Punishment for Plagiarism

How far should we go to stop plagiarism from becoming an epidemic?

9 September 2010

A lecturer at Institut Teknologi Bandung (ITB), in Indonesia, was stripped of his doctorate this year after it was found he plagiarized a paper he claimed to have written. The article was published in an IEEE conference proceeding and posted in the IEEE Xplore digital library. Having a paper published was a prerequisite for obtaining his degree. After an allegation was made, IEEE investigated and determined he had copied the work of an Austrian scholar.

He has since resigned from ITB. IEEE has also published a note on the article in IEEE Xplore, saying the article is in violation of IEEE's publication principles because it contains a nearly complete duplication of the other researcher's paper, published in 2000 in the Proceedings of the 11th International Workshop on Database and Expert System Applications. He has also been prohibited from publishing in all IEEE publications for three years, beginning in April 2009.

What is a fair punishment for plagiarism? Do you think it's a big problem in the engineering field?

Responses to June's Question
Diversity and Competitiveness

For an article it planned to publish, the San Jose Mercury News, in California, set out to obtain data on the race and gender of the employees at 15 Silicon Valley companies through a U.S. Freedom of Information Act request. Nine of the firms agreed to share the information, saying they had nothing to hide. The other six refused. Apple, Applied Materials, Google, Oracle, and Yahoo convinced federal regulators who collect and release the data that disclosure in the newspaper could cause the companies economic harm by revealing their business strategies to competitors. The sixth company, Hewlett-Packard, fought the release and lost.

Should the companies be forced to release their demographics? How important is diversity to the competitiveness of a company?


Something to Hide?
I can't picture how a company could capitalize on knowing the demographics of Google or Yahoo. It's possible that revealing the data could show its own employees, who only have a local view of the organization, that the company is less diverse than it claims to be. The revealed lack of diversity may put a dent in employee morale. The companies' excuse about revealing business strategies just smells like a legal cop-out that is hard to prove wrong.

Matthew Ring
Fredericksburg, Va.


No Quotas, Please
I see no reason why the employee demographics of a company should be kept secret, and I don't see how this information would reveal anything about the company's business strategies. That being said, I don't think diversity has any bearing on the competitiveness of a company. Employees should be hired on merit, not to fill demographic quotas.

Mark L. Legutko
Newark, Del.


One Big Scheme
Diversity is irrelevant to the competitiveness of a company. It is a scheme by which political pressure groups persuade companies to reserve jobs for their members. The idea that diversity is beneficial has become conventional wisdom with no proof that it works. Only competence should matter in the hiring and promotion of employees.

Myron Kayton
Santa Monica, Calif.


Food for Lawyers
Using the plethora of nonobjective laws to shake down companies is now a growing industry among certain types of lawyers. They scrutinize the employment practices of companies forced to release demographics. It is already bad enough that affirmative action laws force companies to collect racial data.

How important is diversity to the competitiveness of a company? This is a non sequitur. The competence of the employees is what counts. If a company values race over competence, it will fail in the marketplace, so long as that marketplace is laissez-faire.

Adri Kalisvaart
Lincoln, R.I.


Racist Policy
The mere idea that there might be a "racial policy" is racist. To insist that a company must reveal its demographics forces the company to have some racial policy in place if some distribution is seen as negative. So, no company should be forced to release its demographics. The only policy should be to hire the most skilled people for the job.

Paul Fourie
Christchurch, New Zealand


Public Obligation
Not only should a public company enjoy the financial benefits of being such a company, it should also serve the public. It is unfair that people cannot know a statistic about a public company, such as demographic data.

Sergey Loy
Glenelg, Australia


Google's refusal to disclose the ethnicity of its staff out of fear that it would hurt its market position tells me that it hires minorities to better serve local target markets. The goal of such hiring is company success—not diversity.

The politically correct goal of diversity is a detriment to the advancement of society. Any activity that dilutes the goal of excellence reduces the quality of the outcome. The goal of diversity is not American. The word is neither in the U.S. Constitution nor the Declaration of Independence. It is a 20th-century theme that has contributed to the United States's falling competitiveness in worldwide commerce.

Robert Collier


Mind Your Own Business
Employee demographics are nobody's business. Collecting such data merely allows the snoops and regulators a toehold where they don't belong.

In all for-profit organizations, the goal should be to select the most competent person for each job, regardless of race, color, religion, sex, age, or whatever. To settle for less is to convert companies into nonprofit organizations.

Kenneth Hoffman
Alexandria, Va.


A Reason for Secrets
The argument that a company's demographics will reveal business strategies is a good reason for them not to be released. For example, if one of your strategies is to do a lot of business in a particular country or region, you might expect a lot of employees to be from there. If demographics revealed a lot of Asian or African employees, it might suggest a business development strategy in those areas of the world.

Nancy Mead


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