Sunday, June 30, 2013

Plagiarism problems in new Iranian president's dissertation?

Foreign Policy reports that Iranian President-elect Hassan Rowhani completed his doctoral work at the Scottish Glasgow Caledonian University in 1999. A Farsi-language web site has published (apparently, I don't read Farsi, but there are text passages compared in English on the site) a documentation of similarities between his abstract and other books. Since doctoral theses are not published in the UK, the thesis is not available for general reading.

An update notes that:
Glasgow Caledonian University Director of Communications Charles McGehee writes, "Our University library has just confirmed that  Kamali, Principles of Islamic Jurisprudence is referenced in the main body of the Dr Rouhani's thesis and in the bibliography."
He also notes, "we have formally requested permission from the author to digitise the thesis and submit it to the British Library so that it may be accessible to the wider public."
The article in Foreign Policy details other problems with the academic biography of Rowhani.

Perhaps the EU should consider insisting on all dissertations being published digitally?

German Medical Dissertations

There have been discussions about the quality of German medical dissertations going back for centuries.  Medical practitioners are quick to note that medicine is a completely different field from, say, German literature, and thus the theses are vastly different. In particular, they often don't bother about the words, it is only the numbers, the experiments, that are important. Thus, a thesis that has plagiarism on three-quarters of the pages (mainly from the habilitation of the doctoral advisor) is considered to be fine.

At many universities it is considered a medical dissertation if the work is published in an international journal. I briefly noted in 2012 one thesis that was only four pages and which was published together with the advisor in the journal, but accepted as a thesis for the student, a practice which I find questionable. If it is the student's work, the advisor should not be on the journal paper; if the advisor participated in the research and writing, then it is not a dissertation. This should be quite clear, and is also stated in the 1998 guidelines for good scientific practice of the DFG.

There is currently a minor public discussion about another such dissertation from the University of Würzburg. The doctoral student, who submitted in 1985, is the husband of a Bavarian politician, thus the apparent interest in the case. Interestingly, the German National Library (DNB) lists the ten-page dissertation clearly as being the same as a journal article that had two authors, the advisor and the student. Soon after the local press started reporting on the case being a self-plagiarism (for example, the Nürnberger Zeitung) the university issued a statement confirming that they were investigating the case, and then a day later stating that according to the rules that were valid in 1985, it was perfectly okay to submit a dissertation like this. (A discussion about the supposed plagiarism can be found on the VroniPlag Wiki forum.)

I looked up the dissertation this afternoon in the library: "Histochemical and biochemical studies in the kidney of female rats after castration and treatment with sex hormones" (published in 1985 in the Zeitschrift für mikroskopisch-anatomische Forschung, accepted as a dissertation 1986)  and found some very similar papers-accepted-as-dissertations listed in the paper and then in the DNB:
Now the dissertation itself consists of
  • Abstract: 1 page
  • Introduction: 1/2 page
  • Materials and Methods: 1 1/2 pages
  • Results: 5 pages, of which 1 1/2 are pictures
  • Statistics: 1 page
  • Discussion: 1 1/2 pages
  • Literature: 1/2 page
For a journal article - this is a great structure. The journal was published from 1924-1990 and is indexed in MEDLINE. But is this a doctoral dissertation? And why is the doctoral advisor listed on the journal?

Some friends started looking for more of these dissertations, there are scores of them:
  • A three-page publication with seven authors that was sufficient for one of the authors to receive a doctorate in medicine from the TH Aachen in 2012.
  • A three-page publication with the advisor that was sufficient for a doctorate in Münster in 2006 - with a lovely typo: "Erectile dysfunction (ED) represents a highly prevalent social problem; approximately 5–20% of the general mail population suffer from moderate-to-severe ED."
  • Six pages, four authors, one dissertation in Hamburg in 2005.
  • Nine pages, seven authors, one dissertation in Hamburg in 2001
  • ...
Isn't it time to move on to an "MD" for medical doctors and get rid of the "Dr. med."?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Humanities Plagiarism in Romania

Andrew Galloway, Professor at Cornell University in the USA, wrote an article entitled "The Culture of Plagiarized Dissertations in Romania: A Call for Inquiry in the Humanities—and Beyond?" for integru, the Romanian plagiarism documentation site, about a case that he investigated. A Romanian lecturer (who has since resigned) heavily plagiarized a 40-year-old dissertation. Galloway comments:
Asked about what “outcome” I could imagine for this case, therefore, I could only reply that the most productive outcome I could think of would be a searching investigation of the structure of advising, funding, mentoring, assessing, critiquing, and defending doctoral or any academic work at the institution in question.
Indeed, a "searching investigation" is what is needed at many universities, it seems to me, and not even more attempts to silence the whistleblowers. 

