Takes your breath away…

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News reports two days ago indicated that cigarette manufacturer Philip Morris’s takeover bid for Vectura, a UK manufacturer of lung health products, looks set to go through.  This  is not a matter of academic integrity and I am not sure about the integrity issues pure and simple either – but there are surely ethical considerations to ponder, and ponder I do.

Last month, discussing What’s not there, I wrote about e-smoking manufacturer Juul’s purchase of the May-June edition of the American Journal of Health Behavior (AJHB); the Special Open Access Issue on JUUL comprised eleven research studies and two editorial articles on JUUL, all attempting to provide academic studies to establish the public health benefits of electronic smoking products.   This is just ahead of a US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruling on whether to allow JUUL to continue making and marketing its products.  Although there seems to be strong evidence to support the notion that e-smoking devices are highly effective in weaning nicotine smokers off cigarettes on to far less harmful substitutes (and thus a public health benefit), there is also much evidence (not reported in the special issue of AJHB) that younger users become addicted to nicotine through using JUUL products and graduate to smoking cigarettes. Thus the FDA hearing and upcoming ruling, thus the lobbying and attempts to influence the outcome.

As well as the ethics of an academic journal selling the full issue as an advertising feature for a possibly unethical business, I also mentioned that Altria had bought a 35% stake in JUUL in 2018.  Altria is owner of several tobacco companies – including Philip Morris, makers of Marlboro cigarettes. Buying into JUUL thus helps Altria claim that it is helping tobacco addicts give up cigarettes while simultaneously selling a product which creates new addicts.

Which is why I have doubts about this week’s news, that Philip Morris’s UK£1bn takeover bid for Vectura is now recommended to shareholders (over a slightly smaller bid from a private equity company) and looks likely to go through.  It is as if Philip Morris’s business plan runs: create nicotine addicts and make money, help them give up their addiction and make money, help them with breathing and other lung problems caused by smoking and make money. This does not sit well.

There is also the danger, highlighted in press coverage of the takeover bid, that lung researchers at Vectura may be unwilling to work for a tobacco company and leave, and also that research hospitals and universities may also block Continue reading

Spinning it out

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A few weeks ago, my eye was caught by an article in The Guardian, Overconfident of spotting fake news? If so, you may be more likely to fall victim.  Natalie Grover reported on a recent survey of 8285 Americans which suggests that 90% of participants thought that their ability to distinguish between fake and accurate headlines was above average, that those who had over-high perception of their abilities were more likely to visit websites which tended to publish false or inaccurate news items, and they were also more likely to share fake news; on the other hand, those who took a more thoughtful approach to their news reading were less likely to be misled by or to share inaccurate and false news reports.

There have been many studies of over-confidence in recent years.   It may be this misplaced self-confidence which leads students (and people generally) to go for and to use without question whatever comes up as Google hit number 1, this regardless of anything they have been told and taught about website evaluation.  It may be a form of cognitive dissonance – knowing that they have to slow down and think about what they find online while at the same time accepting what they find online without thinking about it.

Who needs those CRAAP and WISER and CARRDS or other evaluation tools?  Why bother to laterally read and think, or use Four Moves?   We do not need to think, we cannot be taken in, we know best.

Think again.

I am not sure about my own general news-reading habits, but I do know I tend to be Continue reading

Feeling the draft

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News reporters who plagiarize their stories occasionally make the news themselves – when they are found out.  I was alerted to just such a story a few days ago. My alert service pointed to two short online reports and I had a look.  There were a couple of statements in those reports which puzzled me, they were so intriguing they got me looking for more details and for clarification.

I am not sure that I found clarification.  I did find more reports on the same story, some published a day or two later but quite a few published much earlier. The core of the story remained the same but each succeeding report I looked at seemed to add a different detail.  Unhelpfully, some of those extra details did not quite match the details of other reports.

And while I do not want to comment on the case itself, not least because there is an active legal case going on (the reporter is suing for unfair dismissal), I think there are general points which can be made and general questions to ask which are of interest with regard to honesty and integrity in education and academia.

Let’s dive in!

There is agreement on the basic situation Continue reading

The memory hole gets deeper

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The news that the respected Forbes magazine published an opinion (op-ed) article by Panos Mourdoukoutas, Chair of the Department of Economics at Long Island University, with the title “Amazon Should Replace Local Libraries to Save Taxpayers Money” a few days ago is hardly news any more. It has been shared widely and commented on in the mainstream media and in social media too. It’s old news.

