Thursday, June 13, 2013

Plagiarism Across Europe and Beyond - Day 2

I am attending (and speaking at) the IPPHEAE conference "Plagiarism across Europe and Beyond" that is on June 12-13, 2013 in Brno, Czech Republic. I will summarize the talks as far as I can. Yesterday's sessions: am - pm.

The Principle Investigator, Irene Glendinning (Coventry University), spoke about the results of the IPPHEAE project: Impact of Policies for Plagiarism in Higher Education across Europe.
The goals were to identify what is being done to combat plagiarism in HE institutions across Europe, as well as develop tools and resources for dealing with plagiarism. The digital library part of the project pulled out, but software (ANTON) was developed for identifying plagiarism, an intensive survey was conducted, and case studies were developed. They wanted to have 27 country reports finished by the conference, but they are not finished yet. They want to have recommendations for each individual country. They interviewed national and senior management in all 27 countries and obtained 5,000 anonymous responses from students. She is currently working on an "Academic Integrity Maturity Model", based on the software engineering "Capability Maturity Model" for letting a country or an institution know where they stand compared with other countries.

Findings: There are great differences between the countries and institutions, with much inconsistency in understanding the problem, policies and procedures, accountability for decision. There is both lots of good practice and lots of head-in-the-sand approach. There not a general acceptance of the need for change. Their student survey asked students if they felt they had ever plagiarized - there was quite a difference by country. They then asked students to evaluate two texts for seriousness of plagiarism - quite different results! Only Austria and Sweden collect national data on plagiarism. Students and teachers are saying that they need training and more information, but above all they want digital tools to help them - especially the students. However, the institutions feel that the tools are too expensive.

