Turnitin, the leading provider of plagiarism-detection software, is ubiquitous at the high school and college level. But I’ve always wondered if and when the service will be used in middle schools and, gasp, elementary schools. Well, Turnitin recently answered my query: middle schools are adopting it at “a fine clip,” but usage among elementary schools is rare. That latter, nonzero number is interesting — I would love to know how those elementary school teachers use it, potentially when some of their students cannot even read yet. As I’ve written elsewhere, elementary school is probably the best time to teach about authorship and honesty — it’s in those early grades that kids learn how to cut-and-paste, the plagiarizer’s favorite tool.
And for those districts that start using it with first graders, that means students will be exposed to plagiarism discussions for a good 12 years before they hit their first college course — that’s just amazing. If you’ve ever taught college students, you’ll know that when caught cheating, the top excuse is “but I didn’t know it was plagiarism … we never learned about that in high school.” With up to 12 (twelve!!) years of exposure, that certainly will be a lame excuse … though I’m sure they’ll still use it.
If anyone does research on the risk factors contributing to plagiarism among college students, it would be interesting to look at how their grade school teachers dealt with the plagiarism issue (ostriching, Turnitin, etc.). If you do it, please let me know …
UPDATE: please see this page for updated slides and additional tips.
Here are tips for educators on how to attribute images in a Powerpoint slide deck (hit pause button to assert manual control of the slide advance). The tips are focused on the logistics of attribution (placement, text color, etc.) since the law aspect is, um, complicated. It’s just a draft, so if you have suggestions, let me know in comments or via email. I made it because very, very few educators seem to provide image credits. Or at least the ones who post their slides online …
As you probably know from my earlier posts, CPBR sends out a yearly invitation to plant biotechnology researchers to submit grant proposals. Part of the emailed PDF has instructions on how to make a scientific poster, and a big part of that section was created by copying/pasting text from my page on the topic (but with no quotation marks and no attribution).
Because I happen to have an official copyright registration on my poster design page, the PDF is in violation of U.S. copyright law. So, in addition to being able to sue CPBR rather easily, I can can also use the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) to send Notifications of Copyright Infringement (NOCIs) to have the CPBR document (PDF and any paper copies) destroyed.
So here’s what I’ve done.
I’ve asked every member university to delete the PDF when received from CPBR. In other words, the grants administration office will no longer forward that PDF to faculty on campus. Because CPBR forbids member institutions from posting the PDF online (don’t ask me why), this means CPBR will not receive grant applications in the future. Note that asking universities to help protect my copyright is a friendly request — I was not accusing the universities of anything. It’s just like asking them to help protect copyrighted movies that might be illegally shared by students. With one exception (University of Minnesota), they are happy to help. The University of Minnesota’s lawyers insist email forwarding of PDFs is exempt from copyright law (lingering effect of cold temperature?).
I’ve informed the Fraud Alert representatives of the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture, and the Environmental Protection Agencies that CPBR is violating U.S. Copyright Law and should stop receiving Federal funds (DOE has given them almost $23 million, for example).
I’ve informed CPBR’s internet provider that CPBR is using email to send content that infringes on my copyright.
All of the above could have been avoided if CPBR simply linked to my Designing Conference Posters page. I love it when people link to my page. Alternatively, if CPBR wanted to quote a sentence or two, that would be totally fine. Here are two examples (book, website) of how to use quotation marks and attribution.
“Yet the politics of shipwreck can be avoided, I think, if we can construct a theory of feminist criticism within the framework of a general theory of the critical process that is neither purely objective nor purely intuitive; in that way, its processes can be examined beside, compared with, and contrasted to other branches of criticism with some degree of dispassionate distance.” [translate]
— Schumacher, D. 1989. Subjectivities: a theory of the critical process. Pages 29-36 in Feminist Literary Criticism: Explorations in Theory, edited by Josephine Donovan. University Press of Kentucky.
“CPBR speeds the transfer of plant-related biotechnologies from the research laboratory to the marketplace, expanding economic opportunities through university research and global networking. Its highly competitive project selection process includes … industrial evaluation of research concepts to insure [sic] industrial relevance … ”
— The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc. Retrieved 22 March 2014, from http://www.cpbr.org/content.html.
