The Institute - March 2007 - 11

The Plagiarism Problem:

Now You Can Help


lagiarism is a growing concern
for many organizations, including the IEEE. The number of
instances reported in IEEE publications has been rising steadily, with 14
in 2004, 26 in 2005, and 47 in 2006.
The Internet is largely to blame for
the increase, according to Bill Hagen, the
IEEE's intellectual property rights (IPR)
manager, in Piscataway, N.J. Digital search
engines have made plagiarizing easier
because finding information is simpler,
and it takes only the swipe of a mouse and
a couple of keystrokes to highlight text
and paste it into a new document.
AUTHORS TAKE NOTE Plagiarism is defined
by the IEEE as the "reuse of someone
else's prior ideas, processes, results, or
words without explicitly acknowledging
the original author and source." To deal
with the problem, the IEEE is encouraging members, authors, and publication
editors to report cases of plagiarism when
they find them. And the IEEE has developed two new online tools that make
identifying and reporting plagiarism
easier. "Plagiarism can be a bit daunting,
so we tried with the new tools to explain it
in an engaging way," Hagen says.
The first tool is an animated PowerPoint tutorial that explains the fundamentals of plagiarism, why it is a serious offense, how to avoid it, and how to
report it. The second is a flowchart that
illustrates the process used to investigate
a plagiarism complaint [right].
So why is plagiarism so serious?
Besides being a form of copyright
infringement and therefore illegal, it
constitutes, according to the PowerPoint
presentation, a "serious breach of professional and ethical conduct" by denying
original authors credit for their contributions. Plagiarism also can apply to materials besides publications, including
conference proceedings, photographs,
and charts.
Cases of plagiarism vary in severity.
Accordingly, the IEEE has established
five levels. The most extreme, Level 1, is
the "uncredited [to the original author]
verbatim copying of a full paper" or at
least half of an article. The least severe,
Level 5, is the "credited verbatim copy-

ing of a major portion of a paper without clear delineation," such as quotes
or indents.
Punishment varies according to severity. Authors guilty of the most severe
plagiarism can be prohibited from contributing work to IEEE-copyrighted publications for up to five years. Those guilty
of the least severe level are required
merely to write a letter of apology to the
original author.
If you suspect plagiarism, or if you're
an author who finds your work plagiarized, send your complaint to the IEEE
IPR Office (visit the URL at the end of
the article for contact information), along
with copies of the original work and the
work of the alleged plagiarist, much as a
lawyer would submit evidence in a case.
The IPR Office records the complaint
and sends it to the editor in chief of the
publication where the suspected plagiarism appeared.
The second tool is the flowchart. "The
motivation behind putting up the flowchart is that authors, members, and editors will now know how the process of

investigating plagiarism works," says
Saifur Rahman, former chair of the IEEE
Publication Services & Products Board
(PSPB), and the person instrumental in
developing the flowchart.
The IPR Office is important to the
process because it can provide a journal
editor with advice on the IEEE's plagiarism policies and procedures, Hagen
says. The editor also forms an ad hoc
committee of experts from the technical field of the material allegedly plagiarized. Experts can identify what might
simply be wording commonly used to
describe a technical concept-which is
not plagiarism. The committee's job is to
decide whether plagiarism occurred and
to recommend the appropriate corrective
action, if necessary.
SEVERITY LEVEL From that point it's up
to the editor to decide just how severe
the plagiarism is. If it's serious-Level
1 or 2-the editor sends the ad hoc committee's recommendations to the PSPB
chair for action. If it's less severe, the
IPR Office and the plagiarizing author

are notified of the decision and the corrective action to be taken.
If the process does move to the PSPB
chair, the chair reviews the editor's decision and gets advice from the newly
established Publishing Conduct Committee. Rahman appointed the committee in June to assist in handling
misconduct cases involving publishing,
including plagiarism.
If the conduct committee agrees with
the editor's decision on punishment,
the PSPB chair notifies the author and
Hagen's IPR Office. But if the committee
disagrees, the editor receives its recommendations and the cycle repeats until a
course of action is agreed upon.
Besides informing members of how
to avoid and report plagiarism, the IEEE
is considering steps for detecting it more
easily, Hagen notes. For example, the
institute is considering using plagiarismdetection software that would check submitted manuscripts against those in the
IEEE Xplore digital library. And it might
also engage a plagiarism-detection service to check submissions against a large
database of manuscripts from other science and technology publishers.
The two plagiarism tools developed
by the IEEE's IPR Office can be found
on the recently developed plagiarism
guidelines page, at

Investigating Plagiarism Complaints


ad hoc
Editor or Intellectual
Property Rights
(IPR) Office receives
Complaint letter
from original
author, reader,
or reviewer

case is
1 or 2

Editor informs
author of complaint,
requests a reply
* Reviews complaint
* Assigns level of misconduct
* Recommends corrective action

Letter to complainant
to acknowledge receipt


Editor informs
author and IPR
Office of decision

Editor requests/
receives advice
from IPR Office

PSPB chair
reviews the
case for final




Requests Publishing
Conduct Committee
(PCC) support

PSPB chair
returns case
to editor with

PSBP chair Informs
author and IPR
Office of decision

*Publication Services & Products Board



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