Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TU Berlin happy with 32% text parallel

The TU Berlin announced on Jan 18, 2013 that it is not rescinding the doctorate of Jürgen Goldschmidt, FDP mayor of the town of Forst. VroniPlag Wiki documented this dissertation as case #9 and publicized it on July 30, 2011.  Since then there has been little public discussion about the case.

Wikipedia definitionscopy & paste pages, minor changes with reference on the next page, blocks of text from a publication of one of the graders, quoting from dubious sources (the news; an unspecified radio program; a popular magazine) -- this would be quite a good example for the different kinds of plagiarism that can be found, except that the TU Berlin does not find fault with the thesis. A translation of part of the announcement:
The dissertation committee has come to the conclusion that the scientific quality of the dissertation of Dr. Goldschmidt cannot be disputed. Thus, one of the most important requirements for conferring the academic grade is still in place. In addition, there is no evidence of intent to deceive.  There are, however, shortcomings in the quotation style. These do not affect the originality of the scientific effort. The TU Berlin imposes the condition on Dr. Goldschmidt, within a specific time-limit to resubmit his dissertation unchanged, but with a correct quotation style.
I wrote to the press secretary and the president to find out what this time-limit is and what officials will make sure that it is handed in and who will check if he fixed all of the errors. Although, on second though, I don't know how one can actually submit something unchanged, but with correct (i.e. changed) quotation style. I also wonder if this now means that all of the TU Berlin students who are caught plagiarizing get a second shot at doing it right? No answer yet, I suppose they were hoping this would get drowned in the noise concerning the Schavan dissertation.

As with all the other dissertations that have not been rescinded -- I expect an expertise to be published explaining for each individual fragment why it is not considered plagiarism. There are 206 fragments documented for Goldschmidt. 

Düsseldorf University to open formal revocation investigation

After an almost six-hour-long meeting behind closed doors, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Düsseldorf voted to open formal revocation proceedings on the dissertation of Annette Schavan, the current German Minister of Education and Research, as noted in a press release issued this evening. Since so many people are interested in this topic world-wide, I am translating it to English here:
In May 2012 a public allegation was raised that the doctoral thesis of Prof. Dr. Schavan contained plagiarism.  If we as a faculty find substantial evidence of  scientific misconduct, we must pursue it vigorously -regardless of the person involved or their social position. There is no legal statute of limitations on such cases.

The Faculty of Arts and Humanities must then determine if the doctorate was correctly granted at the time it was granted.

As part of the process, the doctoral committee of the Faculty of Arts and Humanities conducted a preliminary investigation. They examined Schavan's written thesis and obtained a statement from her on the situation.

Based on the recommendation of the doctoral committee, I [the dean,
Bruno Bleckmann] presented the question to the Faculty Board at today's meeting as to whether or not we should proceed with a formal revocation investigation.

The Faculty Board discussed all of the issues raised during the preliminary investigation in detail today. They voted by secret ballot with 14 votes in favor and one abstention to open a formal revocation investigation. 

In the coming weeks, the members of the Faculty Board will intensively deal with the documents prepared by the doctoral committee and the statement from the person in question. The next meeting of the Faculty Board is set for February 5, at which time the continuation of the revocation investigation will be on the agenda. 

I want to emphasize that the process is still open-ended at this point.

For this reason I ask for your understanding that this statement, which details the current status and procedures, is all the information that I can provide at the present time.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Multiple Retractions of Articles by Computer Science Professor

VroniPlag Wiki case #23 was the dissertation in computer science of Nasrullah Memon, who is currently a professor at the University of South Denmark. The dissertation was submitted to the Danish University of Aalborg in 2007. VroniPlag Wiki documented extensive plagiarism not only in the dissertation (64 % of the pages), but also in many publications involving Memon. The publishers IEEE and Springer were informed of the problems.

