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Software Finds Plagiarism In Research

CmdrTaco posted about 4 years ago | from the grant-revoked dept.

Software 111

shmG writes "Researchers from the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute have created a seek-and-destroy program — for plagiarism. Called ET Blast, it's designed to find plagiarism in scientific papers. It does a full-text analysis, and then looks for similar publications in several databases. 'We have better literature,' Garner said. 'There are abstracts and full papers, and a database called Crisp, where you compare stuff to every grant the NIH gets. It's compared to any research that's been funded.'"

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What about ... (3, Interesting)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 years ago | (#34037268)

What about academic "recycling".

I remember being told a long time ago that some researchers will basically make several permutations of the same paper to submit to a bunch of different places. It's essentially the same paper, with nothing new in it, but if you can get several places to publish it, you can pad out your publications list.

Re:What about ... (4, Insightful)

notgm (1069012) | about 4 years ago | (#34037292)

if you resubmit your own work, it's not plagiarism.

You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about ...] (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 4 years ago | (#34037378)

if you resubmit your own work, it's not plagiarism.

Correct! It's amazing to see how many people don't understand this point, but it's correct: you can't plagiarize yourself, because plagiarism is the act of passing somebody else's work off as being yours.

I hate it when researchers report the same work in many different papers, but although it is a violation of research reporting standards, and in some cases a violation of an intellectual property contract... it's not plagiarism.

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (5, Interesting)

Travelsonic (870859) | about 4 years ago | (#34037528)

In High School, they tried to cram the concept of "self plagiarism" down our throats - what a crock of shit... you can NOT by DEFINITION plagiarize YOUR OWN WORKS. Recycling may be lazy, may violate other ethics, but to call it plagiarism is, IMO, very intellectually dishonest of these institutions.

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34037946)

I actually ran into this in grad school. When writing a tech related paper, I referenced one of my past papers on the same subject as a source. My professor made it clear I had to cite myself to avoid "self-plagiarism". I thought it quite possibly the stupidest thing I had ever heard in my life, and it was coming from a celebrated PhD at a major New England university.

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | about 4 years ago | (#34038076)

The reason for the rise of the concept of "self-plagiarism" is these types of automated plagiarism detectors. If I have written a lot of papers that are in their database and can lift sections out of a previous paper I wrote without citing it as a source, these programs are going to generate a lot of false positives.

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34038120)

Maybe the problem is that we don't have a good terms to differentiate between appropriate reuse of one's own writing, and unnaceptable reuse.

For instance, it's a violation of academic ethics to try to publish the exact same paper in multiple places. You're effectively trying to increase your publication count without adding anything new to the body of knowledge. It's still not plagiarism, since it's your own work, but it is unethical.

Not citing previous work when writing a paper is also wrong, though not in the same way. It can be either an honest mistake, lazy, or downright unethical (e.g. not citing the work of someone you don't like). Not citing your own previous work in the area is similarly wrong. Not because it would be plagiarism, but because citations are vital to help others understand the context, significance, and background to the present work. So you should cite yourself when appropriate, just as you would cite others.

And lastly, there are times where re-using your own material is absolutely acceptable. For instance when releasing a new edition of a book, it just makes sense to tweak the things that need changing. It doesn't make sense to rewrite every sentence to avoid 'plagiarizing' yourself. Similarly if you write a review article of a certain field, it just makes sense to re-use some of the text from a previous review (now outdated) that you wrote. (There may or may not be secondary copyright concerns, depending on the various contracts in place.) It isn't plagiarism, and it isn't wrong.

Perhaps academia needs to develop terms to cleanly differentiate between these cases. Or alternately people need to be more specific when they are talking about appropriate vs. inappropriate behavior. Abusing "plagiarism" as a catch-all for "unethical publication" confuses the issue.

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34038252)

Yes, but maybe the problem is that we don't have a good terms to differentiate between appropriate reuse of one's own writing, and unnaceptable reuse.

For instance, it's a violation of academic ethics to try to publish the exact same paper in multiple places. You're effectively trying to increase your publication count without adding anything new to the body of knowledge. It's still not plagiarism, since it's your own work, but it is unethical.

Not citing previous work when writing a paper is also wrong, though not in the same way. It can be either an honest mistake, lazy, or downright unethical (e.g. not citing the work of someone you don't like). Not citing your own previous work in the area is similarly wrong. Not because it would be plagiarism, but because citations are vital to help others understand the context, significance, and background to the present work. So you should cite yourself when appropriate, just as you would cite others.

And lastly, there are times where re-using your own material is absolutely acceptable. For instance when releasing a new edition of a book, it just makes sense to tweak the things that need changing. It doesn't make sense to rewrite every sentence to avoid 'plagiarizing' yourself. Similarly if you write a review article of a certain field, it just makes sense to re-use some of the text from a previous review (now outdated) that you wrote. (There may or may not be secondary copyright concerns, depending on the various contracts in place.) It isn't plagiarism, and it isn't wrong.

