Monday, August 27, 2012

How to Cheat a Lot

A bunch of links on academic cheating at different levels.

  1. We already saw this article about the Shadow Scholar, the guy who earned a living selling term papers, academic reports and even parts of masters and PhD thesis to clueless or lazy students in American universities. Apparently, he has quit that line of work, and written a book -- The Shadow Scholar: How I Made a Living Helping College Kids Cheat -- about that experience. The Chronicle has a commentary on the new book: An Academic Ghostwriter, the 'Shadow Scholar,' Comes Clean:

    The book also offers an unsettling account of higher education at perhaps its most cynical and mercantile. Some of his clients are rich and entitled, and see outsourcing their papers as a logical extension of the transactional nature of their relationship with their college. Others are simply unprepared for college because they lack the ability or the language skills to communicate adequately in English.

    "There was a clear economic demand for it," he said, during an interview, of students' interest in his services. "To them it was a financial transaction utterly consistent with everything else about college."

  2. Gautam Naik in WSJ: Journals' Ranking System Roils Research:

    The IF is easily gamed, too. One in five academics in economics, sociology, psychology and business said they had been asked by editors to pad their papers with unnecessary citations to articles in the same journal, according to a study published in Science in February.

    Here's another example:

    In April, Phil Davis, a publishing consultant who writes for a blog called The Scholarly Kitchen, noticed unusual citation patterns at Cell Transplantation.

    In the blog, Mr. Davis noted that a review article published in another journal, Medical Science Monitor, had cited a total of 490 articles in the field, of which 445 were articles that had appeared in Cell Transplantation alone, in 2008 and 2009. Both those years were used to compute the 2010 impact factor for Cell Transplantation, and those citations apparently had an effect: the journal's IF rose from 5.126 in 2009 to 6.204 in 2010, a jump of 21%.

  3. Richard Holmes at University Ranking Watch: Self Citation:

    In 2010 Mohamed El Naschie, former editor of the journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals, embarrassed a lot of people by launching the University of Alexandria into the world's top five universities for research impact in the new Times Higher Education (THE) World University Rankings. He did this partly by diligent self citation and partly by lot of mutual citation with a few friends and another journal. He was also helped by a ranking indicator that gave the university disproportionate credit for citations in a little cited field, for citations in a short period of time and for being in a country were there are few citations.

    Clearly self citation was only part of he story of Alexandria's brief and undeserved success but it was not an insignificant one.

    It now seems that Thomson Reuters (TR), who collect and process the data for THE beginning to get a bit worried about "anomalous citation patterns". [...]

    El Naschie's shenanigans (with ample assist from another academic) were the subject of an excellent article titled Integrity Under Attack: The State of Scholarly Publishing by Douglas Arnold.