IEEE has now retracted eight papers involving Memon, seven of them on the basis of the VroniPlag Wiki documentation:
  1. "Detecting New Trends in Terrorist Networks," by Uffe Kock Wiil, Nasrullah Memon, and Panagiotis Karampelas in the Proceedings of the 2010 International Conference on Advances in Social Networks Analysis and Mining (ASONAM), August 2010, pp. 435-440 is a plagiarism of "Social Network Analysis and Information Fusion for AntiTerrorism" by Pontus Svenson, Per Svensson, and Hugo Tullberg in the Proceedings of the 2006 Conference on Civil and Military Readiness (CIMI), May 2006 and Data Mining: Concepts and Techniques (second edition),
    by Jiawei Han and Micheline Kamber, Morgan Kaufmann, Elsevier, 2006. The lead author, Nasrullah Memon, was found to be solely responsible for the violation.
  2. "Detecting High-Value Individuals in Covert Networks: 7/7 London Bombing Case Study," by Nasrullah Memon, N. Harkiolakis, and David L. Hicks in the Proceedings of the IEEE/ACS International Conference on Computer Systems and Applications, 2008, pp. 206-215.
  3. "Detecting Key Players in 11-M Terrorist Network: A Case Study," by Nasrullah Memon and David L. Hicks in the Proceedings of the Third International Conference on Availability, Reliability and Security, 2008, pp. 1254-1259.
  4. "Practical Algorithms and Mathematical Models for Destabilizing Terrorist Networks," by Nasrullah Memon, David L. Hicks, Dil Muhammad Akbar Hussain, and Hendrik Legind Larsen, in Military Communications Conference, MILCOM 2007  is a plagiarism of "Untangling Criminal Networks: A Case Study" by Jennifer Xu, Hsinchun Chen in Proceedings of the First NSF/NIJ Symposium Intelligence and Security Informatics, ISI, June 2003 and "The Exploratory Construction of Database Views"  by M. N. Smith, P. J. H. King, Research Report BBKCS, School of Computer Science and Information Systems, Birbeck College, University of London, 2002. The lead author, Nasrullah Memon, was found to be solely responsible for the violation.
  5. "Harvesting Terrorists Information from Web," by Nasrullah Memon, David L. Hicks, and Hendrik Legind Larsen, in the Proceedings of the 11th International Conference Information Visualization (IV'07), 2007, pp. 664 - 671 
  6. "Detecting Critical Regions in Covert Networks: A Case Study of 9/11 Terrorists Network," Nasrullah Memon, K. C. Kristoffersen, David L. Hicks, and Hendrik Legind Larsen, in the Proceedings of the Second International Conference on  Availability, Reliability and Security, (ARES 2007), 2007, pp. 861-870 is a plagiarism of "Clique Relaxations in Social Network Analysis: The Maximum k-plex Problem" by B. Balasundaram, S. Butenko, I. V. Hicks, S. Sachdeva
    Posted online, January 2006 and "Network Analysis of Knowledge Construction in Asynchronous Learning Networks" by Aviv, Reuven; Erlich, Zippy; Ravid, Gilad; Geva, Aviva in the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks, Vol 7, No 3, 2003
  7. "Practical Approaches for Analysis, Visualization and Destabilizing Terrorist Networks," by Nasrullah Memon and Hendrik Legind Larsen in the Proceedings of the First International Conference on Availability, Reliability and Security (ARES’06), 2006, pp. 8xx - 913 is a plagiarism of the same sources as number 4.
  8. "Novel Algorithms for Subgroup Detection in Terrorist Networks," by Nasrullah Memon, A. R. Qureshi,  Uffe Kock Wiil,  and David L. Hicks in the Proceedings of the International Conference on Availability, Reliability and Security (ARES '09), 2009,  pp. 572-577 is a plagiarism of "Balancing Systematic and Flexible Exploration of Social Networks" by Adam Perer, Ben Shneiderman in the IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics, Vol. 12, No. 5 Sept/Oct 2006, pp. 693-700 and "Mining for Offender Group Detection and Story of a Police Operation" by Fatih Ozgul, Julian Bondy, Hakan Aksoy in the Proceedings of the Sixth Australasian Data Mining Conference (AusDM 2007), Gold Coast, Australia. Conferences in Research and Practice in Information Technology (CRPIT), Vol. 70, December 2007, pp. 185-189 and Smith and King from number 4 above.
Searching the IEEE database there are, however, 133 papers by Memon, and of course many more involving the co-authors, some of whom are prestigious Danish professors. The VroniPlag Wiki documentation also lists papers published by Springer, as well as dubious conferences and/or publishers such as WSEAS, Inderscience, or Worldcomp. Springer says that they are still investigating.

When interviewed by the Danish weekly newspaper Weekendavisen in May 2012, Memon had insinuated that dark powers had manipulated his thesis in order to discredit him. However in the face of the documented plagiarism in many other papers, it seems that a more detailed investigation into his publications needs to be mounted. The problem is, who will take action? Who has the time? It took over six months for IEEE to withdraw the publications after the plagiarism was clearly documented on VroniPlag Wiki. At least IEEE has a procedure for dealing with allegations, but it seems to take far too long, in particular because these papers have been cited, and not only in self-citations.

When will the University of Aalborg take action? Hicks, Wiil, and Larson are professors there. Hendrik Legind Larsen and Hsinchun Chen (the author of a work that was plagiarized in number 4) were members of Memon's doctoral thesis committee.When will the University of South Denmark look into the situation? Memon is advising doctoral students there, organized a conference on counterterrorism in Odense, and is a journal editor. Do the retractions have any consequences at his university?

According the the IEEE policy on good scientific practice,  a level 1 violation means that > 50 % of the paper is plagiarized, resulting in a retraction notice being printed and the authors banned for 3-5 years from publishing in any IEEE publication. It seems that more than one of the papers retracted are level 1 violations. Will the publication ban be consecutive? That is, if there are 3 level 1 violations, will Memon be banned from publishing for 15 years?

I am glad that IEEE has finally taken action (and there are over 500 notices of retraction in the IEEE database). But there are so many questions raised that I fear will not be answered.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

2013 is off to a bad start

Happy 2013! Here are some brief notes:

  • The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting piece, "When a Mentor becomes a Thief" on the problem of advisors publishing the research of their students -- and of students not understanding that sometimes what they think they "discovered" has actually been in work at the lab for quite sometime. "The solution, then, is clear: Everyone needs to start talking."
  • A blog criticizing evidence-based medicine states that 90% of peer-reviewed clinical research is completely false. There is a whiff of back-to-the-roots-heal-thyself in the article, but there are many links to John P. A Ioannidis' work on false research.
  • VroniPlag Wiki has published cases #38 (dentistry, Gießen), #39 (business computing, Heidelberg), and #40 (law, Würzburg). People had lots of time over the holidays. #39 really takes the cake - it appears to incorporate lots of term papers from a German public paper mill, word for word. 
  • The Thüringer Landeszeitung published a rather tongue-in-cheek article about Goethe and his "plagiarized" dissertation.
  • The FAZ ran an article on plagiarizing professors.
  • Bogus conferences listed more IEEE conferences.
  • The blog Science Fraud has had to shut down pending legal action. How are we to be able to discuss bogus science if the accused pull legal tricks to keep people from protesting? Of course, this makes it clear that they have hit a nerve somewhere. I hope they are able to sort this out and keep publishing.