Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm so honored!

Prize certificateThis evening at a reception for our new professors Michael Heine, the president of our school, the University of Applied Sciences HTW Berlin, presented me with an award as the school's "Science Communicator" of the year for my work with the press about the plagiarism scandals in Germany this year.

The press secretary collected up the original clippings from her clippings file for the year to date (only making copies for herself) and put them in a folder - a big folder. And they gave me a megaphone, painted in the school colors, that is to travel each year to the current prize holder.Green megaphone

They told me that they had quite a time locating one, as they are no longer in general use. This is an old one from the Bavarian police, still usable, and painted up in a local body shop.

I tried to spread out all the clippings on the dining room table, but it really wasn't large enough. And oh my, the Bild-Zeitung article was on the front page of every single edition of the paper, country wide.
A lot of clippings
I thanked the president - my school has really been great over the past 10 years. Not every school would find it cool to be associated with plagiarism. I've enjoyed a sabbatical, in which I developed Fremde Federn Finden (that is dated and needs a chapter on zu Guttenberg & Co), and has often given me student researchers for getting the work done and lets me run my plagiarism site off of the school servers.

The good thing is that the press now gets the name of the school spelled right - best advertising you can get for free!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Professor barred from advising for 2 years

The University of Münster in Germany has barred a professor from accepting doctoral students for two years, the Westfälische Nachrichten reports.

In July 2011 the university rescinded a doctorate that was found to have replicated one submitted to the same advisor a few years earlier. The duplicate disseration was found by a Wikipedia editor researching a topic.

The university continued the investigation into the role of the advisor. It was decided that he had been "inattentive", not remembering that he had seen the same thesis a few years earlier. The faculty voted to give him two years time to work on focusing his attention - he is not allowed to advise doctoral students during that time, but can continue to teach and keeps his job as a professor.

He has been quite a popular advisor, and was given a prize for teaching just prior to the story of the duplicate dissertation breaking.

The university hopes that everything is now okay, as they make all doctorates and advisors sign a contract with each other and run all the theses through a software system.

On the basis of my tests of plagiarism detection systems I would not be so sure.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Responsible conduct of research in academic medicine

I attended and spoke at a one-day conference "Responsible conduct of research in academic medicine - From neglect to action plan" at the Charité in Berlin today on good scientific practice. The speakers:
  • Jens Georg Reich (Max-Delbrück-Center of Molecular Medicine, Berlin and German Ethikrat) spoke on "Ethic topics in modern biomedical research"
  • Gretchen Brodnicki, J.D. (Dean for Faculty and Research Integrity, Harvard Medical School, USA)
    Coordinated approach to research integrity at Harvard Medical School - Lessons learned
  • Ulrich Dirnagl (Center for Stroke Research Berlin, Department of Experimental Neurology, Charité)
    Why most published research findings are false: GSP to the rescue
  • John C. Galland (Director, Division of Education and Integrity, Office of Research Integrity, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Rockville MD, USA)
    Implementing and monitoring responsible conduct of research in academic medicine: The ORI experience
  • Sabine Kleinert (Senior Executive Editor, The Lancet, London, UK and Vice-Chair of COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics))
    Plagiarism, duplicate publication and text recycling
  • Hubert Rehm (Freelance Journalist, Freiburg, Germany)
    Research misconduct in the German medical system: Role of whistle blowing and investigative journalism
In the afternoon there were three sessions, one on "Teaching and implementing a culture of responsible conduct of research", one I gave with a colleague on "'GSP - Forensics': Tools and approaches to detect misconduct", and one on "Sanctioning misconduct in academic research".

The plenary sessions were held in the anatomy department in a steep lecture theater in wood with inkwells (!) [I thought all day that this would be a great place to put an electrical outlet]. Along the back row were what one participant noted was the data of the anatomists: a large collection of skulls.

My head is spinning from all the information I took in, here just a few points:
  • The USA is lightyears ahead of Germany on Good Scientific Practice. They have training courses, GSP officers, procedures, national bodies, a cool interactive movie on avoiding research misconduct, great flowcharts on what to do if you suspect scientific misconduct, info material on avoiding plagiarism, etc.
  • A national repository for original data is necessary.
  • Training and procedures for dealing with allegations must be the top priority in Germany at the moment.
  • John Galland had a cool formula for Research Excellence:

    RE = β1T + β2R + β3V +β4 C

    T = does tasks well
    R = builds strong relationships
    V = has a vision
    C = is a person of character

    The coefficients βi are between 0.0 and 1.0. He asserts that most researchers are at a RE factor of 0.8 and exhorts people to strive for 1.0 by working together.
  • Hubert Rehm talked about a number of German scandals, I didn't know all of them: Nazi doctor Sigmund Rascher (the only person ever to be shot for scientific misconduct); Bernhard S*******, called the "P*******or" by Laborjournal (link removed); Austrian incontinence researcher Hannes Strasser accused of fabricating data; Nicolai Savaskan, doctor at the Charité accused of falsifying data.
It is a great start to have so many researchers talking about good scientific praxis!

Update: On 2013-03-20 I changed the wording for the sake of clarification on the last bullet point because of a lawyer's letter. 
Update 2:  The lawyers insist that even linking to the publication that they consider to be illegal is not okay. By linking I am not assuming the position of the items I link to - I am reporting on what what was said and giving my readers the opportunity to decide for themselves. This is covered by the laws governing freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. I am not removing information because I made an error - I am making the changes clear while removing the identifying information because I do not wish to fight a legal battle on this particular issue. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Googling Baron

An interesting article by Goetz Richter about the "Googling Baron just tip of plagiarism iceberg" in The Australian:

It must be concerning for anyone to witness the abuse of universities as failing clearance houses for political impressionism. For we must realise that one important conclusion from the sad matters in Germany is the increasing inability of universities to comply with their own standards of intellectual accountability only to be shown by volunteer websites how doctoral dissertations should have been supervised or examined.