Thursday, May 31, 2007

Ohio University brings in ethics person to discuss plagiarism

The Athens News quoted Tim Dodd: "They're (universities) training grounds for cheating. They're training grounds for taking shortcuts."

The topic of chemistry came up in Dodd's talk:

In one chemistry lab at Duke, Dodd recalled, a passing grade required synthesizing a particular chemical. "You got credit for the lab if you came up with the right result," he said. "Guess what? People came up with the right result."

IPBiz notes: Whoever came up with human SCNT would be the hero of therapeutic cloning, and guess what, Hwang Woo Suk came up with it, and Science published it.

Dodd's remedy for Duke's chemistry: When students made this issue clear to professors, however, Dodd said, class policy was changed to give credit to students who failed to produce the compound, but could successfully explain in chemistry terms why they failed. This placed the emphasis more on mastery of the subject, and less on getting a result obtainable by cheating, he said.

IPBiz ponders: does the journal Science permit publication of papers describing why scientists failed to generate human SCNT?

An IPBiz reader came up with an idea much better than Dodd's:

At Berkeley, freshman chem lab, each of 30 students was given the same metal, and were to identify it by MW, by converting it to MS, and measure the weight gain. What they did not tell the students, is that this method would result in the WRONG answer, because the compound made was not MS, but a slightly substoichiometric composition (like MS0.9) Funny, when you took the 30 results,and plotted the distribution curve, there was not one peak, but two: one at the "what you should get", and another "bang on the correct MW". The latter was "dry labbed" to give the expected MW. Well, the profs graded by the final resulting "normal distribution curve": if you were within 1 sigma of the class average, you got an A; 2 sigma a B; etc. Can you imagine-the kids who had dry labbed it, who got "the correct answer", got B's...and they were miffed...but they could not complain because they had dry labbed their results.
Do that type of experiment a few times, early in each quarter, and one might discourage dry labbing

The Athens News noted: Dodd praised OU's efforts so far in response to the plagiarism scandal, but one also recalls what Tom Matrka wrote.


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