Wednesday, December 14, 2022

Plagiarism scandal at the University of St. Gallen

The Neue Züricher Zeitung (NZZ) started the ball rolling on October 9, 2022 (p. 23) with an article in the printed newspaper about plagiarism accusations concerning a business school professor at the prestigious University of St. Gallen (HSG). A Titularprofessor (that is, a person who has sucessfully submitted their habilitation—the second doctorate—, but without tenure and often without a salary) was accused of plagiarism in his dissertation that had been submitted to the TU Darmstadt in Germany. The NZZ had requested that Stefan Weber investigate the thesis, he later published some of his findings on his blog, Plagiatsgutachten. The TU Darmstadt has been deliberating since February 2022 about the case. 

The professor, currently in charge of an institute at the HSG, had faced similar charges about his habilitation submitted to the HSG. Students had found the text similarity and informed the university back in August 2021, but an investigative committee did not find academic misconduct. 

Early in December 2022 more issues turned up. The professor lists over 400 publications to his name, but as the St. Galler Tagblatt/Appenzeller Zeitung reported on December 5, 2022 (p. 21), quite a number of the publications that have the professor as first author are acutally theses by HSG students. The AZ contacted a number of these students for comments. One noted that he found it strange that the professor was so insistant on publishing his master's thesis, and was irritated that the professor's name was on it, although it was completely the student's own thesis. 

The AZ manged to obtain a dozen theses that they could compare with the professor's publications. Indeed, they were practically the same. 

According to the ethical codex of the HSG, this is not permissible. Students are not to be ghostwriters for professors. Interviewed professors from the HSG who did not want to be named, noted that this might be typical, as the number of publications is used as an indicator of researcher quality, but that it was a very questionable practice. The professor was unavailable for comment.

On December 7 the St. Galler Tagblatt interviewed some students on p. 18 and quoted the rector as saying the similarity between the dissertation and the habilitation of the professor was not as extensive as the lawyer who was representing the students had stated in August 2021. He also stated that the external examiners had found no plagiarism at all. 

And of course, by now all the rest of the media in Switzerland was banging on about the story.

On December 9, the St. Galler Tagblatt included not only a front-page article, but also a large report on p. 22 and two letters-to-the-editor on p. 33. They had interviewed Stefan Weber, and the rector of the HSG had published an article on its home page in the form of an interview. The rector noted that they had looked at the habiliation and even used Turnitin, but of course since it was a cumulative habiliation there was much similarity found to the original papers. 

On December 10 the rector was interviewed by the St. Galler Tagblatt and admitted that he had himself not even looked at the habilitation, and tried to excuse not having contacted the students who got the ball rolling because he didn't know who the students were. But he now wanted to speak to Weber. A lawyer for the students later noted that their names of the students where of course known, something the rector later had to concede was correct, as letters existed showing that the names were, indeed known. The lawyer noted that the case would have to be investigated even if the names were not known.

Things get really wild on December 12: Another professor at the HSG who had advised the first professor during his habilitation and had himself done his first and second doctorate in Darmstadt, wrote a threatening letter to students of the HSG. The letter, appearing to speak for the university, threatened the students. They must stop talking to the press or they will face civil and criminal lawsuits. Of course, this letter made it to the newspaper and it now appears to be an all-reporters-on-deck case. The St. Galler Tagblatt dug up an IT consultancy company that lists both professors as members of the board. Both have published papers together, including ones that were part of the habilitation at the HSG, meaning that the one professor should not have been the advisor for the habilitation of the other, as he can be considered to be biased. The NZZ dug up another company that appears to have diverted funds from the HSG into the company's account.   

The university held a public meeting on December 12 with students, staff, and administrators. The students are angry, because when their work is found to have plagiarism in it, they are harshly punished. The rector makes it clear that the university will not try to keep people from speaking to the press. He promised to make progress on clearing up all the issues as fast as possible, but warns that it won't be before Christmas. 

I can barely keep up with all the news. The NZZ published a summary of the situation today, December 14, including references to all sorts of scandals the HSG has had in the past years: copy&paste in reports about theses, fudged expenses, professors having to step down from company boards because of scandals there, market manipulations, and an instructor convicted for economic crimes. We'll see how this spins out!

Thursday, December 1, 2022

Plagiarism Discussion in Luxembourg

On November 23, 2022 there was a discussion in the Luxembourg National Library about plagiarism that was filmed and is available online. The discussion is in German. 

Diskussion: Plagiate in der Wissenschaft (with Dr. Jochen Zenthöfer, Prof. Dr. Martin Stierle, Dr. Henning Marmulla)

Jochen Zenthöfer is a journalist and recently published a book in German, Plagiate in der Wissenschaft – Wie VroniPlag Wiki Betrug in Doktorarbeiten aufdeckt in transcript-Verlag.

Thursday, May 26, 2022

ECAIP 2022, Day 3

And now to conclude the conference! Unfortunately, I had THREE things booked for today, the conference and two others. Luckily, a friend took over one and I was able to do one via Zoom (having to get up early, as the 8:30 meeting started at 7:30 local time). I was able to use the internet at the Porto university, and then join up with the conference a little later.

Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3

I missed the keynote by Elisabeth Bik, "The Dark Side of Science: Misconduct in Biomedical Research". I've heard her a number of times, her talks are always fascinating (and scary when you see how much research misconduct she is uncovering - imagine how much more is out there that she does not see.