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.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Plagiarism Across Europe and Beyond - Day 1b

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. Here are the afternoon talks on June 12 (morning session):
  •  Gill Rowell (Turnitin)
    Addressing student plagiarism in the UK, ten years onIn Sept. 2002 JISC formed the Plagiarism Advisory Service and purchased Turnitin, providing it to the higher education institutions at no cost. The goal was to raise awareness of plagiarism within institutions. It was soon clear that electronic solutions are not enough. A culture of honesty must be developed. 10 years later: More plagiarism seems to be found. Staff thinks that using Turnitin contributes to reducing plagiarism. Turnitin is having less and less percentage of handed in essays with > 50 % similar material. Teaching information literacy is one of the key points that need to be addressed. She has investigated the sources students now use: Wikipedia is the top source; use of paper mills has doubled; social networking sites account for 14 % of the matches; 16 % of the results are dead links; online newspapers are now also often used. Universities are often not sure how to use the software - they are not clear on what their goals are, don't understand that they need policy and procedures as well. Guidance on interpreting the Originality Report is key to the use of Turnitin: It is not enough to just look at the number on the top of the page. Different models of use: screenall, suspicion triggered, sampling, profiling, deterrent, formative use (helping them learn to write better), summative use. Turkey, Pakistan, and Nigeria are now looking into a national use of plagiarism detection software. The next conference Turnitin is sponsoring on plagiarism will be on June 16-18, 2014, in Gateshead UK.
  • Debora Weber-Wulff (HTW Berlin)
    Plagiarism in German Doctoral Dissertations : Before and beyond zu Guttenberg

Tracey Bretag, Gill Rowell and Teddi Fishman
Academic integrity in higher education: A global perspective

Teddi Fishman introduced the work of the International Center for Academic Integrity.  The center was first formed as a response to the problem of cheating. Then they looked at bad student behavior, then on improving pedagogy and inculcating a culture of integrity. The fundamental values they want to impart are honesty, trust, fairness, respect, responsibility - and courage. We need to acknowledge that we have a cheating problem. She explained her definition of plagiarism and closed with the statement: "Complex issues should not be addressed in simplistic ways." So much of what we do is fear-driven, and that is not conductive to learning.

Tracey Bretag noted that reports in the media have driven the cause of dealing with plagiarism in Australia. When you look at conferences on plagiarism, the senior professors are missing. There tend to be just junior professors or staff assigned to "find a solution for this plagiarism problem". Institutions need to start being transparent and accountable for what happens. Universities need to learn not to be afraid of "scandals" but take them as an indication of there being problems.

Gill Rowell makes it clear that just having a piece of software is not enough. There must be an institutional policy.