Mourdoukoutas’s argument is studded with dubious and irrelevant claims and arguments such as

 

(“Third places” like Starbucks) provide residents with a comfortable place to read, surf the web, meet their friends and associates, and enjoy a great drink. This is why some people have started using their loyalty card at Starbucks more than they use their library card…

Then there’s the rise of digital technology. Technology has turned physical books into collector’s items, effectively eliminating the need for library borrowing services…

Amazon Books is a chain of bookstores that does what Amazon originally intended to do; replace the local bookstore. It improves on the bookstore model by adding online searches and coffee shops. Amazon Go basically combines a library with a Starbucks…

 

The article concludes Continue reading

Elusive allusions

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Coincidences, again. This morning, in a post to a listserv forum, I included a sentence: “The guide’s the thing…” and then, unsure whether the allusion would be recognised, I added: “as Shakespeare so nearly said.

I was still pondering whether the second part of the sentence was necessary when my daily “plagiarism” alert popped into the inbox, pointing me to an article In praise of plagiarism by Paul Greenberg, published in Arkansas Online, 26 January 2015.

Most of the page is hidden behind a paywall, but the first paragraph is open – and, like the title, intriguing.

Could I find the article anywhere else, a page which was open and free? Copy-and-paste the article title, in quotation marks, in a Google search box, add Greenberg, hit ENTER and bang! The first authentic hit (after the paid-for ad) was also behind a paywall, the second led me to the full article, on Townhall.com

The first two paragraphs read: Continue reading

Nice like you, Ivi … Part 3

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The story so far: I am trying to learn the meaning of Ivi when used in a footnote. The only instances found so far are in four papers written by Dr Marco Soddu, all published online in Foreign Policy Journal.  At least two of Soddu’s papers are academically dubious to the point of plagiarism – and beyond.

Meanwhile, We are no closer to working out what Ivi means or how it is used.  Now read on:

The search for Ivi

Ivi is used – at least, it is used by Marco Soddu, Continue reading

Not so new news

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There’s an interesting article by Denny Carter in eCampus News, July 14, 2014.

Headed The top 10 ways college students plagiarize, it reports on a Turnitin study which reveals, that’s right, the top 10 ways college students plagiarize.

 

 

According to the article, Turnitin’s study was released “this month,” and there is a link to the Turnitin White Paper The Plagiarism Spectrum: Instructor Insights into the 10 Types of Plagiarism.

Carter also mentions (on page 2 of the article) “research conducted at Continue reading

Wrong to be forgotten?

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The ECJ ruling that individuals be allowed to request that search engines remove links to web pages which mention them, the so-called “right to be forgotten,” has come in for a lot of support and a lot of criticism. It raises a lot of questions as to whether the law is enforceable.

Some of the biggest criticisms raise notions of censorship and attempts to change history and the historical record. One of my biggest concerns is that the search engine company is judge and jury, and the “defendant” – the person or organisation behind the “offending” page – is not informed of the request unless and until the request to remove Continue reading

Its ugly head

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Once again the specter of plagiarism is sighted, broadcast in shock-horror headlines:

Plagiarism on standardized tests three times higher in New Orleans schools than rest of Louisiana (The Lens, May 21, 2014).

As you read the story, you will find some good news, it’s not all bad. The number of tests voided for suspicious erasures fell between 2012 and 2013 across the State. In New Orleans, the number of tests voided for suspicious erasures was zero in 2013, according to The Lens’ report. Cause for celebration.

But the percentage of plagiarized standardized tests in New Orleans 2013 was three times higher than the rest of the State.  That is worrying.

It is worrying for two reasons. Continue reading

Thinking thoughts

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Today’s GuardianOnline includes a possibly misleading article.  Today is 1 April*, and the article is headed :

 

Jane Goodall blames ‘chaotic note taking’ for plagiarism controversy
Scientist revises her book Seeds of Hope after allegations 12 sections were lifted from other websites

 

My first thought was of the date, April Fools’ Day.

My second thought was, “Not again?” – for I recalled that Goodall had been involved in a plagiarism controversy last year.