Perhaps academia needs to develop terms to cleanly differentiate between these cases. Or alternately people need to be more specific when they are talking about appropriate vs. inappropriate behavior. Abusing "plagiarism" as a catch-all for "unethical publication" confuses the issue.

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | about 4 years ago | (#34039986)

I was saying to myself, wait, this post is identical to the previous one... duh.

But, since you're posting as anonymous, it doesn't increase your publication count to republish it. Fail.

(And, anyway, "Anonymous Coward" is already the most-cited author on slashdot.)

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (1)

BrokenHalo (565198) | about 4 years ago | (#34040334)

Maybe the problem is that we don't have a good terms to differentiate between appropriate reuse of one's own writing, and unnaceptable reuse.

It always used to make me chuckle to find textbook references cited as "personal observation" in journal articles written by one of my university's professors. Most scientists can't get away with that. But if you are as much of a bigwig in your field [murdoch.edu.au] as he was, I guess it's not as arrogant as it might seem.

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (1)

pentalive (449155) | about 4 years ago | (#34039080)

It does help others find your previous work.

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 4 years ago | (#34038266)

RECYCLOPS will make you recycle!

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (1)

Lucky75 (1265142) | about 4 years ago | (#34038134)

Tell that to my university where I got accused of academic dishonesty for reusing one paragraph again in a course that I failed. Utterly ridiculous.

"Okay, I give myself permission to copy work from myself....there.....now it isn't plagiarism."

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (1)

Lucky75 (1265142) | about 4 years ago | (#34038172)

To follow my last post, I usually like to use the following argument: If I'm asked what the answer to 1+1 is, I'm going to answer '2'. I'm not going to say that the answer is '3' next time just to make my answer different.

Re:You can't plagiarize yourself [Re:What about .. (1)

noidentity (188756) | about 4 years ago | (#34039588)

To follow my last post, I usually like to use the following argument: If I'm asked what the answer to 1+1 is, I'm going to answer '2'. I'm not going to say that the answer is '3' next time just to make my answer different.

You're just not being creative enough. You can come up with a different answer, for example "1+1 is 1.999..." or "1+1 is 1, for sufficiently large values of 1" etc.

Re:What about ... (1)

tmosley (996283) | about 4 years ago | (#34037460)

I'd hope not. For most of the papers and grants coming out of our lab, we use the same introduction, and many of the procedures are the same, so many sections are just cut and pasted with a few words changed here or there to fit the particular experiment or project we were working on. It would be a major pain in the ass if we had to start rewriting that crap every time.

Re:What about ... (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 4 years ago | (#34037534)

I'd hope not. For most of the papers and grants coming out of our lab, we use the same introduction, and many of the procedures are the same, so many sections are just cut and pasted with a few words changed here or there to fit the particular experiment or project we were working on.

Oh, I get that you may do a series of experiments all with some commonality. That is fine.

I'm specifically talking about people who essentially recycle the same paper several times with no material changes to any of the research or conclusions. That to me is bordering on being a little dodgy.

But, maybe that's the norm.

you may be violating copyright. (1)

pigwiggle (882643) | about 4 years ago | (#34040526)

like i said

Re:What about ... (1)

Chris Mattern (191822) | about 4 years ago | (#34037502)

if you resubmit your own work, it's not plagiarism.

It is, however, fraud in most cases, since most scientific journals require that papers submitted to them be research that is unpublished and not currently submitted for publication elsewhere.

Too bad (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 4 years ago | (#34037766)

Because, because beyond certain point of recycling, it's just dishonesty.

Re:What about ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34038194)

if you resubmit your own work, it's not plagiarism.

My university begs to differ [uwaterloo.ca] .

How does one even redo a very similar assignment when you have the same thought process? There is bound to be similarities that their plagiarism detector would flag.

Re:What about ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34039936)

From ACM's "Policy and Procedures on Plagiarism" (http://www.acm.org/publications/policies/plagiarism_policy):

"Self-plagiarism is a related issue. In this document we define self-plagiarism as the verbatim or near-verbatim reuse of significant portions of one's own copyrighted work without citing the original source[*]. Note that self-plagiarism does not apply to publications based on the author's own previously copyrighted work (e.g., appearing in a conference proceedings) where an explicit reference is made to the prior publication[**]. Such reuse does not require quotation marks to delineate the reused text but does require that the source be cited."

[*] See Collberg and Kobourov, http://portal.acm.org/citation.cfm?doid=1053291.1053293.
[**] Manuscripts submitted to ACM Journals and Transactions based on the author’s own previously copyrighted work (e.g., appearing in a conference proceedings) must be disclosed at the time of submission and an explicit reference to the prior publication must be included in the submitted manuscript. The norm for ACM Journals and Transactions is that the submitted manuscript must contain at least 25% new content material (i.e., material that offers new insights, new results, etc.). For more details see http://www.acm.org/pubs/sim_submissions.html .