The next talk I attended was by Thomas Lancaster on "Artificial Intelligence Led Threats To Academic Integrity." He casually demonstrated text generators, even a scientific literature review generator and an image and slide generator. With all of this out there (and used and the papers accepted by predatory publishers) we need to see that there is a big threat to scientific integrity out there for which we have absolutely no idea what to do about it.

Suraj Ajit (University of Northhampton) was to be speaking on "A rule-based decision support system for detecting, reporting, and substantiating contract cheating within assignments in computing courses in UK Higher Education" with an emphasis on computer science assignments. However, he used most of his time to tell us about the processes at his university for dealing with academic misconduct. At an academic integrity conference (as opposed to an introductory course for teacher) one can assume that people know about this. So he didn't have time to actually speak about his work, other than flashing a few decision tables that I didn't have time to read. He has unfortunately not posted his slides on the Sched site for the conference, so I was unable to read them later. 

Rafael Ball (Director of the ETH Library and Collections) then spoke on "Awareness Mentality and Strategic Behaviour in Scientific Publishing and Dissemination." He bemoaned a percieved shift in academic behavior from "being good" to "looking good" in bibliometrics and altmetrics. The awareness mentality deals with the strategic behavior of scientists and publishers: Scientists focus on career building, awarding, funding, while publishers focus on competition, having high rejection rates, and of course high spectacularity. He has noted that more and more article titles are ending with a question mark :) External goals are pre-empting scientific goals. He asks if publishing a translation of a paper is self-plagiarism, or if publishing with a slight shift in focus is an unnecessary second publication? 

Beatriz Antonieta Moya and Alex Paquette (University of Calgary) spoke about "Graduate students' reflections as partners of academic integrity advocacy during Covid-19" (Slides). In the past, grad students were not part of the Academic Integrity Week, but their mentor Sarah Elaine Eaton got them interested. They have a number of things they started like academic integrity trivia quizzes each day on Instagram or live session AMA with Sarah. 

Kelley Packalen (Queen's University) spoke on "What’s the Harm? The Professor Will Never Know: Understanding How Students Justify Participating in the “Grey Areas” of Academic Integrity." She and Kate Rowbotham looked at three research questions:

  1. Under which scenarios do students determine it is permissible to engage in specific trivial and common violations of academic integrity? 
  2. Is there a slippery slope effect as related to violations of academic integrity? 
  3. What explanations do students use to justify violating academic integrity in general?

They determined that there is a slippery slope effect, and deduce the following practical implications that are similar to what is used to discourage students from binge drinking:

  1. Share your thinking with students.
  2. Debunk myths that everyone is cheating.
  3. Reframe the choice as a moral decision instead of a business decision.

Erja Moore closed the session with "Internationalisation of higher education in Finland – A challenge for integrity in academic writing at Master’s level." She chose 28 Finnish Master's theses in English, 1 % of the 2020 Master's theses and 15 % of the master's theses in 2020 and gave them a close read. They varied in length from 23-101 pages, the reference lists were between 2 and 11 pages. She found a lot of problems in the theses: no written methodology, no in-text references, pseudoreferences, invented sources, inappropriate sources, etc. 

The conference closed with a keynote by Teddi Fishman "How we Succeed? Goals, Metrics, and Successes for Academic Integrity Initiatives in a Post-Covid, "PostTruth" World." In order to have some fun, Sonja Bjelobaba inserted random slides into her slide deck. Teddi asked us how we define "success" and in particular if our methods are valid, reliable, attainable and useful. We have to conclude that we are using data that is deeply flawed. We don't know how many students are cheating, we only know what we catch! We are in the post-truth era already (nicely illustrated with a a shop selling "Genuine Fake Watches). She introduced us to the "Overton Window", the idea that leaders are limited to those possibilities that already enjoy popular support. In effect, we have moved from stocks and pillories through shunning and public flogging to restorative justice in many areas. In academic integrity we are stuck in point penalties, revocation of degrees, loss of position or prestege, or demotion. Restorative justice is not quite inside the window yet. A random slide of Teddi in a Flying Spaghetti Monster costume got us off topic a bit, but she steered us back to some food for thought:

  • To what extent have we shown sufficient transparency and accountabilitiy in our research practices so that the public can have faith in our outputs?
  • Students who learn about knowledge production in concert with integrity become researchers with greater appreciation for integrity, who become supervisors of integrity.
  • How do we bring about institutional as well as societal change? From the ground up!   

And then we had the closing ceremony! A large group of (male) medical students in traditional Porto garb and traditional instruments serenaded us and Laura Ribeiro, the organizer of the conference, including some spectacular gymnastics:

The next conference will be in June 2023 in Derby, UK, organized by Shiva Sivasubramaniam under the motto "Reflecting the Past for Reforming the Future".

Thursday, May 19, 2022

ECAIP2022, Day 2

Day 1 - Day 2 - Day 3

And on to the second day of the conference!