It’s really odd that CPBR didn’t just use quotations and attribution. The CEO has a PhD in literature, and CPBR’s website has images and quotes that are all nicely attributed. Plus the core mission of the company is to foster commercialization of the intellectual property of participating scientists — and CPBR has IP lawyers on retainer for that very purpose. There are, in short, so many reasons why this is not a company you’d expect to plagiarize or to infringe on copyrights.
I’m amazed that we are well into 2014 and schools can still sell junk food to students in vending machines. Below are four photographs just in case you haven’t been to school recently. In first, some breakfast cereals: Frosted Flakes, Cocoa Krispies, and Apple Jacks, with 37%, 40%, and 43% sugar, respectively. I’m sure that the Vending Machine Committee for this school decided that if they avoided Kellogg’s Honey Smacks (55.6% sugar), they could argue that the actual offerings are “healthier options.” Photographs 2 and 3 show candy and chips. Photograph 4 is for viewers interested in obesity among minorities.
In Pennsylvania (where photographs were taken), 15.9% of high school students are overweight. 11.8% of adolescents are obese. With rates that high, many students don’t even need healthier forms of calories — they need to stop snacking. Vending machines promote snacking.
One of the mildly entertaining things about having a blog is seeing what type of web searches lead people to my site. For me, key search terms usually include “killing camel crickets”. But “Dr Dorin Schumacher” is up there, too. The former is a pestiferous creature that dwells in dark places and leaves frass stains everywhere. The latter has a doctorate in French literature, has a fondness for wearing black, and heads a Georgia-based non-profit (The Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research) that plagiarizes my site heavily. When I complained about the plagiarism, she used CPBR’s money (which comes from the DOE, USDA, and EPA … i.e., you) to hire a fancy lawyer to threaten me with copyright infringement. She has demanded that I take down my site or face hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.
That was a year ago, and it seems like a fine day to make an anniversary post in her honor, if for no other reason than to solidify my awesome “Dr Dorin Schumacher” Google ranking.
When news of this frass behavior hit the internet last year, there was a lot of interest (albeit brief), even from people who don’t normally care about the design of scientific posters (the content of mine that CPBR had stolen and claimed was theirs). For example, the story crashed the servers at The Chronicle of Higher Education (that had never happened before, I was told). A lot of people contacted me with emails of sympathy, but nothing really affected Dr Schumacher’s little hive in St Simon’s Island (a resort town).
So here’s what I did: I spent a fun-filled week contacting Presidents, Grants Administration Chairs, and designated DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) Agents at every single one of CPBR’s member institutions. I informed them that CPBR’s document infringed on my copyrighted material, attached proof (PDFs, etc.), and asked them to stop emailing the document to their researchers. Naturally, forwarding material that is known to violate copyright is something universities traditionally avoid. I also informed the private corporations that they were trafficking a document that violated my copyright. Biotechnology corporations generally like copyright law, too.
One year later: not a single member has complied with my wishes — they are all still members of the CPBR racket (it diverts millions of dollars of taxpayer money that would normally go to USDA, EPA, and DOE grants). The only encouraging response I got was from a person who said, “we will continue to follow this” (yeah, thanks a lot). All of them apparently decided that ignoring my request (after all, just some snarky botanist in Swarthmore) would preserve the juicy financial benefits of continued CPBR membership.
And CPBR continues to email the document containing my text to all its member institutions and still has “copyright CPBR” plastered on the pages in question. In fact, everything seems to be peachy at CPBR in the resort town of St Simon’s Island, Georgia. They just finished an annual gathering in DC, and even had important government officials (Dr Johnathan Male, Department of Energy; Sanford Bishop, US House of Representatives) and scientists give keynote talks (see program details). And its funding seems rather secure (according to the DOE’s Dr Male in this PDF). The Department of Energy has given them $23 million dollars. Dr Schumacher pays herself $1/4 million per year.
So I thought it would be fun to list the member institutions below as a way to call attention to their inaction. If you’re an alum who might care to contact them, you’d get 17 karma points. If you want to contact the DOE office that gives CPBR its money, you can email them.