Thursday, May 28, 2009

Conference Board should have used Turnitin!

Looks like the Conference Board of Canada should be using Turnitin to check their work, and to avoid this embarassing situation.  Kind of a bummer to withdraw three reports that were proposing tougher copyright legislation due to "failing to meet research standards"--or "plagiarism" as Dr. Michael Geist bluntly puts it.

Michael Geist, who blew the lid off this story, is a University of Ottawa prof and a Canada Research Chair. He is a regular commentator on intellectual property issues in the digital age. Geist has been a critic of the direction copyright legislation in Canada is moving, and of the Conference Board report recommendations. But he went one further than his criticism of bias, and stated  the Conference Board had plagiarized text from a lobby group in the US for their report! The lobby group  promotes business interests in copyright legislation, making even cited use of the work questionable. Whoops! Or I suppose I should say, Gotcha!

Hmmm. How does UVIC define plagiarism? Yup, inadequate or missing citation of others' work meets UVic calendar's definition of plagiarism. Now, a student in this situation wouldn't get to withdraw three reports, but stubbornly stand by their "results". And students' work isn't likely to shape federal policy on copyright. 

You may be wondering, what exactly is this Conference Board? Until now, I always thought they were some branch of Stats Canada and never really gave it a thought--I've heard them quoted as a source of information about Canada many times on CBC radio.

The Conference Board is actually non profit society, and is self described as independent (though linked to the Conference Board of New York), non-biased, and undertaking applied research. 

But a look at who is in charge at the Conference Board gives a different sense. While their Board of Directors does include the President of one co-operative (the cooperators), that board member sits amongst the CEOs of Microsoft Canada, CGI, Merk, Debeers, and the Business Development Bank. Not a bad lineup for a business lobby--but questionable in an impartial research group. Give me the Chamber of Commerce any day. 

Well, I say chalk one up for truly independent university researchers like Dr.Geist. As noted a few days ago, academia is under lots of pressure from business too, not to mention that shift in SSHRC grants toward funding business-focussed research. There is a reason universities need to be independent and publicly funded! 

No doubt this is all fodder for gossip at Congress (of the Humanities). With Geist as a member of a keynote panel Friday night on copyright, this should make for a flivelu discussion! I propose Geist perform a rendition of Tom Lehrer's take on plagiarism, Lobachevsky, in honour of this schadenfreude-filled moment!! 

1 comment:

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