Re:What about ... (2, Informative)

robotkid (681905) | about 4 years ago | (#34040328)

if you resubmit your own work, it's not plagiarism.

Let me clarify the issue for those not accustomed to the rules of scientific publishing.

There IS a thing as self-plagarism, and it's not necessarily a minor offense. At it's core, if you submit essentially the same work to multiple venues with the intent to pass each off as an independent body of work when they are not, then there is intent to deceive and that is an ethical breach of conduct. Worst case scenario, the author list and abstract has been changed just enough that it leads others to believe this particular experiment has actually been independently confirmed and duplicated when it has not.

Most journals require that you affirm that the same manuscript is not currently under consideration for publication in another journal and has not already been published in a highly similar form elsewhere (except maybe as a conference abstract). This is different than re-submission, where a manuscript was rejected from one publication and you are now free to send to to another venue. And then there is the copyright issue, that as authors you are not necessarily the sole copyright holder (often the journal has some claim), in which case a duplicate publication is actually a violation of the journal's copyright.

There is also the case where one, comprehensive study is artificially split into smaller, less meaningful sub studies with the intent to pad publication counts (there was an example of a prenatal intervention study where the effects on the mothers and on the infants for the exact same study were published separately without any reference to each other, diminishing the usefulness of the study). This is now not a copyright issue but now a scientific integrity issue, presumably the medical audience of such a study could be harmed by not being told both sets of outcomes for the same study in any sort of obvious way.

There is an excellent resource on what constitutes scientific plagarism (including self-plagarism) here: http://facpub.stjohns.edu/~roigm/plagiarism/Self%20plagiarism.html [stjohns.edu]

not so cut and dried (1)

pigwiggle (882643) | about 4 years ago | (#34040582)

Most publications are group work. Maybe the first author wrote the entire work without input, using only the results of others. And maybe every other author made significant changes or critiques. Those words can't be reused – unless they include every previous author in the new list. Reuse an introduction a few times and the author list is going to get pretty long. Anyway, it is copyright violation to use previously published phrases and images in a publication for a different publisher. That is clear.

Re:What about ... (1)

notgm (1069012) | about 4 years ago | (#34037312)

rewriting your own articles isn't classified as stealing.

Re:What about ... (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | about 4 years ago | (#34037356)

Nor is plagiarism - plagiarism is fraud. The idea that it is more than that, IMO of course, is built on a fallacy driven need to drill into the heads of minds [like myself] about the seriousness of it. I can't help, however, in thinking that they have gone overboard and instead of effectively teaching us away, they seem more bent on SCARING THE EVERLOVING SHIT out of us and that, IMO, does NOT help in understanding ANY material/concept/etc.

Re:What about ... (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | about 4 years ago | (#34037560)

I remember being told a long time ago that some researchers will basically make several permutations of the same paper to submit to a bunch of different places. It's essentially the same paper, with nothing new in it, but if you can get several places to publish it, you can pad out your publications list.

So what? You can't plagiarize yourself. Researchers put out multiple, nearly identical papers all the time, especially those published in conference proceedings. (For example, this guy [stanford.edu] just go elected vice president of the American Physical Society.) It's also very common to recycle review material from one paper you have written to use in another.

This is entirely distinct from university academic misconduct policies which require papers and so forth submitted in fulfillment of course requirements to be original, i.e. not submitted to other courses.

Re:What about ... (1)

crmarvin42 (652893) | about 4 years ago | (#34039770)

When you publish in a scientific journal you hand over the copyright to the work. Therefore if you publish those results again, without citing the previous publication, you can be sued for copyright violations by the original publishing journal. I've heard of authors being banned from a specific journal for such behavior. It is not "Plaigarism" in that you are not taking credit for someone elses work, but it is academic dishonesty of the sort that can ruin a career.

For example, my advisor gave a (Review) presentation at a scientific meeting (complete with manuscript for the Conference Proceedings). It was well recieved so he was then asked by the society holding the conference to submit the proceeding mansucript to their scientific journal. They wanted to make sure that it could be read by their subscribers even if they couldn't make it to the confernce. My advisor spent a lot of time on the phone with them making sure that they would prominently denote that the second publication was a re-print with a reference to the original conference proceedings. He didn't want to be accused of this "Recycling" that you are referring to. I won't pretend some don't do it, but no one at a respectable university.

Besides, most researchers work in one small area. Usually the number of interested individuals is small enough where everyone knows everyone else. If I tried what you describe, I know a lot of people that would catch it in short order. It would be career suicide.

Re:What about ... (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 4 years ago | (#34040550)

In the dejavu subsite [vt.edu] , most publications share an author, so yes, it does "recycling" / self-plagiarism.

does it translate to chinese? (1)

Rivalz (1431453) | about 4 years ago | (#34037296)

Would be nice to widen it to IP & Copyright infringement.