The day began with a keynote speech by Ana Marušić, "Challenges in publishing ethics and integrity" Ana is a professor at the University of Split School of Medicine, Croatia,
Co-editor-in-chief, Journal of Global Health, a COPE council member, and President of The Embassy of Good Science Foundation. Coming from the standpoint of a journal editor she discussed research and publishing ethics, noting that there is a spectrum, from honest error over poor reporting to outright fraud (detrimental research practices). She first ran us through the history of journals, from the first journal, Journal des sçavans in 1665. She noted that the concept of peer review didn't appear until the middle of the 18th century, and Nature didn't even start until the 1950s! She had a good SWOT analysis of the challenges that editors face:

The main challenges of today are: dealing with image manipulations, correcting articles with honest errors, sorting out pre-prints, and trying to avoid paper mills and predatory publishers. 

Her summary is: Quality assurance in editing is the key to responsible publishing!

I then attended the workshop on "Coming Clean – Addressing the Issues Where a Student Self Declares Contract Cheating" with Thomas Lancaster, Michael Draper, Sandie Dann, Robin Crockett, and Irene Glendinning. I liked that they explicitly asked for consent to record the session, as they want to have input from the audience. Contract cheating represents choosing the wrong path - what if a student wants to come clean? The information that we provide to students should highlight and detail the whistleblowing processes and the support that is available to them, should they wish to admit to having cheated using contract cheating. Some cheating companies attemt to blackmail the students, say that they will tell the university if they don't pay more for the services used. There was a good discussion about the appropriate level of penalty that should be assessed in this situation. Teddi Fishman made it clear that there should be a path towards amnesty, with a focus on retributive or restorative justice. Others felt that there should be no credit given for contract cheating. Mike Reddy spoke about the 4 Cs: Conscious copying of content/concepts for credit. If they do not submit, it is not a crime. The lack of any one of the Cs is just poor academic practice, he thinks. 

Then we had a plenary session with a panel discussion (sponsored by Turnitin) moderated by Sonja Bjelobaba:

  • Andreas Ohlson (Turnitin, former head of Urkund and Ouriginal, from Sweden)
  • Tomáš Foltýnek (Researcher, ENAI president), from Brünn, in the Czech Republic 
  • Martine Peters (Prevention researcher, professor), from Québec, Canada
  • Katrīna Sproģe (European students union), from Latvia

KS noted that not all students have access to Turnitin. I realize that students want this, because they are afraid of plagiarizing by "mistake", but this won't help. They will rewrite to the number the software spits out (and really, really needs to lose!), but their writing won't be better. She also noted that students often translate texts they find online, and indeed, our 2020 test showed, that translation is in general not found by such systems.

TF (who let the 2020 test effort mentioned above) noted that even German to English cases are being found, so it is not just non-English languages that are being used. He criticized the interface that spits out a number that people take to be the decision. He also noted that with Turnitin buying up/out all the good competition, we are losing the competition. Each system finds different plagiarism, so it was better when we had more choice.

AO asked where the market will be in 5-10 years. He feels the consolidation is important, as it is easier to try new things if you are part of a larger company. The company has lots of discussions and research going on, in particular about how to use text-matching software in education? [The Times Higher Education reported on his comments in detail.]

MP suggested using the tool with the student in front of the student.

TF noted that so many universities have policies that are quite different, and many use the number reported by Turitin as a discriminator. There can be many reasons why there is a lot of text match (for example, the student submitted text earlier), there are tables, illustrations, etc. Not every plagiarism is detectable as a text match. He noted that paraphrasing tools are getting better and better, how do we deal with this?

AO admits that if you look at a single document, it is hard to do. But he notes that Turnitin are looking at the issue. One key is that we could compare with the same student's work over time. So if universities use our solution for everything a student does, they can see when the style changes. [But we WANT the students to change their writing style to become more academic in their writing! -- dww]

MP notes that we often don't even bother teaching referencing at universities, we focus just on the number.

KS wants the playing field to be more level. Students need an understanding of what the teachers expect and the teachers must understand what the students know. Who is the person you are teaching? Why are you teaching this material?

Thomas Lancaster from the audience asked "What answers are most different to the ones being given 10 years ago?"

MP: We as educators did not reflect as much on our role in plagiarism detection and prevention. We just blamed students. Now we look more at our role, it is a rude awakening.

KS: I wasn't a student 10 years ago :)  but we are involved in the discussion now.

TF: There has been a huge shift from the technological point of view to pedagogical approaches. From "What do we do when we discover plagiarism?"  to how to prevent plagiarism.

AO: Percentages :)

And then we had to hurry to the hotel to drop our stuff, and we were off for a bus tour of the city, a port wine tasting, and dinner. Tomáš and Dita had this nice picture of Elisabeth Bik and myself standing with them taken while we were waiting.

Monday, May 16, 2022

ECAIP 2022, Day 1

After two years of virtual conferences (2020, 2021), we are back in person in Porto, Portugal - with the talks of the European Conference on Academic Integrity and Plagiarism being broadcast so that people can attend at a distance. How wonderful it is to see people!! I can't help hugging people I've know for more than a decade and haven't seen in person since 2019 or earlier. And wow, I'm not the only person from Germany here, there is someone from the University of Constance. And wonderful technology: The European wireless network eduroam works seamlessly here! But there are no desks in the auditorium, that makes it a bit hard to organize one's work. I will report on the talks that I attended. 

The book of abstracts and the final program are on the general conference web site. I was goint to post this during the conference, but I ended up with no free time and spent Saturday enjoying Porto and Sunday returning home (with sore calf muscles from all those steep streets). So I will try and get this out as soon as possible.

