Friday, February 15, 2008

Honor code at Ohio U. won't resolve plagiarism problem

An IPBiz reader noted a link which provides the information:

Ohio University's engineering college will have a new honor code as of today [Feb. 15], but the three-year plagiarism scandal there is far from settled.


Today, Ohio University students and faculty and staff members in the engineering college will sign an honor code developed as a result of the scandal. The university announced in early 2006 that the code would be completed that summer; Irwin said it has taken much longer because so many groups had to weigh in.

The code has two parts: a statement of responsibility, and a short pledge that reads: "We members of the Russ College pledge to act with integrity and expect the same from each other."

IPBiz observes that this is interesting, but largely irrelevant to the problem or to the resolution of the problem. As IPBiz noted, the Air Force Academy had a code AND problems with cheating. Earlier than the Air Force problem was the West Point cheating scandal, also conducted in the presence of an honor code. [See for example Rick Atkinson's The Long Gray Line which delves into the disconnect between the code and surrounding reality, among many other topics]

The problem is more visceral. Down deep, academics talk the talk on plagiarism, but do not walk the walk. Refer to the Poshard matter at SIU. There is not a universal public condemnation of plagiarism. Again, refer to the Poshard matter, or the Merrill matter or the Tribe matter. The Harvard Business Review had an article which shouted "Plagiarize with Pride."
Establishing an honor code is hollow lip service that doesn't address the underlying problem. The problem was inflicted upon the Ohio University administration, which responded in academic bureaucratic fashion. The problem has not gone away. At the end of the day, the problem is us, with a gap between aspiration and reality.

And, as IPBiz has noted, there is a hierarchy of issues. What happened at Ohio U. is bad, the Poshard matter was worse, but
allowing journals to publish falsities is still worse.

[Separately, note the discussion by Atkinson of Carhart in "Gray Line" AND note the IPBiz post discussing the same Atkinson reviewing Carhart's book.]


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