This Month’s Question
Smart Grid Speed Bumps
Proponents of the smart grid point out that because smart meters could allow customers to find out how much energy they're using, they could lower their electricity bills by turning off power-hungry appliances or use them at off-peak times. But this good news could come with a rate increase. The Maryland Public Service Commission in June rejected an increase sought by Baltimore Gas and Electric to pay for the installation of smart meters and a new communications network, and other states have taken a similar stance.
Would you be willing to help pay for the smart grid in your community? Do the proposed benefits of smart meters outweigh the costs?
Responses to September's Question
Punishment for Plagiarism
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?
A Common Issue
The biggest problem I see with engineers is their lack of professionalism. Cheating, whether it's plagiarism or copying someone's answer on a test, is too often used to get ahead. The lecturer should also have all his future papers peer-reviewed before they are accepted for publication or used to earn a degree. Until ethics are considered a valuable commodity for engineers, punishment is the only way to reduce incidents of plagiarism.
Sondra K. Todd
A Rare Occurrence
Getting stripped of one's doctorate is definitely a lesson learned. Plagiarizing a scholarly work published by IEEE is nothing short of atrocious. Thankfully, the peer-review process in the engineering world almost never fails to reject plagiarized and low-quality articles. What's puzzling is how the article got published in the proceedings of an IEEE conference.
Plagiarism is a problem because technology has made it easy to find and copy material online. Meanwhile, our weakening ethical values fail to keep pace with technology advances. I'm not justifying plagiarism, but we should take into consideration that society now condones what in the past was unacceptable. Moral and ethical values are changing.
El Paso, Texas
Plagiarism is an issue that concerns academics who are afraid that someone will steal their work and keep them from gaining tenure. The world would be better off if everything were open and available for all to use. The business world operates through plagiarism. It is stupid to reinvent the wheel or to waste time footnoting every recycled idea. Any company can impose rules on its employees, but they should not try to impose their rules on the rest of us, especially when these academic types are in the minority.
The revocation of the lecturer's doctorate was a necessary step in the quest to keep honor and integrity in the value of an advanced degree. Prohibiting him from publishing for three years was light punishment. Quickly investigating, challenging the individual, and making the public aware of the issue was probably the best course of action we could have taken as a professional society.
It Could Happen to You
The way plagiarism is uncovered concerns me. As the volume of electronic material increases, there are fewer ways to say certain things in an original way. Eventually, if there are thousands of documents on a subject, you might inadvertently duplicate another person's words. My advice is to carefully consider any document you write that may be distributed to the public. Your reputation could be on the line—literally.