I chaired this session:
  • Julia Fallon, Neil Wellman (Cardiff Metropolitan University)
    International students’ attitudes and behaviours regarding unfair practices: an empirical study of MBA students
    We need data - so we did an empirical study. She hat 287 students in 2007, mostly from India. She looked at their 60-credit-dissertations with Turnitin. It turned out there was a lot of "sharing" going on. They have been trying to design plagiarism out of the curriculum. She found one Indian student so interested in learning that he enjoyed ghostwriting. And he could easily sell the same paper twice, as students who purchase papers and teachers don't read them. They administered a questionnaire that was completed by 182 students. They were saying that pooling resources and helping others is natural and that technological developments have helped. The answer patterns repeat earlier findings.
  • Blanka Farková (Jan Amos Komensky University Prague, Czech Republic)
    Intertextuality in Student Works - Comparison of Results of the Swedish and the Czech Study
    (The talk was given in Czech and translated into English, the paper is in English but appears to have been prepared by a translator.)
    Five textual extracts were given to eight academics from two universities working in natural sciences or humanities and they were asked to order the papers by acceptableness. There were differences between what the Swedish and the Czech academics found to be facts that do not need to be reference.
    Recommendations: Teach students to include page numbers for references, have them include the original texts in footnotes when quoting foreign sources, and to include information about the primary source of information. Czech academics immediately spoke of plagiarism when they became suspicious, having seen the presence of features they thought could indicate plagiarism. Swedish academics would only identify a case as plagiarism after they had exhausted all of the possible explanations which could justify the case.
  • Angelika Kokkinaki, Catherine Demoliou and Melpo Iacovidou (University of Nicosia, Cyprus)
    Students Perceptions on Plagiarism and Relevant Policies in Cyprus Universities
    There are three state and four private universities in the Republic of Cyprus (the Greek part of the island) with more than 20 institutions of higher education with accredited programs. Approximately 21.000 students study at these institutions, very few are foreign students. Many teachers were trained in the UK, USA, or Israel. She administered the IPPHEAE Survey to students, 318 responded (no PhD students).
I was not able to attend these parallel sessions:
  • Adrian Lee (University of York)
    Assessing the Value of an Holistic Use of Turnitin to Promote Academic Integrity
  • Sivasubramaniam Shiva Das (Nottingham Trent University)
    Electronic plagiarism detection software as self-teaching tool for plagiarism avoidance in Bioscience undergraduates
  • Rui Sousa-Silva (Aston University / Universidade do Porto)
    Investigating Academic Plagiarism: A Forensic Linguistics Approach to Plagiarism Detection
  • Sharon Flynn (National University of Ireland, Galway)
    Teaching staff concerns about academic integrity and their implications for staff development
  • Tomáš Foltýnek, Jiří Rybička, Catherine Demoliou (Mendel University, Brno)
    Do students think what teachers think about plagiarism?
  • David Dalton, Robert Craig (Petroleum Institute)
    Understanding first year undergraduate student perceptions of copying and plagiarism: Developing a platform for a culture of honest inquiry and academic construction of knowledge.
More to follow tomorrow!

Plagiarism across Europe and Beyond - Day 1a

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. The conference is sponsored by Turnitin. I am a bit troubled to hear that StrikePlagiarism wanted to have a stand here and they were turned down because Turnitin is a sponsor. If this is a conference about academic integrity, then the companies need to tolerate a discussion and a comparison with other products.
  • Tracey Bretag (University of South Australia)
    Exemplary Academic Integrity Project: Key lessons for Australia, Europe and Beyond"
    Academic integrity" is called "Educational integrity" in Australia in order to emphasize that it is throughout the entire educational system. She publishes the
    International Journal for Educational Integrity
    , available online. She reported on the Academic Integrity Standards Project: Aligning Policy and Practice in Australian Universities 2010-2012. Many policies dealt just with misconduct, or only with plagiarism. Most lacked sufficient detail about breaches and outcomes or made no mention of confidentiality. The 5 core elements of exemplary policy discusses access (easy to locate and read), approach (statement of purpose), responsibility (in detail for all stakeholders), detail (extensive but not excessive descriptions of breaches, outcomes, and processes), and support (proactive and embedded systems to enable implementation of the policy). There must be a commitment from the university to deal with the problem to be successful. Australia has to deal with many international students from Asian countries - much education must happen. There must be a culture of integrity at universities - and there must exist a strong policy. The Exemplary Academic Integrity Project (EAIP) is offering materials that can be used by universities
  • Jude Carroll (Educational consultant)
    What we can and cannot learn from each other within Europe about managing plagiarism
    Context issues: At some universities rules are set by a national authority; lawyers, not teachers, manage cases; no one collects data and information; and coursework for credit is a recent change. Systems to manage it are still developing. Involving lawyers means that the cases take far too long, they don't deliver fair outcomes, penalties are often inflexible and there is far too much paperwork! This sets the focus on cheating, not on learning. We have to teach the philosophy of education: What is 'sharing knowledge'? Why is copying not ok? Why 'do your own work'? How to use other people's work? "Plagiarism is not like pregnancy - there is a range of severity so there needs to be a range of penalties." There needs to be local engagement, and an understanding that there is not a 'quick fix'. Many schools have SPOTS: Stragegic Policy On The Shelf - the university doesn't live its policy. Local enthusiasts working alone burn out. It takes the whole university. One university has posters on academic integrity posted on the doors of all of the toilet stalls! Plagiarism is a high volume, 'every day' event. We don't tolerate or accept it, but we have to deal with plagiarism that is cheating. The current problem is contract cheating.
  • Jiří Janoušek (IS4U)
    Anton: How Mendel University fights with plagiarism? A success story.
    Antiplagiator Online (Anton). They are currently developing software.
  • Stephen Gow (University of York)
    A comparison of the Chinese and British cultural concepts of plagiarism by Chinese Master’s graduates of UK institutions who have returned to work in China
    Trying to explain plagiarism in China using Confucius is wrong. Students learn by rote in China. When they go to the UK to take a Master's degree, things are very different. In China, if they don't come to class the tutor will call their Mom. In the UK they perceive the staff as not caring about them, until they plagiarize, and then they care a lot. The expectation of independence is a difficult thing for Chinese students.
  • Stella-Maris Orim, Erik Borg, Isabella Awala-Ale (Coventry University)
    Students’ experience of institutional intervention on plagiarism: Nigerian case
    Ms. Orim conducted 25 interview sessions about student plagiarism in Nigerian students that went to the UK to continue their education. 73 % of students were not aware of plagiarism until they went to the UK to study. Supervisors talk about plagiarism just in the sense of proper referencing, although plagiarism is more than that. Most students felt that their Nigerian institutions had few penalties for plagiarism. Over half was not aware that there was any policy or defined penalties for plagiarism. As a conclusion she notes that universities that accept foreign students should not assume that they know anything at all about plagiarism and teach them accordingly
  • Erja Moore (Karelia University of Applied Sciences, Finland)
    Sloppy referencing and plagiarism in students’ theses
    "There is no space for rational discussion about plagiarism [at university]." - in 2008. Finland has a culture of silence and a culture of silencing. Sweden reported 517 plagiarism cases in 2011. Finland reported on just two. Whistleblowers tend to be harassed. Kämäräinen (2012) reported that "It is obvious that the reference lists of the theses in data had not been checked and this can only mean that not even the teachers read them." During Moore's sabbatical she looked into 48 health theses and 43 theses in business and looked at the accuracy and consistence of the referencing. She developed 4 categories. Accurate and consistent, Some inconsistency, Constant inconsistency, failed referencing/plagiarism. Of the papers examines, 55 % were in the first group, 14 % in the second, 19 % in the third and 12 % in the fourth group. No software was used to discover plagiarism except Google, this plagiarism was found only through inspection! She gave some bizarre examples of sloppy referencing in Master's theses. She concluded that many partly plagiarized theses are accepted and published - plagiarism seems acceptable and is not sanctioned. 
To be continued this afternoon!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Study on European Plagiarism to be presented