Day 1 -- Day 2 -- Day 3 

The conference was opened with a keynote speech by Daniele Fanelli, (Fellow, London School of Economics and Political Science) "Research integrity in a complex world". Among other publications, Daniele is the author of "How many scientists fabricate and falsify Research? A systematic review and Meta-Analysis of survey data" from 2009. He dove right into the question of complexity and how we can go about actually measuring complexity. In a nutshell, the more "moving parts" a topic has, the complexer it gets, and the more complex a system is, the more prone it is to questionable research practices (QRP). And the more QRPs, the more there is a possibility of research integrity problems. One of the big questions is the irreproducability crisis, which he tried to boil down to a mathematical formula that I think very few understood. He closed looking at various factors and concluding that we really don't know exactly, but his formula is an attempt to get a handle on it. It was a great start, as discussions of complexity ran throughout the discussions during the rest of the conference. In the first breakout session I attended 3 talks:

  • Patrick Juola from Duquense University in Pittsburgh, PA, USA (and that is pronounced "do-cane", I come from that neck of the woods!) created a controlled test corpus for looking at text overlap by having 91 participants write two short texts: One on how to get from A to B on a map and one on how to make lemonade. He then used the Jaccard similarity coefficient to calculate how many words the text had in common pairwise: 0.0 means no words in common, 1.0 all words. The average similarity was only 0.21 +/- 0.07 for Map and 0.19 +/- 0.07 for Lemon (thus the name of the corpus, MapLemon). We giggled at one of the outliers that described making lemonade without using the words "lemon", "sugar", or "water": The author just wrote: Go to the store and buy it. This provides empirical evidence that even people writing on the same topic will use different words, because they are using their own voice. He want to replicate this for other languages and additional topics. 
  • Tutku Sultan Budak-Özalp from the Canakkale Onsekiz Mart University in Turkey looked at perceptions towards academic integrity in English as a Foreign Language teachers. She interviewed 25 Turkish EFL (we tend to call it ESL, English as a Second Language) instructors in an online survey with 39 questions. Unfortunately, she was presenting at a distance and we hadn't yet figured out how to make the PowerPoint slides larger (Zoom and PowerPoint don't play nicely together), so I was unable to read the results. She said in summary that the teachers are knowledgable about academic integrity, but there is not yet a nationwide policy, although the Higher Education Council in Turkey is working on one.
  • Pegi Pavletić and other students from the European Students' Union presented about the work of students in the area of academic integrity. As Teddi Fishman, the chair of the session noted: There should be "no talks about us without us!" It was great to hear that students are getting active! The ESU is an organization of 45 student unions from 40 countries, in Ireland the National Academic Integrity Network (NAIN) has 13 student members among their 92 and has published guidelines, Croatia is dealing with a number of academic freedom issues. These students want to serve as ombuds, go-betweens between students and the various decision-making bodies. But there are so many different forms of decision making bodies at universities that the concept rather becomes an enigma. 

Lunch was awesome, the medical school in Porto has a dining room with linens, cutlery, and wine glasses laid out. They had three buffets, salad, main course, and dessert, although without signs it was hard to determine what was vegetarian. The lentil salad turned out to have chicken in it, and there was ham mixed into the noodles, but one managed and the food was delicious. I turned down the wine, however, until the last day. Without a siesta after lunch it would be difficult to not fall asleep during the afternoon sessions, and I didn't want that.  

  • Zeenath Reza Khan, Sreejith Balasubramanian, and Ajrina Hysaj spoke on "Using the IEPAR Framework - a workshop to build a culture of integrity in higher education". They have started the Centre for Academic Integrity in the United Arab Republic. IEPAR stands for "Inspiration, Education, Pedagogical Consideration, Assessment Design, Response and Restorative Practice". They are focusing on prevention instead of policing and sanctioning.
  • One of Thomas Lancaster's students, Pundao Lertratkosum, wrote their thesis on "Contract Cheating Marketing in Thailand". The question was whether or not there is marketing going on in non-English-speaking countries for contract cheating. The answer is a sad and resounding: yes! They looked at various social media and found lots of marketing, even videos that try to make it sound normal to use such services. The transactions themselves are then often conducted by messenger, the essays were asked for in Thai, English or Mandarin. The typical advertised price for a 1000-word essay in Thai: $80 to $140 US dollars. There are serious risks to students, who for example post receipts on Twitter, testamonials. They can be reverse-engineered and blackmailed. Thailand closely mirrors other countries with there being offers even for exam impersonation and admissions fraud. Even though this is a localized market (because most of the papers are written in Thai), we need to look to see how we deal with this normalization of cheating.
  • The talk on "Contract Cheating in Lithuania" by Simona Vaškevičiūtė and Eglė Ozolinčiūtė was unfortunately quite short, as Zoom seemed to be misbehaving. We eventually solved the problem: when telling people to "share their slides" they would share only PowerPoint, not their screens. We would only see the last slide they had open, while they saw the current slide on their screens. Orally they spoke about visiting various web sites every day for one month and copying the advertisements found there. In particular they found that the advertising focusses visually on achievements with photos showing people reading, writing, or wearing a cap & gown.
  • The session ended with a shocking talk by Anna Abalkina on "Publication and collaboration anomalies in academic papers originating from a paper mill: evidence from a Russia-based paper mill." She, too, had issues with Zoom, but we managed to get it sorted out. The organization "International Publisher LLC" is no longer just Russia-based, they have clients are all over the world. It published papers online, and then sells additional authorships, first author is more expensive than somewhere in the middle. She looked at 1000 paper offers and found 441 that had been published online.  There were some 800 authors that could be identified from >300 universities in 39 countries. 152 of the journals appeard to be authentic and 3 so-called hijacked journals. In all, more than 6000 co-authorships slots appear to have been sold. She contacted many editors, only to be brushed off with statements like "We have strict peer review!" For an additional price, a city could be inserted into the abstract to localize the paper. Most of the authors were from Russia, but there were also authors from Kazakhstan, China, Ukraine, UAE, Azerbajan, Uzbekistan, UK, Israel, Vietnam, Egypt, Jordan, Spain, ..... Most of the purchased authorships were first authors. She calculates this to bring the company more than 6 million dollars in 3 years. So there are many problems in publishing that have not yet been discovered. The journals' (non)reactions to information about what appears to have happened is a serious challenge for academic integrity.