My third thought was the date again…

It was not an April Fools’ joke. But Continue reading

More misleading headlines

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It’s a good-news-bad-news situation. Taking the same government statement, the UK tabloids Daily Express and the Daily Mirror have two very different takes on the same story:

(Screengrabs taken from BBC News : The Papers, 3 February 2014)

 

 

The Daily Express story concentrates on government plans to raise the basic rate of pensions year on year over the next six years.  The Daily Mirror story features the current benefits and perks that pensioners enjoy which they will lose in order to pay for the promised increase in basic pensions.   Whether pensioners will be better off or not over time is not clear, and may depend on how long they live, on whether pensions continue to rise in line with inflation or the cost of living after the six years of guaranteed rises, and many other factors. On these bare stories alone, it pays to keep an open mind, and to seek further, dig deeper. Continue reading

Studies in Statistics 2

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(This post leads on from the last blog post, Studies in Statistics.)

Headlines can be so misleading.

Hundreds cheating on University of Wolverhampton courses, shouts the Express & Star. The subhead tells us more: Hundreds of students have been caught passing off other people’s work as their own.

It’s a shock-horror headline for sure.

The story, as so often, may be a little less dramatic than the headline suggests Continue reading

Remember the coffee study?

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(Spoiler alert: I succumbed!)

You surely remember the coffee study? I posted it only last week, Memories are made of this…

Okay, the study was actually on the effects of caffeine on the memory; Michael Yassa and associates were looking at how a dose of caffeine taken after a learning experience affected memory (even if the volunteer participants were not aware that they would be tested the following day on what they had remembered seeing during the “learning” experience).

My post was not about Yassa’s study itself; it was about the number of differences in press reports of the study: reports disagreed as to the number of volunteers Continue reading

Memories are made of…

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The headlines say it all:

Coffee boosts memory retention, study says (CBC.ca)
Coffee a memory enhancing drug, say boffins (Register)
Coffee boosts long-term memory (Financial Times)
Study: coffee enhances long-term memory retention (Wired.co.uk)
Caffeine pill ‘could boost memory’ (BBC News)
Researchers Find Coffee Enhances Memory, Good News for Seniors (SeniorJournal.com)
Caffeine has positive effect on memory, Johns Hopkins researchers … (The Hub at Johns Hopkins)
One or Two Cups of Coffee Improves Short-Term Memory, Study (University Herald)
Daily Coffee might Help Memory (Onlymyhealth)
Drink two espressos to enhance long-term memory (New Scientist)
Scientists reveal caffeine provides huge boost to your short-term memory (Mirror.co.uk)

This is a selection of headlines found in a Google Search for [coffee memory] on 13 January.  It looks like good news, strong news, positive news, doesn’t it?

Though, a moment’s careful looking might suggest a discrepancy or two… Continue reading

Help the reader!

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One of the reasons for citing and referencing our sources is to help the reader judge the authority and the currency of other people’s work, especially when we use it to support our discussions and our arguments. What’s more, the interested reader can follow up a reference, chase it down and find out more. Citing and referencing is not just a matter of respect for those whose work we use, it is respect for those who read our work as well.

Curiously and perhaps ironically, it was an article on the front page of Ethos (June 2013), a monthly newsletter published by the International Center for Academic Integrity (ICAI), which set me off on this train of thought

The Ethos article reprints the first part  of Cheating Epidemic, Continue reading

Rewriting history…

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First, let’s be clear: this is NOT a piece on Margaret Thatcher’s place in British or world history.  It is a piece on journalism, and the rewriting of, if not history, then at least a rewriting of the record.

Let’s start with the story. While writing to an American friend, I wanted to give her a link to the debate over the BBC’s dilemma as to whether to play “Ding-dong! the witch is dead” on its weekly top of the music charts radio programme this week.  “Ding-dong…” is a short number from the 1938 musical The Wizard of Oz, and has been adopted as the anthem of an anti-Thatcher FaceBook group. Since Thatcher’s death earlier in the week Continue reading

Flattering flaws

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It’s ironic that I have to thank Turnitin for bringing Retraction Watch to my attention.

Retraction Watch is a blog written by Adam Marcus and Ivan Oransky. It aims to report on retractions made in science journals.  Scientific knowledge is not static, but it does tend to develop slowly. New knowledge is gained as connections are made, Continue reading

Getting it wrong…

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The strange story of Hamilton Naki

A strange story, and a strange journey too. This post is not just Naki’s story, strange as that is.

We visit Wikipedia (and wonder if teachers who forbid its use might want to think again), touch on journalistic ethics, have a quick look at the online citation generator EasyBib, and finish at the gates of Turnitin, the software which will “check students’ work for improper citation or potential plagiarism” (Turnitin OriginalityCheck). Continue reading