Thanks for posting the link; I suspect the digest form may cut out the attachments.
While it is good to see an alternative to the Speeding Analogy of Plagiarism, which was first publicly used, I believe, at the launch of JISCPAS in September 2002, I think the Athlete Doping one both succeeds and fails in several respects:
1) Where there is a clear advantage to the individual - copying text does not automatically imply a better grade will result - this comes from improved performance in sport, not the lack of performance, which plagiarism would be; the runner still has to cover the same distance, not run a shorter track. However, while I do like the fact that such an analogy infers the advantage over other competitors without directly affecting them - the drugs taken improve the culprit’s performance, making the race unfair - in academic work everyone could come first, or should if grade quotas aren’t in place to enforce the dreaded Normal Curve. There is no Gold, Silver, and Bronze, only individual percentages.
2) Traces of drugs taken will only include tests for those prohibited for having a known beneficial effect. These could have legitimate reasons for being present; bronchodilators for asthma, for example. Traces of copied text, etc, have no such legitimacy, but could inadvertently be present the same way an athlete might have taken the wrong cough medicine. However, the medicine, while prohibited, might not have provided any advantage. Text, on the other hand, contributes to the submission by its presence, even if it might not score against the rubric. It could be accidentally present (poorly cited, or not summarised properly) or difficult to detect; the plagiarism of the structure, or idea, is harder to spot.
3) I just was listening to an interview with Sir (Dr) Roger Bannister, the first man to break the four minute mile, who died recently. [Radio 4’s More or Less, https://itunes.apple.com/gb/podcast/more-or-less-behind-the-stats/id267300884?mt=2&i=1000405685191 ] In the programme, he explained that the four minute limit was psychological, having been unchallenged for nine years, but this was because:
a) Swedish runners, who were pushing that limit, were declared to be “professional” and excluded from competition. Could these be the Athletics Analogy’s equivalent of essay mills, assuming we can widen the concept beyond Dope Testing?
b) Better training techniques (Learning and Teaching?) saw another runner complete the four minute mile, breaking Sir Roger’s record, quickly after, and several more the following year, although only 1500 runners have officially done so.
c) The hiatus in breaking the four minute barrier was an artificial one, invisibly affected by poor nutrition (lack of educational opportunities?) as a result of rationing during and after the Second World War.
The point I’m making here is that we have to consider many other factors, not just the doping. Education isn’t simply running a race, because where we get to is as important as how we get there, and where we were allowed to start from/overcome.
Finally, 4) Cheating to win a race has hardly any consequences beyond possible denial of the medal to someone else, and potential health risks. No one else was likely to be put in danger by the drug taking. Where the Speeding Analogy might do better, is returning the idea of potential victims to the act of academic misconduct. Speed limits are set, based on safety considerations. The difference between me driving at 40 in a 30 mph school district is subtly different to 80 on a motorway; both are offences, but one is more likely to be a risk than the other. The difference between getting away with it, getting caught by a speed camera, or killing someone is, actually there isn’t one: the act was the same, the only difference was luck, and circumstance. Speeding has consequences, and victims. Shortcutting education may only affect the individual, but the same act may have long reaching consequences for more people.
To address Irene’s point about teaching integrity. Trainers don’t explain how not to cheat in a running race, they focus on teaching running. Personal bests (PBs) and striving to do better, and do it properly or well, are the motivations, not avoiding tripping up other runners, false starts, or cutting corners and lane changes. We need to speak the value of the running, not the virtue of the finish line. Integrity is, therefore, a side effect of wanting your participation to matter, to be recognised, to be worth something. Of course, the driving test falls down here too; it only gauges your ability to understand, and follow the rules. We NEVER drive in Real Life, the way we do in our driving test. The harsh edges are worn off and polished by experience, and we (my hand is up here) have bent the rules, knowingly and unknowingly. What we do in our test is show the strict liability in action and deed. We show we are capable of keeping to 30, and not endangering ourselves or others. The Athletics Analogy doesn’t have this duty of care so much. In Education, a five year ban and the stripping away of medals and public reputations are very rare. It is all done ‘sub rosa’ and behind closed doors. Not that I am advocating the outing of academic offenders, because we still have that duty of care; the chance for everyone to learn from transgressions. Speed Awareness Courses - the subject of my ENAI paper, if I can beg the funds to attend :-( [donations gratefully received] - are effective at reducing reoffending, because they show the faulty thinking that leads drivers to poor choices, are in place of penalties, provided the participants fully engage. They lead to better drivers too, on the whole, but there will always be the few serial speedsters. It is this area that Clare Johnson and I want to focus our labours, on interacting with offenders to understand their positions and perceptions. It is my intent, pro bono if necessary, to support students accused of plagiarism, as well as to get ethical approval to interview convicted offenders; a voice that has hardly been heard in the debate. To that end, I feel Stephen’s document contributes well to the discussion of how we should take forward the handling of plagiarism and academic outsourcing. Thank you, Stephen.
You are subscribed to the JISC Plagiarism mailing list. To Unsubscribe, change
your subscription options, or access list archives, visit