The next session I attended was more about technical tools for dealing with academic integrity questions.

  • First off was Clare Johnson (working with Ross Davies and Mike Reddy) with her tool Clarify. It can be used to do forensic research on Word documents, as Word stores a lot of metadata in the saved version. There is information about formating, revisions, cropped images and sources and so on that are compressed, as it were, in the document. So this tool decompresses that and looks to see if it appears to have genuinely been written over a period of time, or if just one big copy & paste action put in all the text. She visualizes the text runs, i.e. the text that was inserted at one time. She showed us some examples. I really want to give this a test-drive, but have been unable to find it online. I have written to Clare to ask her if she can please let me have a copy of the tool.
  • Evgeny Finogeev from the Russian company Antiplagiat spoke about "Image reuse detection in large-scale document scientific collection." It was made clear that this paper had been accepted before the war, and that sponsorship money that Antiplagiat had paid for the conference was being donated to a Ukrainian relief charity. They were not allowed to advertise at the conference, only present the academic paper. They took 1.9 million papers from the DOAJ, extracted the images, classified them, vectorized them and used a Siamese neural network to try and identify images that had been reused. The neural network identified 43 000 cases, 4051 of these were checked by hand. Most of them were self-reuse, very little correct re-use.  Possible plagiarism was found in 8 cases, possible falsification in 11, there was permission to use the images in 4, 93 were paper copies, the rest were no problem. I objected to them using the "Lena" image from Playboy for their presentation, they did not seem to understand that we are trying to convince people to no longer use this image
  • Finally, Christopher Nitta (UC Davis) spoke on "Detecting Potential Academic Misconduct in Canvas Quizzes." The learning management system Canvas has an API that can be used, and a Python library (canvasapi) that makes use of the API. The problem is that the lock-down browser doesn't work with Linux, which many students use. [my solution is to devise exams that use the entire internet - after all, at work they can Google... -- dww]
    Their solution tries to identify potential misconduct and highlights these exams for further analysis. How long did they spend away from the quiz? Of course, this could be dealing with a child at home. Formating from copy & pasting is preserved on Canvas, so web links and other formatting are tell-tale signs of misconduct. Large exam time windows permit answers to be shared with others, so the timing of the questions is analyzed for outliers. If students start within seconds of one another on all questions, this could be a sign of collusion. Of course, if they are using secondary devices, this cannot be seen. [See? So just quit with the proctored exams already! -- dww].
    UC Davis had 1415 referrals to the academic integrity office in the 4 terms prior to the pandemic, but 3246 in the first 4 terms of the pandemic. They see this as evidence of increased cheating [I see this as evidence of increased looking! We don't know how much cheating was going on prior to this, only how much cheating we found. -- dww]
    Almost 20 % of the cases were misconduct on Canvas quizzes. The manual review takes much more time. Of course, the false negative rates unknowable, and the false positive rate seems to also be muddled.
    The code is not open source because they don't want the students to figure out how to get around the system. [I wish to remind them of Kerkhoffs's Principle. They are smart, they will figure it out, so make it public anyway! -- dww]
And that concluded the first day! There was a reception in the foyer with some nibbles and a bit of port wine. After dumping our stuff at the hotel, we braved the tram system out to Matosinhos for a grilled sardine dinner. The staff didn't bat an eye at 20 people showing up, and they kept the good wine and food flowing. The only issue was another hour on the tram back to the hotel. For Irene I found this picture of the Man Eating Fish graffiti mural by Mr Dheo next to a Burger King.

Monday, May 9, 2022

President of Peru being investigated for plagiarism

ABCnews reports that the president of Peru is being investigated for plagiarism in his Master's thesis, which he wrote together with his wife. Journalists apparently used a freedom of infomation act application to obtain the thesis, then shoved it through a system that sells its product as a plagiarism detection system. They report, as people are wont to do, on the number reported.

