Thursday, May 28, 2009

Conference Board should have used Turnitin!

Looks like the Conference Board of Canada should be using Turnitin to check their work, and to avoid this embarassing situation.  Kind of a bummer to withdraw three reports that were proposing tougher copyright legislation due to "failing to meet research standards"--or "plagiarism" as Dr. Michael Geist bluntly puts it.

Michael Geist, who blew the lid off this story, is a University of Ottawa prof and a Canada Research Chair. He is a regular commentator on intellectual property issues in the digital age. Geist has been a critic of the direction copyright legislation in Canada is moving, and of the Conference Board report recommendations. But he went one further than his criticism of bias, and stated  the Conference Board had plagiarized text from a lobby group in the US for their report! The lobby group  promotes business interests in copyright legislation, making even cited use of the work questionable. Whoops! Or I suppose I should say, Gotcha!

Hmmm. How does UVIC define plagiarism? Yup, inadequate or missing citation of others' work meets UVic calendar's definition of plagiarism. Now, a student in this situation wouldn't get to withdraw three reports, but stubbornly stand by their "results". And students' work isn't likely to shape federal policy on copyright. 

You may be wondering, what exactly is this Conference Board? Until now, I always thought they were some branch of Stats Canada and never really gave it a thought--I've heard them quoted as a source of information about Canada many times on CBC radio.

The Conference Board is actually non profit society, and is self described as independent (though linked to the Conference Board of New York), non-biased, and undertaking applied research. 

But a look at who is in charge at the Conference Board gives a different sense. While their Board of Directors does include the President of one co-operative (the cooperators), that board member sits amongst the CEOs of Microsoft Canada, CGI, Merk, Debeers, and the Business Development Bank. Not a bad lineup for a business lobby--but questionable in an impartial research group. Give me the Chamber of Commerce any day. 

Well, I say chalk one up for truly independent university researchers like Dr.Geist. As noted a few days ago, academia is under lots of pressure from business too, not to mention that shift in SSHRC grants toward funding business-focussed research. There is a reason universities need to be independent and publicly funded! 

No doubt this is all fodder for gossip at Congress (of the Humanities). With Geist as a member of a keynote panel Friday night on copyright, this should make for a flivelu discussion! I propose Geist perform a rendition of Tom Lehrer's take on plagiarism, Lobachevsky, in honour of this schadenfreude-filled moment!! 

Monday, May 25, 2009

Dental referendum vote today!

Don't forget to vote in the GSS dental referendum this week!

Lots of information is posted here:
but essentially the choice is to keep the current plan and pay $15 more per year (raising the plan fee to $200 per year) or to keep the current rate ($185) and reduce the maximum claim to $500. Right now the maximum claim per calendar year is $750.

The cost to add your family will likely be $205 per year if the increase goes through.

Begbie statue stolen

Someone stole the statue in the UVIC Law building. One evening last week, someone nabbed the bronze of BC's first judge, Matthew Begbie. The statue stood prominently in the entry of the Law building for many years. Known as the "hanging judge"--some say unjustly--Begbie has been the subject of much controversy over the years. The statue, which shows Begbie riding on a horse, was sawed off at the hooves and removed.

Honoring Begbie at UVIC has been the subject of much debate over the years--and the statue has been the subject of mild pranks. Until recently the UVIC Law building was also named for Begbie--now it is named for Fraser, UVIC's first law dean.

Given the controversy the Begbie statue has caused it would be easy to assume the theft is a student protest or prank, but Universities have been targets of art theives before. Notably the recent theft of Bill Reid's gorgeous gold carving work from UBC (now found, with some damage), and theives stealing bronze monuments for the melted-down value. The recently solved theft of a famous (and heavy!) Henry Moore bronze shows the thieves stole a multi-million dollar work of art to melt it down to earn a few thousand from the scrap. Apparently law enforcement can attend conferences on metal theft, and some areas even have metal theft specialists on their police force.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Corporate interference in academic journals

A worrisome case from Australia--where a pharmaceutical company sponsored publication of an "academic" journal through a medical/scientific publisher, Elsevier for a fee.

hat tip to:
Therapeutics Initiative at UBC for the link:

The Terapeutics Initiative itself came under fire recently for refusing pharmaceutical influence: