Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Scholar'sSurvival: Blog Postings

1. From the Indiana University Press Site: 

Guest post: Corrosive Plagiarism - Publishing Means You Never Want to Say You’re Sorry

By Martin H. Krieger
Scholars-survival-manualIn The Scholar’s Survival Manual I discuss plagiarism with a presumption that there is a shared sense of just what is plagiarism. Recent experience convinces me that my imagination is not reliable. I thought I could detect plagiarism by reading a paper, and surely I have found it once in a while. But that was a vanity.
Last semester I taught two doctoral courses, and after the grades were in I received several complaints about grades from the students. In the course of our conversations, one said something to me like “I’m no plagiarist.” I figured I had better be sure. So I put the class papers through Turnitin. And wrote to students about what I found. (I was then told to stop bothering students about it, since the class was over, but to my mind they were putting their future degrees at risk.)
The “similarity scores” tell you little. You have to look at the papers and the sources. What I discovered was that mosaic plagiarism was endemic. Namely, student would take a source, refer to it in their footnotes, and then take phrases from the source and put their own words as linkages to those phrases—but not put quotation marks around the phrases they had copied. They might have said, “X revealed…”, but to my mind that the “…” indicated these were quoted phrases was not revealed by the word revealed. There needed to be quotation marks around the copied phrases.
Some papers had similarity scores of 40+%, but those at 5% were as well systematic mosaic plagiarizers. I gather they thought this was OK, and one told me that this was the norm in their field of public health.
I even checked a few doctoral dissertations, including staff associated with these students, and the practice was everywhere. And it did not happen once in a while. It was systematic.
I don’t know what to do about the grades I gave, and I am now checking out other sources for guidance. I know that my university does not condone such plagiarism, the Harvard College guidance on Using Sources does not either.
This sort of plagiarism is surely less astounding than the cases in the German universities of plagiarized doctoral dissertations. But I am discovering that what I thought was obvious is surely not so obvious.
Publishing an article or depositing a dissertation should mean that you never have to say you are sorry. But your article or dissertation may well be read by someone in your field (who else will read it?), and they may be haunted by the phrasing (perhaps it’s their words!). They can readily put your work through Turnitin. It’s perhaps unlikely that some mosaic plagiarism will lead to your degree being rescinded, but you don’t really want to find out.
Martin H. Krieger is Professor of Planning in the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California and a Fellow of the American Physical Society. He has taught at Berkeley, Minnesota, MIT, and Michigan and has served for many years on university promotion and tenure committees. His upcoming book The Scholar's Survival Manual will be released this October. He blogs atscholarssurvival.blogspot.com.

From the Inside Higher Education Site:
September 9, 2013
1. Your job is to get the place in shape. If there is unfairness, waste, idiocy, lack of organization, what you want to do is to get the place in shape. People who have special privileges need to realize the party is over, those who are sloths need to realize it's time to wake up. If people have stopped doing research, you want to get them back on track — provide incentives, positive and even punitive.

2. You do not count. No special favors for your friends, your partner's friends, your friends' friends, people who work in your field, etc. If there are fishy procedures or processes, straighten them out. It's all about making the place good enough that you can leave for the next job. If you just want to stay in place, say until you retire, you should resign -- see #5 below.

3. There are bound to be loads of points of friction: those who benefit from the past ("rentseekers" is what the economists call them), those who have special privileges or who are getting away with not doing their jobs, etc. You are cleaning house. While you are doing so, don't leave behind garbage for your successor. Your claim is that you are trying for fairness and comity among your faculty.

4. Don't get in battles with anyone, at least battles that look like battles. You want to have things just happen. If the higher-ups won't help, AND they are stopping you, they need to realize that your job is to clean up the place. If they won't go along, start looking for another position, or just go back to being a professor. Don't be an instrument of someone else's corruption or revenge -- even your most reliable colleagues will use you to do their dirty work. Surely there will be resistance, but again you are acting for a superordinate goal: fairness and excellence and comity. Your righteous resisters need to realize the consequences of their resistance, since they are not only taking on you but also the provost and perhaps the president. If they threaten to leave, make sure you throw them a nice good-bye party and wish them well.

5. You don't need this job. You almost surely have a tenured professorship. If you can't make a difference, get a research grant and go to work.

6. Don't antagonize your strongest faculty. They should be your allies, but if not, you don't want them as your opponents. Of course, a la #1 and 4 above, you will need to ensure fairness, and that may mean problems, but credit that to the provost, the president, and the board who hired you and are forcing your hand.

7. Every few years, ask yourself, What's the next challenge? Keep in mind that you need to resign when you don't see a path forward.

8. It is quite unlikely that you are as strong as a scholar as your strongest faculty. Just because you are dean or provost does not mean people should respect you as a scholar.

9. You are in the sales business, promoting your units or university. Keep that in mind. But don't be deluded by your own patter.

In retrospect, I might add: I am thinking of deans, not assistant deans, etc, and not deans who head non-academic units.


Martin H. Krieger is professor of planning at the Sol Price School of Public Policy at the University of Southern California. His new book, The Scholar’s Survival Manual: A Road Map for Students, Faculty, and Administrators, has just been published by Indiana University Press. His blog is here.