The second session was a lively debate between Jude Carroll and me. We had discussed what we wanted to do by email and decided to put it off until we were at the conference. We asked the organizers what they wanted, they just sort of said: Just do something, it will be fine. So at the evening dinner we both milled around asking people what they wanted us to discuss. That was quite interesting! Sometimes the topics just shot out of people's mouths, with everyone standing around nodding. So we decided to do this:
  • Each of us discussed the question: What drives you to take the approach you do with plagiarism?
  • Then we did a debate-like rejoinder: What are the negative consequences or danger of the other’s approach?
  • Then we planned on looking at the following topics:
    • Intent – what is it? How to prove it? what next? 
    • Being a lone voice or part of a group? 
    • Making change, real change, happen: how? 
    • What are we really dealing with – plagiarism, academic misconduct, etc.? At what point do we begin to call it plagiarism?
However, we ended up opening up the floor to debate. The discussion was lively, touching on topics such as why VroniPlag Wiki "attacks" individuals if the problem is a systemic problem, coming up with better metaphors instead of military ones, the question of plagiarism often being seen as "theft" when it is not, etc. The session was far too short, and over coffee I spoke with Teddi Fishman on the topic of the "plagiarist". At what point do we call a person a plagiarist? Can they lose this moniker at all? Is there some sort of Catholic confessional people could go to, confess their sins, do penance, and be free to continue life free of (plagiarism) sin?
I then attended the workshop of Irene Glendinning on Yes, they are all plagiarising, but what can be done to stop it?, so I missed these talks:
  • Ľuboš Lunter, Daniel Jakubík, Šimon Suchomel, Michal Brandejs (Masaryk University)
    Inter-university Cooperation on Plagiarism Detection Systems in Czech Republic
  • Eckhard Burkatzki, Joost Platj (TU Dresden - International Institute Zittau)
    Cultural differences regarding expected utilities and costs of plagiarism in high trust- and low-trust-societies - preliminary results of an international survey study
  • Aurelija Novelskaite, Raminta Pucetaite (Lithuanian Social Research Center)
    Plagiarism in Lithuanian academia: formal definition and informal attitude
    (I did pick up the last 5 minutes of this: Self-plagiarism is a major problem in Lithuanian research. People republish the same material over and over. Academia's awareness of plagiarism does not ensure self-regulation, clear formal rules and procedures for handling plagiarism cases not only with respect to students are called for.)
Irene put up a slide with examples of good practice across the EU:
  • Ten years of research in UK
  • The holistic approach in the Oxford Brookes Model
  • Focus on prevention measures, designing out plagiarism
  • Using digital tools for detection and formatively
  • The AMBeR project - standard tariff for plagiarism
  • Development of digital corpus of doctoral and master's theses in Lithuania, Slovakia, Poland
  • Pockets of researchers supporting others in Finland, Ireland, Germany, Bulgaria, UK
  • A mobile phone app to prompt students on their milestones, not just the deadlines
  • National initiatives to highlight the problem in France
  • Austria and Sweden collect statistics and have annual reporting
  • HEA Policy Works, QAA Audits, OIA poor & good case studies
  • Specialist support units for academic integrity, academic writing
  • Pre-university guidance and support
She then detailed some impediments to change:
Deciding where to begin in countries and Higher Education institutions where
  • No policies and procedures for plagiarism and academic dishonesty are implemented at present;
  • There is no appreciation of the scale and nature of student plagiarism;
  • There is a strong culture of academic autonomy;
  • Staff development is unheard of [for example, Germany];
  • Whistle-blowers on plagiarism are seen as undesirables;
  • The concept of plagiarism prevention or avoidance is not understood;
  • Accountability for decisions on student assessment is weak or absent;
  • High academic staff workload, tight deadlines, other commitments, second [third, fourth!] jobs;
  • Underinvestment in Higher Education infrastructure and resources. 
I joined a session in progress in order to listen to:
  • Julius Kravjar, Juraj Noge (Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information)
    Strategies and responses to plagiarism in Slovakia
    Slovakia started a project in 2010 to collect and examine all theses from higher education institutions for plagiarism. The theses are checked before the defense.
  • Anna Michalska (Coventry University)
    Students and staff voices on "zu Guttenberg's case" and its influence on plagiarism awareness in German HEIs
    She is from Poland and is researching plagiarism in England. During her research she was interviewing students in Germany about plagiarism, and they were all speaking about zu Guttenberg. She first explains how the online crowd-sourcing platform works. She states that Google is used as a text-matching tool [actually, Google is used for discovering sources, sim-text for text-matching]. She notes that the documentation of the plagiarisms are hard evidence. She began to investigate what the influence of these Wikis have on German society's awareness of the project. The IPPHEAE team was faced with many negative responses from potential participants in Germany. The "zu Guttenberg's case" may have been linked with the reluctance of some people to be interviewed. The German Minister of Education, Annette Schavan, refused to be interviewed by this (EU-funded) project. [Note: She stepped down shortly after when her own dissertation was determined to be a plagiarism.] There was an atmosphere of fear and intimidation that may have been created as a result of "the hunters'" actions. She was able to interview 47 students. Findings: General lack of awareness and discussion about the plagiarism problem; Increase in the number of cases; lack of policies. We are getting more precise and details about the policies that are there. Some institutions are purchasing software. There are some courses on academic writing, but we could do more. Recommendation: Universities should invest in infrastructure, give students an assignment which they cannot plagiarize, we need a national debate on the topic! They did not ask any questions about zu Guttenberg - but ALL of the respondents, teachers and students, mentioned the case. They noted that it raised public interest and awareness at an institutional level and has had a psychological effect. It is seen as a trigger for positive actions. There is now new policies about safeguarding good academic practice containing several new rules and regulations. Students said: We've learned about plagiarism from the news, not from our teachers! We don't know many plagiarism cases personally, but many nationally. Since zu Guttenberg the teachers have gotten really strict about plagiarism.
    Conclusions: The hunters have initiated a discussion about the quality of academic research and will almost certainly lead to improving standards in German Higher Education. New initatives at lower levels of education are needed.


  1. Incorrect:
    (Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technic)

    (Slovak Centre of Scientific and Technical Information)

  2. "Austria and Sweden collect statistics and have annual reporting". Interesting! Did Irene mean the annual report from ÖAWI ( here? I am not sure if we should call short descriptions of a handful cases, fully anonymous reported and with evidently no consequences for plagiarists as well as in universities a collection or even statistics.


  3. Well, it's more than other countries do ;)


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