How is this different from Turnitin? (4, Informative)

mlts (1038732) | about 4 years ago | (#34037300)

This sounds almost exactly like turnitin.com where when one uploads a paper to it, it searches almost anything it can get ahold of and will list any text in any academic journal that is copied verbatim.

Re:How is this different from Turnitin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34038910)

Exactly like turnitin.com? Maybe VBI plagiarized.

Re:How is this different from Turnitin? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34039104)

Those cunts @ turnitin archive *YOUR* paper for eternity (without payment and without any course for redress) to achieve network effects and enhance their service.

Re:How is this different from Turnitin? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34039550)

FTFA: Unlike plagiarism detectors, such as Turnitin.com, he said ET Blast uses different databases for comparative analysis. "We have better literature," Garner said. "There are abstracts and full papers, and a database called Crisp, where you compare stuff to every grant the NIH gets. It's compared to any research that's been funded."

Re:How is this different from Turnitin? (1)

robotkid (681905) | about 4 years ago | (#34040524)

This sounds almost exactly like turnitin.com where when one uploads a paper to it, it searches almost anything it can get ahold of and will list any text in any academic journal that is copied verbatim.

An apt analogy. Imagine the following scenario: you are simultaneously enrolled in a two classes that both require a lengthy essay which constitutes a large portion of your final grade. You find the two assignments to have similar enough parameters and decide to submit the same essay to both teachers without any prior approval for the double-dipping, thus making it appear you have spent more effort than you actually have. You are only "plagarizing yourself", so no harm, right?

Doubtful.

Self-plagarism is unethical if there is an intent to deceive, it has little to do with copyright. Teachers aren't using turnitin to make sure copyright infringers pay royalties, they are trying to find out who is cheating.

Re:How is this different from Turnitin? (1)

buchner.johannes (1139593) | about 4 years ago | (#34040632)

If you want to know the difference between this and turnitin, you'd have to read the article, it specifically mentions a few differences...

Inspired by the World's #1 Hacker (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34037308)

So did they run it against LIGATT's Gregory Evans' titular training book on how to Become the World's #1 Hacker, 100% plagiarized? http://www.amazon.com/How-Become-Worlds-No-Hacker/dp/0982609108/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top

Spam detector? (1)

Zerth (26112) | about 4 years ago | (#34037330)

Even better if it will show papers that are suspiciously similar to pharmaceutical companies advertising literature.

Red faces all round then.... (1)

accessbob (962147) | about 4 years ago | (#34037374)

Since researchers constantly plagiarize their own work in order to get their paper count up, there are going to be some very red faces....

Re:Red faces all round then.... (2, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | about 4 years ago | (#34037478)

Since researchers constantly plagiarize their own work

Is this where the author of something passes it off as his own? I agree, that's a terrible thing.

False positives/negatives (1)

Travelsonic (870859) | about 4 years ago | (#34037382)

I wonder, how is the false positive / false negative rate? I mean, places like turnitin.com for example shows this problem quite well with regards to how even quotes - cited and all - raise some flags.

There's nothing about "destroying" in the article (2, Insightful)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about 4 years ago | (#34037432)

I can't blame the submitter for this one. The article itself uses the term "search and destroy" early on, yet says absolutely nothing about destroying anything.

Re:There's nothing about "destroying" in the artic (1)

Zontar_Thing_From_Ve (949321) | about 4 years ago | (#34037454)

Oops! Make that "seek and destroy" instead of "search and destroy", but still, it's just sensationalism.

Re:There's nothing about "destroying" in the artic (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34040076)

It has the potential to destroy the reputations of unethical scientists, because some scientists publish slight changes of a single paper of theirs to multiple journals to increase their publication count. This system will hopefully bring some sunshine on that practice, because the scientists who are essentially copying their own papers make other scientists (who are actually doing research and writing separate papers for each publication) look bad, as their publication count isn't as high. Publication count lower than another scientist translates to lower money for research the next year.

Thanks to these scientists to bring sunshine to their own field. This kind of a meta-version of the mantra that science is self correcting, as some scientists are using science to destroy the reputations of other, unethical, scientists. Go science!

Shocking plagiarism already found (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34037434)

They found a research paper on hydrogen stole 2 thirds from an existing paper on water.

Re:Shocking plagiarism already found (1)

Abstrackt (609015) | about 4 years ago | (#34039764)

Thankfully, a follow-up paper on oxygen doused this explosive situation.

CRISP no longer exists ... it's now RePORTer (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34037452)

link to RePORTer: http://projectreporter.nih.gov/reporter.cfm

in addition, it only contains funded grant materials, and only abstracts. perhaps, (s)he is referring to Pubmed and PubMedCentral (PMC).

anyway, I'm not scared.

plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (5, Insightful)

onionman (975962) | about 4 years ago | (#34037484)

I once had an English teacher who said, "If you have more than five consecutive words matching a source, without a citation then it's plagiarism." Perhaps that's how freshman writing assignments are graded, but it's silly when applied to scientific papers. Pick up any math paper on number theory, and you're bound to find the sentence "Let p be an odd prime number." without citation, but that would hardly qualify as plagiarism. Yet, syntactic matching appears to be exactly what this program is doing.