This bears repeating: Software cannot determine plagiarism! The most recent study that I participated in was published in 2020, we sum it up as:

There is a general belief that software must be able to easily do things that humans find difficult. Since finding sources for plagiarism in a text is not an easy task, there is a wide-spread expectation that it must be simple for software to determine if a text is plagiarized or not. Software cannot determine plagiarism, but it can work as a support tool for identifying some text similarity that may constitute plagiarism. [...] The sobering results show that although some systems can indeed help identify some plagiarized content, they clearly do not find all plagiarism and at times also identify non-plagiarized material as problematic.

Emphasis added. Quit thinking software will solve this problem!

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Japanese Prince found plagiarizing in prize essay

The Japanese newspaper Ashai Shimbun published an article on February 17, 2022, about plagiarism in an essay that Prince Hisahito, the second in line to the Japanese throne, wrote for school. The essay had been submitted to a contest and was awarded the second prize. The  Telegraph in the UK details the plagiarized portions a few days later. It appeared to be picked up in many UK outlets such as Royal Central. Today, April 13, 2022, the German Süddeutsche picked up the story

Strangely, he was allowed to keep the prize despite the plagiarism.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

Germany's problem with academic integrity

This blog post at ICAI by with a student perspective on academic integrity from a German student in the USA just nails it: 

Of course, we were not allowed to cheat in school and university in Germany, and the consequences could have been as severe as they can be at American institutions, but I don’t remember ever having had an explicit conversation with a German teacher or professor about how to be academically honest. There was no academic honesty policy, no Office of Academic Honesty, and no official institutional process for dealing with academic misconduct at my university—at least not that I was aware of—and I never had any formal education about cheating and how to avoid it beyond learning how to correctly cite sources. It was just expected to know how appropriate academic conduct looks like.

Exactly. That is the problem here in Germany. Despite the plagiarism scandals involving politicians, there is very little discussion here about academic integrity. The universities perhaps purchase software and offer a course or two about proper citation. Some universities have writing clinics, but that is about the size of it. Deep and continuous conversations about good academic practice are seldom. Still, I'll keep trying to drag Germany into such conversations!


Thursday, March 10, 2022

ICAI 2022

I was going to be exceedingly lazy and not blog about the ICAI 2022 (which is celebrating its 30th year of existence!), but  then I decided that I wanted to rant about one of the talks, so I will try and pull together something on the other talks that I have visited. The conference is being offered online only. It is excellent that the Zoom room chats are left open—we have had some great discussions in parallel with the talks. It will be difficult when we go back to in-person talks to shut up during the talks :) Unfortunately, they are using waiting rooms and this causes quite a number of problems: extra work for the session chairs letting people in, and not letting us speak to each other before the talk begins. For one session the room didn't get opened until a good 6 minutes after it was to start, that was a bit unfortunate. But on the whole, people have got the hang of how to run an online conference, which is great!

I asked an organizer, Camilla J. Roberts, about the numbers. There were 790 registrations (!) from 209 universities in 18 countries: US, Canada, Chile, Australia, UK, Ireland, Germany, UAE, Indonesia, Mexico, Brazil, Jamaica, Japan, Taiwan, India, South Africa, Columbia, and Egypt! I haven't seen anyone else from Germany here, though. 

Day 1, March 8, 2022

It is International Women's Day and a holiday in Berlin, and there is a horrible war going on in the Ukraine. The latter makes it hard to concentrate, to get into the groove of academic integrity discussions. But there are so many great people here and fantastic discussions going on.

  • The opening was about the past of ICAI (and the next days will be present and future). Tricia Bertram Gallant put together a document about the history:  “It Takes a Village”: The Origins of the International Center for Academic Integrity. Well worth a read!
  • Thomas Lancaster and Prakhar Nagpal spoke about "Are Students Using Homework Help Sites to Breach Academic Integrity?". They scraped 46 million questions asked at the Chegg web site and metadata such as date and time of the question. They wanted to see if they were able to verify a statement that is often heard from such sites: They are there for the 3 am questions students have. From the data that they gleaned, however, it was obvious that the questions were being asked Monday through Thursday during normal working hours in the UK. More were also seen in April and December, typical exam times. The also saw a two-fold jump in the number of questions asked after Covid closed the universities than in the year before. 
  • A panel discussion that surprised me was the one on "Real Life with Academic Integrity Case Management Databases" (the conference web app is a real pain, it won't let me copy the names of the people presenting, so apologies if I misspell your names). Tricia Bertram Gallant moderated presentations from Camilla J. Roberts, Emily C. Perkins, and Christina McGilvray Lane who each use a different computer system for handling academic integrity violation cases. There is not only specialized software for that, there are multiple systems??? We don't even have clear processes at universites in Germany and in the US they not only have people who have jobs dealing with such cases (and working on prevention), but there is a choice of software? And honestly, it makes sense to have a well-formulated email that gets sent to everyone and a good record of all of the documentation sent in. I didn't think to ask how they deal with documenting things like 3D designs. The systems are Macient, Guardian, and Advocate and I forgot to note down which one was used where, sorry. 
  • Blaire Wilson and Christian Moriarty (not that one) spoke about "Writing Academic Integrity Policy: How Justice and Consistency Collide". They have an open-access publication available (Justice and Consistency in Academic Integrity: Philosophical and Practical Considerations in Policy Making) that deals with, among other questions, restorative justice. It really got me thinking about why we punish certain behaviors and in particular, how we deal with mitigating circumstances. It seems everyone has a specific reason for why they did something, and not all of these reasons can be codified in law. So making things consitent can cause unjustness, and making things just keep them from being consistent.

