30 May 2013

The problem of plagiarism

One of the most difficult things an journal editor has to deal with is plagiarism, which is often difficult to spot in a casual read-through – which is why, in Information Research, we specifically ask reviewers to check for plagiarism. I receive an alert from Google Scholar giving information on papers that cite my publications. One of these was a paper published in the DESIDOC Journal of Library & Information Technology – “Information Seeking and Searching Behaviour of Dental Science Professionals in Karnataka, by U. Umesha and M. Chandrashekara Here I found two paragraphs where my words had been used without being placed within inverted commas, to indicate that they were in fact quotations. When this is done, the assumption is that the words are those of the authors themselves and, when they are not, the result is referred to as plagiarism. One of the offending pieces reads:
Information Searching Behaviour [3] is the ‘micro-level’ behaviour employed by the searcher in interacting with information systems of all kinds, it may be a human computer interaction (use of the mouse and clicks on links) or at the intellectual level (adopting a Boolean search strategy or determining the criteria for deciding relevant one) involve mental acts, such as judging the relevance of data or information retrieved. Information use behaviour, consists of the physical and mental acts involved in incorporating the information found into the person's existing knowledge base. It may involve, therefore, physical acts such as marking sections in a text to note their importance or significance, as well as mental acts that involve, for example, comparison of new information with existing knowledge [3].
These are entirely my words found in the paper referenced, which appeared in Informing Science. Consequently, to avoid the charge of plagiarism, the authors needed to make this clear by the use of quotation marks, as follows:
"Information Searching Behaviour is the ‘micro-level’ behaviour employed by the searcher... comparison of new information with existing knowledge" [3].
Why is this small distinction (the use of the inverted commas) important? Simply because anyone reading this paper and citing it may use part of the text in a paper of their own and attribute the words to the authors, rather than to the originator. I would not have raised this issue publicly but for the fact that I wrote to the editor, in a friendly way, acknowledging that it was difficult for an editor to spot these kinds of offences, and suggesting that, as the journal is electronic, it is an easy matter to make the correction and to notify the authors that this has been done. The editor failed to respond, and also failed to respond to a follow-up message a few weeks later.

14 May 2013


Receiving, as I do, books for review, I'm often staggered by the amount of packing provided for a single book. An example arrived today: the book (a slim paperback of 186 pages) weighs 302 grams, the packaging 122 grams. The picture shows that one could get about six such books into the available space in the box! I wonder how much the publisher is charged for post and packing by the agency sending it out. (That agency is itself a subsidiary of the Hachette company.) Clearly the notion of protecting the environment hasn't yet hit the publishing industry.

Bogus organizations?

Two of my colleagues on the journal have received a rather odd e-mail from someone claiming to represent the "American Society of Science and Engineering" - an organization of which I have never previously heard. As the e-mail address bore no relationship to those on the Society's Website, but used the domain "163.com", I contacted the Society to advise them that their identity might have been stolen. (The 163.com Website is entirely in Chinese, which made me even more suspicious!). The message stated: "The purpose of this email is to inquiry about the possibility of cooperation with your journal… In the mutual-beneficial cooperative relationship, we can do publicity, promotion and collect papers for your journal, and we can guarantee the quantity and quality of the papers we provide. Moreover, we will also pay the publication fee if any. I wonder if we can sign a publication agreement upon the cooperation." This sounds very much like one of the new, bogus, open access, "scholarly journal" scams and I was therefore rather surprised to get a response from the Society stating: "Thank you for your reminding and cooperation! Actually, ASSE has some cooperation with some Chinese orgnizations, for example, the information below stated, and you could contact with them if possible!" Which now makes me even more suspicious about this Society! Not only is the message grammatically illiterate, it gives me no information about the nature of the relationship it has with the Chinese organization, nor why that organization is contacting my Associate Editors. Is the American Society of Science and Engineering a bona fide organization, or is it, too, bogus?

06 May 2013

The impact of social media

As readers of Information Research may have noticed, I have started to use links to Facebook, Twitter and various bookmark sharing services at the bottom of each paper in the journal. The service, from AddThis.com, provides information on the number of clicks these links receive and the resulting 'clicks-back' to the relevant paper. The number of resulting hits, divided by the original clicks provides a measure of what they call "viral lift", i.e., the additional hits resulting from the social media links. This provides some kind of measure of the 'popularity' of a paper, which the usual citation indexes cannot. A citation can mean many things: agreement with the propositions in a paper, refutation of those propositions, mere token acknowledgement of its place in the literature, or whatever. A social media link presumably means: "I've read this and you might find it interesting". What one cannot know, of course, is how many of those referred to a paper from a Facebook or Twitter link would have found the paper without such help. However, over time, we may be able to contrast the hits on the site before the introduction of this feature with the situation afterwards.

The results, since the publication of volume 18 number 1, on the 15th March 2013, for the top ten listed items are as follows:

Factores para la adopción de linked data e...
219 Clicks 30 Shares 730% Viral Lift

Visitors and residents: what motivates engagement wi...
169 Clicks 57 Shares 296% Viral Lift

Multi-dimensional analysis of dynamic human informat...
136 Clicks 16 Shares 850% Viral Lift

In Web search we trust? Articulation of the cognitiv...
125 Clicks 9 Shares 1,389% Viral Lift

The nature and constitution of informal carers' info...
71 Clicks 9 Shares 789% Viral Lift

Big-data in cloud computing: a taxonomy of risks
39 Clicks 23 Shares 170% Viral Lift

Exploring design-fits for the strategic alignment of...
29 Clicks 15 Shares 193% Viral Lift

Search behaviour in electronic document and records...
23 Clicks 7 Shares 329% Viral Lift

Managing collaborative information sharing: bridging...
17 Clicks 13 Shares 131% Viral Lift

Workplace information practices among human resource...
16 Clicks 9 Shares 178% Viral Lift