the game. New York Times and Mediaite report. The columnist blogged
“Hey, Will Selva of ESPNEWS. Glad you liked my last column so much. Try not to plagiarize it next time.”
Selva has admitted to the plagiarism, is very sorry, and promises not to do it again, but has been suspended indefinitely. The comments on the NYT article are quite good, HS teacher observes
1. People who plagiarize think they have an invincible quality to them - they will never be caught.
Most people who plagiarize (at the high school level) do not take it
for what it is - an egregious act of indignity that speaks to a person's
lack of hard work and diligence.
3. People who plagiarize always have
multiple excuses, such as- I forgot, I didn't realize, I didn't do it,
etc. They can lie their way right to vindication.
Others comment that ESPN is in the entertainment business, not the journalism business, but I don't see that that makes a difference - the entertainment industry gets its knickers in a knot about "intellectual property theft" all the time when speaking about filesharing, why should this be different?