What constitutes "plagiarism" in a scientific paper is very different from plagiarism in journalism or English literature. In scientific writing, it is expected that authors will use the same flat, impersonal style and repeat definitions and the results of others to save the reader the time of having to look them up. So, simple pattern matching between science papers will result in a great many false positives. In science (and math) writing what matters is the new result which the author is claiming. It seems to me that it would be nearly impossible for a computer program to detect the distinction.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34037542)

exactly.

I'm afraid that someone's hard work will be destroyed because a sentence matches someone else's paper.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34037706)

"Let p be an odd prime number."

I guess this could be considered a FACT. Facts are not covered by copyright. They are probably looking for the more obvious forms of plagiarism.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 4 years ago | (#34037726)

> I once had an English teacher who said, "If you have more than five consecutive words matching a source, without a citation then it's plagiarism." Perhaps that's how freshman writing assignments are graded, but it's silly when applied to scientific papers.

No. Just... no. It is not "silly," it is insulting, in either freshman english lit or scientific papers. Any teacher who defines plagiarism that way has a lot more to learn than he has to teach.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 4 years ago | (#34037868)

> I once had an English teacher who said, "If you have more than five consecutive words matching a source, without a citation then it's plagiarism." Perhaps that's how freshman writing assignments are graded, but it's silly when applied to scientific papers.

No. Just... no. It is not "silly," it is insulting, in either freshman english lit or scientific papers. Any teacher who defines plagiarism that way has a lot more to learn than he has to teach.

Perhaps so, but I could see where such a rule could come from, and it could instill a discipline of making sure things are properly cited. Without any other context, obviously the rule is rubbish, but I could see it as an excellent rule to live by when taking freshman courses in writing/composition.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (4, Insightful)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 4 years ago | (#34038162)

> Perhaps so, but I could see where such a rule could come from, and it could instill a discipline of making sure things are properly cited. Without any other context, obviously the rule is rubbish, but I could see it as an excellent rule to live by when taking freshman courses in writing/composition.

But that's half the problem. The rule may come from a desire to instill discipline, but it's just a bad rule, because it teaches that plagiarism of ideas isn't plagiarism at all, and that stringing five words together in a way that's been used before is, and that rewriting something in your own words makes it no longer plagiarism.

Demand students live by a childish rule, and you will at best be someone they have to ignore as they try to actually learn things.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34039400)

I read a piece years ago about the people at NIH that check papers being submitted for plagarims. One of their flags (not condemnations, but a flag requiring further checks) is 144 characters in a row the same. They noted that this was based on the phrase 'the Contitution of the United States of America'.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

jvkjvk (102057) | about 4 years ago | (#34039514)

because it teaches that plagiarism of ideas isn't plagiarism at all, and that stringing five words together in a way that's been used before is, and that rewriting something in your own words makes it no longer plagiarism.

While I agree with your general premise about childish rules... Just no.

Plagarism is taking someone elses words and claiming them as your own.

You seem to be infected by the IP bug.

Fortunately for the rest of us, one cannot plagarize ideas. Reformulating a concept in your own words does not count as plagarism, nor should it.

Regards.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

AlecC (512609) | about 4 years ago | (#34039850)

There is a grayer area than that. If I rewrite your book, with a paragraph-by-paragraph correspondence, the same plot, the same characters with names and appearances slightly changed, it is still changed. A book callel Earl of the Rings, about a hibbit from the Shaw taking a broach to be destroyed in Mt Gloom would probably be plagiarism (unless it changed enough to become parody).

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (3, Interesting)

Idarubicin (579475) | about 4 years ago | (#34040098)

You seem to be infected by the IP bug.

Fortunately for the rest of us, one cannot plagarize ideas. Reformulating a concept in your own words does not count as plagarism, nor should it.

You seem to be infected by a different sort of IP bug.

Plagiarism is not the same thing as copyright infringement (though it's not uncommon for the same act to involve elements of both). One can plagiarize public domain sources. One can plagiarize ideas.

Plagiarism is what happens when a writer presents other people's work (their words or their ideas) as his own, without giving due credit to the source. Pretending that you thought of something when you're actually just copying another author's reasoning is intellectual dishonesty, and squarely within the realm of plagiarism.

