Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Welcome BBC readers!

A warm welcome to readers who followed the link from my BBC article! Make yourselves comfortable, have a look around. I have an archive on the side as well as a tag cloud. If there are any stories you feel are missing - drop me a line and I'll see what I can do! My main focus is reporting on European stories of academic misconduct for an English-speaking audience.


  1. Hold on, there. This isn't just a German disease. I've witnessed plagiarism charges being overruled on student papers in a number of cases because of undue political correctness or external pressures on appeals committees. During 30 years in an English university, I have watched file sharing by email go alongside essay submission by mail and whole classes submitting the same copied piece of work. One Psychology undergraduate group actually copied an essay around a room of terminals while I was teaching a small group in one corner. The essays were submitted with only a name change. No submission was challenged.
    A colleague tried to stop the process and offered half or shared marks for copied work .. he was overruled by the chair of an assessment board because it would have meant many of the students having to resubmit assessments. Students were awarded minimum pass marks.
    In the United States, postgraduate students commonly fund their studies by writing and selling A/B grade essays to wealthy undergraduates ... note the structural inequality being built into the system. I've equally witnessed German doctoral students sweating over oral examinations of their dissertations for fear of the panel finding minor mistakes ... so it does not apply to all students or all universities. It is a more matter of complacency in certain universities where they believe themselves to be above simple rules and regulations or standards of practice. Bit like banks and bankers?

  2. Oddly enough, I spent today writing an article 'How to cite, quote and reference' to be distributed to students at the beginning of the autumn term in the college where I am an IT lecturer. I believe that a lot of people have never been taught correct referencing procedures - indeed my 15-year-old daughter came home from school having been directed to 'copy and paste' from the Internet (and when she went back with piece of work in her own words and referenced she was told off for not following instructions!) - and that the 'innocent mistakes' can be differentiated from deliberate plagiarism if students know what they ought to be doing.

    The article is here: - guest access is enabled.

    1. Seems very odd to me that someone was told in school to cut & paste, unless, of course, the teacher intended following it up with a session in class helping the students to extract meaning etc., & wanted to know what the original sources were (esp. if the classroom didn't have live internet for the lesson concerned)

  3. When I raised the serious level of plagiarism as conducted by our students my fellow lecturers tend to sigh that "That is part of Generation internet." Management reacted by buying software.

    So I checked with the pedagogy department. They say that students are knowingly plagiarising. After all, in the introduction week of our 4-year course, there is 1 session on avoiding plagiarism.

    However: during my lectures I paid clear attention to mentioning my sources. Durign tutorials, I coached my students on writing papers, paying specific attention to this issue.

    Still 4 out of 25 students kept missing the point. There papers simply copied from the internet. They failed and where given a second chance - but only after I had personal conversation with each of them.

    They agreed with met that they were entitled do high quality education. That they don't want to jeopardize their diploma's. That each of us (student and lecturer) must team up, because in case of inspection each of us must be able to defend that the paper is top-notch. They became interested in finding out the rules of the game: how to make a professional paper.

    Their re-writes were excellent.

    The key at our school was less that students should have low standards. More importantly, our college staff was lazy (not training students properly on 'how-to-do', rather letting cheating students pass), amateuristic (not even noticing plagiarism), and cynical abut the qualities of our youngsters.

    Blame it all on the students - the good old fundamental attribution error.

  4. Coming from the Romanian prime-minister case (the one I know about), I think academics should definitively do more. I'm not making up excuses for the guy. But, he did mentioned the papers he copied from in the list of references at the end of the paper. That, of course, only makes it worse.
    However, it should also make it easier to detect. I believe there should be consequences also for the university professors that awarded him the PhD. I still believe that when you get a PhD, somebody should at least read your paper and the references. Or at least some software should do it, if the professors are too busy to care. Since I'm not in academia, is that too much to ask?

  5. I taught 6th grade science last year. I detected (very easily) 16 cases of plagiarism throughout the school year. One student plagiarized twice.

    I was the only 6th grade teacher motivating students to research and cite properly. I think that these students will not get another opportunity to do this until 8th grade (in "Study Skills").

    This has been the worst I've seen in 15 years of teaching.

  6. Great article, but I wondered about its first sentence. You said: "A spectre is haunting Europe, and this time it is the spectre of plagiarism and scientific misconduct.". However, how many of these European examples actually involve doctorates in the hard sciences? The high profile examples I have read about are in law and the social sciences, but perhaps there are lower profile cases in the hard sciences?

    1. Hi Anonymous,
      the VroniPlag Wiki has a table at 10 in law, 6 in Humanities, 4 cases in medicine, 3 engineering, 2 political science, 1 theology, 1 business, 1 computer science. The hard sciences are well-represented in the retractions of papers that are so nicely documented over at retraction watch (see the link in the sidebar). It is endemic, in all fields and at all universities. Until the universities take action instead of sweeping things under the carpet, I assume that more and more cases will be documented.

  7. There are lies, damned lies, and university essays and theses.


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