The Times Higher Education reports on the preliminary results of the IPPHEAE Study:
Data from the survey also show that almost a third of British students think they have plagiarized either deliberately or accidentally. This compares with 65 percent in Lithuania, 46 percent in France and only 10 percent in Germany. [...]
The preliminary findings will be presented next week at a conference hosted by Mendel University in the Czech Republic and sponsored by plagiarism detection service Turnitin. 
One  does rather wonder if this means that students in Lithuania are much more honest than German students... I will be attending this conference and giving a talk. I'll try and report on all of the other talks.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Plagiarism in Russia

"Nowhere else in the world is there so much forgery, plagiarism, and bribery in order to obtain a doctorate than in Russia. Politicians, oligarchs, and Mafia bosses - all have ambitions to have that prestigious 'Dr.' in front of their names."

Hans-Joachim Hoppe wrote a very long and detailed article in German about the plagiarism situation in Russia: Faked doctorates, misery at university, and an irritated education minister. 

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Flemish Criminology Professor Suspended for Plagiarism

NRC reports that the University of Groningen (in Holland) has suspended Flemish criminology professor Patrick van Calster on account of plagiarism in his doctorate. The doctorate was completed at the Free University of Brussels in 2005. Groningen has also published a press release that elaborates their zero-tolerance for plagiarism policy. 

The VU Brussels determined, according to the Belgian Flemish-language newspaper de morgan, that his dissertation on the complexity of criminal organizations was a blatant plagiarism of a popular management handbook and has rescinded his doctorate. 

Local media had previously reported on the case without naming van Calster. Now that the VU Brussels has reached a decision, they also formally informed the current employer of van Calster, Groningen.

This is an interesting step, as to my knowledge universities that revoke degrees do not necessarily take action to inform potentially interested parties of their decision. In this case, this in an international question, as Groningen is in the Netherlands and Brussels in Belgium.