If you copy someone's words verbatim, there is an added obligation to specifically identify the copied passage by blockquoting, using quotation marks, or otherwise clearly setting off the passage from the rest of your writing. If you're just paraphrasing, there's no obligation to use quotation marks (that would be silly) but there remains a need to properly name your source (through footnotes or other means). Rewriting someone else's work in your own words is otherwise still very much plagiarism.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (3, Insightful)

pz (113803) | about 4 years ago | (#34037754)

Furthremore, when a scientist has spent a number of years on a long-term research plan, the condensed versions of what he is studying become so well rehearsed that it gets memorized. I have stock phrases that I use when I want to describe this or that aspect of my work because, after giving dozens of presentations about it, they are the ones that work best. They are the most highly polished and refined. They communicate the idea well. And so, they often get trotted out with every manuscript or grant application. My students and post-docs learn to use the same phrasing because, flatly, it works.

None of the instances of those phrases or full sentences require attribution because they are all from the same motherspring of thought. We are the writers. And, as you might imagine, this might well produce a raft of false positives to a system that blindly compares text.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 4 years ago | (#34038324)

It makes a feature vector of the text in its entirety, then computes the "distance" between any two vectors. This distance is computed in some large dimensional space I believe not necessarily using a Euclidean metric. If the "distance" is below some threshold the papers are suspect Id imagine.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34040008)

The essential info to have here is "what type of feature vector?": if it's too focused on the words used themselves, it becomes easy to foil such algorithm (for instance, by using a thesaurus and slightly rephrasing things); on the other hand, an algorithm that tries to extract the semantics of the text into a feature vector is bound to have a higher rate of false positives, be very computationally expensive and/or create feature vectors that are larger than the original object itself (choose at least two of the three).

So there is obviously some trade-off involved here and I'm not so sure there's an acceptable "sweet spot" (meaning, an instance of such algorithm than provides both high sensitivity and low false positive rate) unless these guys made some serious breakthroughs in AI/textmining breakthrough.

Ok. Enough speculation... "Virginia _Bioinformatics_ Institute" and an algorithm that contains BLAST in its name? It's obvious that this revolves around direct text-to-text alignment and not on the construction of feature vectors based on semantic information followed by calculation of distances (wikipedia confirms it: http://en.wikipedia.org/ETBLAST), which means it is only bound to catch only the most obvious of plagiarisms (of the "Ctrl+C/Ctrl+V" type) and not more elaborate types of plagiarism.

Nothing to see here, please move along (meaning... wake me up when computers can actually assess "well done" plagiarism; although... yeah... this does look pretty neat, regardless :P)

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

careysub (976506) | about 4 years ago | (#34037808)

... Yet, syntactic matching appears to be exactly what this program is doing.

What constitutes "plagiarism" in a scientific paper is very different from plagiarism in journalism or English literature. In scientific writing, it is expected that authors will use the same flat, impersonal style and repeat definitions and the results of others to save the reader the time of having to look them up. So, simple pattern matching between science papers will result in a great many false positives. In science (and math) writing what matters is the new result which the author is claiming. It seems to me that it would be nearly impossible for a computer program to detect the distinction.

Hours of speculation and typing can save one minute of reading TFA. From the article:

"Unlike other plagiarism detectors, it does not use phrases or similar words to check for copying. Helio Text actually looks at the entirety of the text."

So no, it does not. It uses instead some sort of similarity metric computed from analyzing the entire text. This is possibly similar to the text distance metrics used in vector space search engine models (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vector_space_model ). They will be publishing a paper online in PLoS ONE.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 4 years ago | (#34038130)

That makes sense. So it constructs a feature vector for each text and computes their distances relative to eachother. If there is a distance below some threshold then the papers are suspect.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

onionman (975962) | about 4 years ago | (#34038154)

... Yet, syntactic matching appears to be exactly what this program is doing.

What constitutes "plagiarism" in a scientific paper is very different from plagiarism in journalism or English literature. In scientific writing, it is expected that authors will use the same flat, impersonal style and repeat definitions and the results of others to save the reader the time of having to look them up. So, simple pattern matching between science papers will result in a great many false positives. In science (and math) writing what matters is the new result which the author is claiming. It seems to me that it would be nearly impossible for a computer program to detect the distinction.

Hours of speculation and typing can save one minute of reading TFA. From the article:

"Unlike other plagiarism detectors, it does not use phrases or similar words to check for copying. Helio Text actually looks at the entirety of the text."

So no, it does not. It uses instead some sort of similarity metric computed from analyzing the entire text. This is possibly similar to the text distance metrics used in vector space search engine models (see: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vector_space_model ). They will be publishing a paper online in PLoS ONE.

I did RTFA. However, there is no code, no algorithm description, no indication whatsoever in TFA describing exactly how their program operates. From the vague references in TFA it appears that this is nothing more than a glorified, article+abstract-wide, pattern matcher. Perhaps it is a little more clever and uses something similar to Google's page ranking algorithm via applying distance metrics to textual spaces. However, that is also a form of syntactic analysis rather than a context analysis. Barring further information on the algorithm, I can't see how your description invalidates my previous point.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34038052)

Just whitelist common turns of phrase. Or require the length of the matches to be longer. What your claiming isn't impossible to get around. They apply these same technologies to code as well in schools. And it works!