Day 2, March 9, 2022

  • I attended the Canadian Regional Consortium before the conference started. As a Canadian I am interested in what is happening at the various universities. It turned out to be a very wise move, as I got to hear the keynote by Cory Scurr, the Academic Integrity Coordinator at Conestoga College in Kitchener, Ontario [boy, do those names ring a bell! Cousins of my Mom lived in Kitchener]. Cory has developed a Micro-Credential for instructors about academic integrity. They are 6 units of about 6 hours each, 1 hour synchronous discussion and 5 hours of reading/watching videos. The topics were just right for getting deeper into the topic of academic integrity. Half-jokingly someone asked if he would do a train-the-trainer course and start a franchise of the course. I'd sign up in a minute for that and translate the course into German, it is just what is necessary to get instructors aware of problems and solutions!
  • Today the conference opened with ICAI present, or rather, since the move from Clemson University to a non-profit organization. It seemed to me that there was a bit of walking on eggshells going on, not sure what exactly happened. 
  • Mary Davis spoke about "Promoting Inclusive Practice in Academic Integrity". She analyzed many guidance and process documents from UK universities that are used in academic integrity violation cases. The literature has identifed a number of issues:
    • the continued over-representation of students from certain ethnic groups, including international students, in academic conduct investigations (Gray, 2020; Pecorari, 2016); 
    • the opinion of some staff that plagiarism is an international students’ problem (Mott-Smith, Tomaš and Kostka, 2017); 
    • the difficulties some student groups experience with understanding academic conduct regulations and good academic practice (Morris, 2018; Tauginiené et al., 2019);
    • academic literacy teaching being available to some students and not others (Wingate, 2015). 
      • Gray, D. (2020). Closing the black attainment gap on access – Project review 2018-2020. Open University. Available at:
      • Morris, E. (2018). Academic integrity matters: five considerations for addressing contract cheating. International Journal of Educational Integrity, 14(15) Available at
      • Mott-Smith, J., Tomaš, Z. and Kostka, I. (2017). Teaching effective source use. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
      • Pecorari, D. (2016). Plagiarism, international students and the second-language writer. In T. Bretag (Ed.) Handbook of Academic Integrity, pp.537-550. Singapore: Springer.
      • Tauginiené, L., Gaižauskaité, I., Razi, S., Glendinning, I., Sivasubramaniam, S., Marino, F., Cosentino, M., Anohina-Naumeca, A. and Kravjar, J. (2019). Enhancing the taxonomies relating to academic integrity and misconduct. Journal of Academic Ethics, pp.1-17, Available at
      • Wingate, U. (2015). Academic literacy and student diversity: the case for inclusive practice. Bristol: Multilingual Matters
    • I included all the literature here, because this is an important topic. Mary looked for problems with respect to these issues and has formulated recommendations for inclusive academic integrity, which are to be published soon.
  • Sarah Elaine Eaton chaired a panel on "Reconceptualizing Contract Cheating as Part of the Stress Process Model". This was a presentation of sociologists talking about how we process stress and how contract cheating can be seen as a method of alleviating stress. It made me think about all the stress that we produce in education for our students and for us. What can we do to reduce this stress that doesn't result in cheating?
  • Leeanne Morrow and Lee-Ann Penaluna from the University of Calgary presented on "Expanding into the digital: supporting academic integrity using artificial intelligence". I was especially interested to see what type of artificial intelligence they would be using. It turns out, they purchased a bot that jumps at everyone who surfs to their pages at the library and asks if you need help. I personally hate these pesky things, but whatever. They also have a live chat during office hours, so a real human being can answer student questions.
    One thing I must make clear: A chatbot is NOT in any way, shape, or form "artificial intelligence" (as I call it, "magic fairy dust"). It is an algorithm that I have my first-semester programming students program to show them that what we percieve of as being "intelligence" is merely a very simple algorithm. I also want to kindly request that people not anthropomorphisize computers! They do not have a "brain". You do not "feed" them. They don't "answer". They have storage, receive input, and produce output.
    The authors of this research accessed a large amount of questions that students had asked both in live chat and in bot chat and analyzed it. They looked for key words that they felt were related to academic integrity and had a look at how often typical questions were asked and what the bot answered. The bot upon first install traverses their site to parse through the texts that are offered. After looking at the answers given for specific questions, they fine-tuned the system by editing the bot output for certain keywords.
    What really concerned me about this research was that, although it was about academic integrity, there appeared to be no informed consent that was given by the users of the bot to have their conversations stored. Apparantly, the conversations are "anonymous" and given cute names like "Red Squirrel", but the date and time is stored, as most certainly the IP address would also be stored. This is considered identifying information.
    I asked about informed consent and ethics board approval for this research, apparently neither was done. I looked at the bot myself, looking for where I am being informed that what I am typing is being stored and can be used for future research. Since I am in the EU using this system, it must either ask my permission or not permit me to use it.
    Alright, enough bitching. They meant well, but the company that sold this bot to them needs to shape up their advertising language and be open about what they are storing. As long as you are transparent about what you are doing, people have a choice of using the system or not.
  • The day closed with "30 Years of Research & Lessons Learned": David Rettinger and Trician Bertram Gallant decided to put together an issue of the Journal of College and Character on academic integrity. They asked around and got lots of great papers—and realized they were not only over the page count for the issue, they were MASSIVELY over the page count for the issue. So they decided to make a virtue out of necessity and put split the papers between the journal and a book, Cheating Academic Integrity: Lessons from 30 Years of Research, that will appear in June 2022. What a great way to make all these papers available! The authors who were at the conference spoke a bit about what they were writing about. The journal issue is available open-access, so I downloaded all the papers right away, and have the book on order!