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

sribe (304414) | about 4 years ago | (#34038066)

...you're bound to find the sentence "Let p be an odd prime number."

Actually, I kind of doubt you see that exact phrase very often. Although, you're certainly more likely to see it than "Let p be an even prime number."

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

sribe (304414) | about 4 years ago | (#34038078)

Replying to myself, yes, I know about 2 ;-)

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

Lehk228 (705449) | about 4 years ago | (#34038166)

well it's better to use constants than magic numbers anyways, though you should use a more descriptive name than p

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

NoSig (1919688) | about 4 years ago | (#34038408)

Actually it is quite common in papers that deal with primes in the first place, though the phrase is more often just "Let p be an odd prime" rather than "let p be an odd prime number".

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

sribe (304414) | about 4 years ago | (#34039546)

Actually it is quite common in papers that deal with primes in the first place, though the phrase is more often just "Let p be an odd prime" rather than "let p be an odd prime number".

OK. I didn't remember it phrased that way from any number theory, but that was decades ago for me. Seems to me a bit obtuse compared to calling out the exception that is being excluded. But if it's done that, it's done that way, regardless of my opinions...

Regarding your point on phrasing, yeah, just google the two. Yours wins 169,000 to 0.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 4 years ago | (#34038104)

There are approximately 120,000 words in the English language. Most high school students only know probably a third of that at most. So 40,000. Its not hard to imagine across 1000 documents that there would be a pretty high chance 5 words would match in a sequence especially since there exists grammar as well as common ways of expressing things such as "had been taken to heart".

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

tbischel (862773) | about 4 years ago | (#34038686)

"Pick up any math paper on number theory, and you're bound to find the sentence 'Let p be an odd prime number.' without citation, but that would hardly qualify as plagiarism."

I wonder how often you see specifically an odd prime number... since two is the only even prime, its really the oddest of the bunch.

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

chad_r (79875) | about 4 years ago | (#34039190)

I wonder how often you see specifically an odd prime number... since two is the only even prime, its really the oddest of the bunch.

The answer is:

"About 48,200 results (0.53 seconds)"

Re:plagiarism differs in science vs. English Lit. (1)

cpm99352 (939350) | about 4 years ago | (#34040164)

Once upon a time, there *BAM*


What a stupid rule.

Where's the code? (1)

Qubit (100461) | about 4 years ago | (#34037498)

I poked around the site, and found the page describing some JSON APIs and things, but no links to code or developer pages.

So where's the code?

Hmm, okay, that's weird. The project is run by the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute, but the disclaimer [vt.edu] says:

This software and data are provided to enhance knowledge and encourage progress in the scientific community and are to be used only for research and educational purposes. Any reproduction or use for commercial purpose is prohibited without the prior express written permission of the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.

So they don't hold copyright to it? Or they didn't write it? Hmmmm....

Re:Where's the code? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34037732)

run the code on itself and you can see if it's plagerised!

Re:Where's the code? (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 4 years ago | (#34038164)

They probably are using some code owned by that institute to save time writing it themselves.

And now the all seeing eye turns to teachers and p (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34037516)

About flipping time!

This is no different than the student version and it is very good at what it's doing. This means that profs who "cheat" will get caught. Amazing!

Lame (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34037544)

Not only is this lame, but how does it handle passages where a work is quoted legitimately. I despise crap like this and Turnitin.

In other news: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34037562)

Several academic and research institutions have noted a sharp drop of published research from their Chinese native researchers. Experts are speculating there may be a link between this and the institutions' recent adoption of ET Blast.

Recycling (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 4 years ago | (#34037830)

Even though recycling is not plagiarism, I would love to see this tool being used to create some sort of recycling ranking for individual academics and colleges. There is a not-so-fine line between exploring different aspects of a subject and simply recycling for the purpose of maximizing presence. The former is necessary for the pursuit of research. The later is just f* dishonesty (and a costly one for society since it is typically used for securing research moolah.)

Re:Recycling (1)

Antisyzygy (1495469) | about 4 years ago | (#34038220)

Its considered unethical by the majority of scientists to recycle papers unless there is a significant update from one to the next, i.e., methods changed, or additional steps are taken which improve the results. It is not considered unethical to have your paper resubmitted to a different conference or journal if it was rejected from another however.

Re:Recycling (1)

luis_a_espinal (1810296) | about 4 years ago | (#34038706)

Its considered unethical by the majority of scientists to recycle papers unless there is a significant update from one to the next, i.e., methods changed, or additional steps are taken which improve the results. It is not considered unethical to have your paper resubmitted to a different conference or journal if it was rejected from another however.

I know, I was referring to the former. In fact, referring a paper to different conferences (say within the same year), that I would *not* consider it recycling.

That's all fine and good, but... (2, Interesting)

bobdotorg (598873) | about 4 years ago | (#34038002)

... can it find dupes on Slashdot?