Day 3, March 10, 2022

  • I started off visiting the COIN group, Consortium for Online Integrity. I wanted to hear more about how people were doing assessments online. There are a number of universities that swear by remote proctoring, either personal remote proctoring or "AI"-based (remember, the term "artificial intelligence is a synonym for "magic fairy dust") proctoring. I find remote proctoring to be an invasion of privacy and to use algorithms that are heavily biased. People believe that they can "lock down" browsers, but my CS students don't need more than 10 minutes to get out of that. So it doesn't do what people want it to. Don't project what you want onto a software! Software cannot solve social problems.
  • Christian Moriarty moderated a town hall on the future of ICAI. Thomas Lancaster and I had a nice little public disagreement about the use of technology that really lit up the chat :) I believe that academic integrity is a social issue and thus cannot be solved by technology alone, as I just mentioned. We need to focus on pedagogy.
  • Angela Murphy asked in her presentation "The Usage of Remote Proctoring Technologn to Uphold Academic Integrity During a Pandemic": Is there more cheating going on in the pandemic? Many instructors think so, but maybe they just didn't see the cheating that went on before the pandemic! She was very enthusiastic about remote proctoring, but I find it an invasion of privacy and a waste of instructor time reviewing the videos. I personally thnik that we need to focus more on alternative assessments that what we have been doing before. 
  • Kathryn Baron, the host of the podcast, spoke on "Helping journalists inform the public about cheating". She apparently didn't realize who was in the audience, as she spent 15 minutes telling us what we already know in depth: There is a lot of cheating out there. It was a bit disappointing. I already help journalists who contact me by sending them links to sources for what I am saying. And I patiently explain over and over again that we don't know how much plagiarism is out there because we only know what we find, not what we don't find. And yes, there was plagiarism before the Internet. My major problem is that journalists are generally only interested when the person found having submitted a plagiarism is well-known, i.e. a politician. And the universities, well, this picture of a man with his head in the sand rather sums it up. 
  • Unfortunately, the presenters on "Factors impacting academic integrity: a review" didn't show up and didn't let anyone know that they were not coming. So I went to the session by Ide Bagus Siaputra from Indonesia "Transforming modular training into integrated immunization programme for promoting academic integrity: Celebrating 9 Years of progress". He has been instrumental in getting a discussion going about academic integrity in his country and has prepared materials for teachers there.
  • David Rettinger finished up the conference talking about the ICAI/McCabe Survey. I am so glad that Don McCabe's work is continuing! The survey is geared to determine the rates of academic misconduct, assessing the climate of integrity, understanding student perspectives, and providing a benchmark against other institutions. They are starting with a first round in 2022 for ICAI member institutions, currently have 7800 surveys completed. It will be exciting to hear these results! And during the discussion I realized that David and I met years ago [I looked it up: 2012] in Bielefeld, Germany, where Don McCabe was giving a talk after having given a talk in Berlin. I drove Don down and we had very intensive discussion during the drive down.

Whew, it's been an exhausting 3 days, starting so late in the day. But I'm so glad I attended, lots of new ideas and meeting a few new people, if not as many as one meets at in-person conferences. 

Now, hope to see people at the ENAI conference ECAIP 2022 in Porto, Portugal 4-6 May 2022 in real life!

Monday, January 31, 2022

Czech researcher found guilty of academic misconduct, resigns position as rector

Leonid Schneider reported in his blog For Better Science on October 25, 2021 about a series of comments that Elizabeth Bik left on PubPeer about 21 of the 720 publications of a Czech cancer and nanotechnology researcher, Vojtěch Adam. He had been elected to have assumed the role of rector of the Mendel University of Brno on February 1, 2022.

However, as Elizabeth Bik reported in Science Integrity Digest on January 25, 2022,  the investigation committee has found him guilty of academic misconduct. The committee came to this conclusion in record time, only three months. The investigation report is available in English and concludes: "The Committee recommends retracting at least 6 papers to correct the scientific record."

Today Adam resigned from the position as rector, leaving it vacant. 

In a statement in Czech issued on January 31, 2022, Vojtěch Adam stated that he is putting the needs of the university above his own as a scientist and thus will not become rector tomorrow. The university has noted that the Academic Senate of the Mendel University today appointed an election commission to start a new search for a rector. It is not clear who will lead the university from tomorrow.

Update: I just found a very long blog article by Petr Kreuz in Czech (Google translate is your friend) from January 30, 2022 about Adam, who was previously responsible for PhD studies at the Mendel University. Some doctoral dissertations from that institution appear to be plagiarized, VroniPlag Wiki has currently published two documentations, Sai and Kst, and have more currently under consideration. The Mendel University worked closely with an Austrian company that was offering doctorates from Mendel University for a fee of 25.000 €.