Re:That's all fine and good, but... (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | about 4 years ago | (#34039590)

Can it load the front page?

Finding dupes on slashdot is like finding corruption in congress.

That's all fine and good, but... (0, Redundant)

TubeSteak (669689) | about 4 years ago | (#34040024)

... can it find dupes on Slashdot?

 

UK (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34038014)

In the UK they do this for UCAS (University) applications, they check your personal statement to test both if it plagiarises or it's crap (uses too many common themes) and warns you about it.

How is that news? (1)

hnangelo (1098127) | about 4 years ago | (#34038616)

How is that news? I've seen a few universities using systems like that for a few years now...

amount of scientific plagiarism creeping up (1)

peter303 (12292) | about 4 years ago | (#34038746)

The first study I read in Nature ten years ago placed it about 1-2% in European/North American Journals. A more recent study doubled that figure. Pilot tests in Asia find the number well into double digits.

No one has fully stated the cause for the increase. I am guessing its better software and nearly all papers are in electronic databases now. A more pessimistic explanation would be that as the "Internet Generation" enters the scientific workforce, their sloppy IP habits migrate into research papers.

The same recent Nature article recommended routine scans of submitted papers to reduce plagiarism retractions in the future. Retractions are always embarassing to editors.

Publishers are using CrossCheck (1)

1_brown_mouse (160511) | about 4 years ago | (#34038960)

http://www.crossref.org/crosscheck.html [crossref.org]

They already create DOIs for their published work and now can check the works before publishing.

It's like fingerprint analysis. (1)

MarkvW (1037596) | about 4 years ago | (#34039488)

In fingerprint analysis, the computer spits out a possible match. It's up to the human to determine whether or not that match is valid. It's the same with this stuff.

If only .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34039596)

If only the Philippine Supreme Court had this technology ..... http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/insights/08/09/10/plagiarism-supreme-court

Can you get false positives? (1)

SimonJG (1245970) | about 4 years ago | (#34039616)

How does this text comparison work? Is it intelligent enough to weight the different sections differently?

Very often, much of the introductory and methodology sections may be recycled or adapted from previous publications and only the results and conclusions are scientifically novel.

Re:Can you get false positives? (1)

dxk3355 (987361) | about 4 years ago | (#34040146)

I just saw a presentation that described the two basic formulas that these programs use. The important one is to measure Damerau–Levenshtein distance. This can be combined with fuzzy string searching or other algorithms to determine a percentage.

Re:Can you get false positives? (1)

dxk3355 (987361) | about 4 years ago | (#34040236)

Dice's coefficient is another important one. You can use it to across words, sentences, and paragraphs to determine a similarity measure.

It's no more... (1)

fletto (1416865) | about 4 years ago | (#34039708)

Unfortunately, during the beta stage the program came across this certain Spielberg movie and a Metallica song and offed itself. Too bad, it seemed to be a pretty handy piece of software.

Awesome (1)

JambisJubilee (784493) | about 4 years ago | (#34039808)

This is a really great tool, actually. For scientific, the time between gathering notes/ideas/data and writing them down can be significant. Even an academic mini-thesis might have 200+ citations. By the time you write the paper it's hard to remember which of your (handwritten) notes are original. I've always wanted a tool that could double check for me.

Tit-for-tat (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#34039938)

Software finds plagiarism in Research? Research finds plagiarism in Software. Research finds plagiarism in software used to find plagiarism in research. Software finds plagiarism in research used to find plagiarism in software. Will this arm's race never end? Please?? And won't someone think of the children?

Is it really a plagiarism tool? (1)

saiful76 (1929216) | about 4 years ago | (#34040068)

The article points to this link [vt.edu] for the search engine. I did a search with a small paragraph copied from a paper and found too many results with different scores (it doesn't explain what these scores mean). It didn't tell anything decisively if the text is copied from any source, which is expected from a plagiarism tool.

Secondly, the About [vt.edu] page doesn't talk plagiarism at all. What it says is: "eTBLAST is a unique search engine for searching biomedical literature. Our service is very different from PubMed. While PubMed searches for "keywords", our search engine lets you input an entire paragraph and returns MEDLINE abstracts that are similar to it. This is something like PubMed's "Related Articles" feature, only better because it runs on your unique set of interests."

However, I must say that the results did give lot of interesting related papers in the same subject which is not easy to find with keyword search. To me, it looks more like a search engine where you can search using a paragraph instead of keywords, which is quite impressive in itself. The site also offers few nifty features such as "Find an Expert" and "Find a Journal" which should be useful for research professionals. I also found the citations page to be quite informative. Since this service is free with API's available, it can be a great source for creating mashups.

ET Blast (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | about 4 years ago | (#34040602)

"Ouch."

Didn't I read this same article last week? (1)

minstrelmike (1602771) | about 4 years ago | (#34040760)

Didn't I read this same article last week?
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