Is Plagiarism Wrong?


Agnes Callard at The Point: “…Academia has confused a convention with a moral rule, and this confusion is not unmotivated. We academics cannot make much money off the papers and books in which we express our ideas, and ideas cannot be copyrighted, so we have invented a moral law that offers us the “property rights” the legal system denies us.

Here is an analogy. Suppose that I legally own a tree on the edge of my property, but not the apples that fall into the road. I might create a set of norms that shame people who take those apples: if you want one of “my” road-apples, you must first bow down to me or kiss my ring. Otherwise I will call you a “thief,” and if you insist that the apple you have just picked up is your own, I will compound the charge with “liar.”

The academic’s problem is that all of their apples fall into the road. Academia is an honor-culture, in which recognition—in the form of citations—serves as a kind of ersatz currency. In ancient Greek, there is a word “pleonexia,” which means “grasping after more than your share.” Plagiarism norms encourage pleonectic overreach. One can see such overreach in the fact that those with perfect job-security—famous, tenured faculty—do not seem less given to touchiness about having “their” ideas surface in the work of another, unattributed. Quite the contrary. The higher one rises, the louder the call for obeisance: kiss my ring! Stigmatizing plagiarism serves those at the top.

But isn’t there some form of reward—respect, gratitude, admiration, eternal life in historical memory—that people are entitled to on the basis of their intellectual work?

No. If you are an academic and you want to feel waves upon waves of gratitude, I have a simple recommendation for you: do a half-decent job teaching undergraduates. You don’t need to—and probably shouldn’t—teach them “your” ideas; if you help them furnish their minds with some of the great ideas of the past few millennia, they will thank you in ways no citation can: gushing notes of heartfelt appreciation, trinkets to fill your office, email messages of remembrance a decade later. They will come to your funeral. They will tell their children about you.

More generally, if I may indulge in some moralism myself, I would insist that no one can be entitled to gratitude or remembrance or appreciation. Write something worth reading. Put your ideas out there, and hope that someone will make something of them. Give with an open hand, and stop thinking about the tokens with which you will be repaid. Be happy to be worth stealing from. The future owes you nothing….(More)”.

An Open Letter to Law School Deans about Privacy Law Education in Law Schools


Daniel Solove: “Recently a group of legal academics and practitioners in the field of privacy law sent a letter to the deans of all U.S. law schools about privacy law education in law schools.  My own brief intro about this endeavor is here in italics, followed by the letter. The signatories to the letter have signed onto the letter, not this italicized intro.

Although the field of privacy law grown dramatically in past two decades, education in law schools about privacy law has significantly lagged behind.  Most U.S. law schools lack a course on privacy law. Of those that have courses, many are small seminars, often taught by adjuncts.  Of the law schools that do have a privacy course, most often just have one course. Most schools lack a full-time faculty member who focuses substantially on privacy law.

This state of affairs is a great detriment to students. I am constantly approached by students and graduates from law schools across the country who are wondering how they can learn about privacy law and enter the field. Many express great disappointment at the lack of any courses, faculty, or activities at their schools.

After years of hoping that the legal academy would wake up and respond, I came to the realization that this wasn’t going to happen on its own. The following letter [click here for the PDF version] aims to make deans aware of the privacy law field. I hope that the letter is met with action….(More)”.

Digital Media and Wireless Communication in Developing Nations: Agriculture, Education, and the Economic Sector


Book by Megh R. Goyal and Emmanuel Eilu: “… explores how digital media and wireless communication, especially mobile phones and social media platforms, offer concrete opportunities for developing countries to transform different sectors of their economies. The volume focuses on the agricultural, economic, and education sectors. The chapter authors, mostly from Africa and India, provide a wealth of information on recent innovations, the opportunities they provide, challenges faced, and the direction of future research in digital media and wireless communication to leverage transformation in developing countries….(More)”.

Community Colleges Boost STEM Student Success Through Behavioral Nudging


Press Release: “JFF, a national nonprofit driving transformation in the American workforce and education systems, and Persistence Plus, which pairs behavioral insights with intelligent text messaging to improve student success, today released the findings from an analysis that examined the effects of personalized nudging on nearly 10,000 community college students. The study, conducted over two years at four community colleges, found that behavioral nudging had a significant impact on student persistence rates—with strong improvements among students of color and older adult learners, who are often underrepresented among graduates of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) programs.

“These results offer powerful evidence on the potential, and imperative, of using technology to support students during the most in-demand, and often most challenging, courses and majors,” said Maria Flynn, president and CEO of JFF. “With millions of STEM jobs going unfilled, closing the gap in STEM achievement has profound economic—and equity—implications.” 

In a multiyear initiative called “Nudging to STEM Success, which was funded by the Helmsley Charitable Trust, JFF and Persistence Plus selected four colleges to implement the nudging initiative campuswide:Lakeland Community College in Kirtland, Ohio; Lorain County Community College in Elyria, Ohio; Stark State College in North Canton, Ohio; and John Tyler Community College in Chester, Virginia.

A randomized control trial in the summer of 2017 showed that the nudges increased first-to-second-year persistence for STEM students by 10 percentage points. The results of that trial will be presented in an upcoming peer-reviewed paper titled “A Summer Nudge Campaign to Motivate Community College STEM Students to Reenroll.” The paper will be published in AERA Open, an open-access journal published by the American Educational Research Association. 

Following the 2017 trial, the four colleges scaled the support to nearly 10,000 students, and over the next two years, JFF and Persistence Plus found that the nudging support had a particularly strong impact on students of color and students over the age of 25—two groups that have historically had lower persistence rates than other students….(More)”.

Complex Systems Change Starts with Those Who Use the Systems


Madeleine Clarke & John Healy at Stanford Social Innovation Review: “Philanthropy, especially in the United States and Europe, is increasingly espousing the idea that transformative shifts in social care, education, and health systems are needed. Yet successful examples of systems-level reform are rare. Concepts such as collective impact (funder-driven, cross-sector collaboration), implementation science (methods to promote the systematic uptake of research findings), and catalytic philanthropy (funders playing a powerful role in mobilizing fundamental reforms) have gained prominence as pathways to this kind of change. These approaches tend to characterize philanthropy—usually foundations—as the central, heroic actor. Meanwhile, research on change within social and health services continues to indicate that deeply ingrained beliefs and practices, such as overly medicalized models of care for people with intellectual disabilities, and existing resource distribution, which often maintains the pay and conditions of professional groups, inhibits the introduction of reform into complex systems. A recent report by RAND, for example, showed that a $1 billion, seven-year initiative to improve teacher performance failed, and cited the complexity of the system and practitioners’ resistance to change as possible explanations. 

We believe the most effective way to promote systems-level social change is to place the voices of people who use social services—the people for whom change matters most—at the center of change processes. But while many philanthropic organizations tout the importance of listening to the “end beneficiaries” or “service users,” the practice nevertheless remains an underutilized methodology for countering systemic obstacles to change and, ultimately, reforming complex systems….(More)”.

Sharenthood: Why We Should Think before We Talk about Our Kids Online


Book by Leah Plunkett: “Our children’s first digital footprints are made before they can walk—even before they are born—as parents use fertility apps to aid conception, post ultrasound images, and share their baby’s hospital mug shot. Then, in rapid succession come terabytes of baby pictures stored in the cloud, digital baby monitors with built-in artificial intelligence, and real-time updates from daycare. When school starts, there are cafeteria cards that catalog food purchases, bus passes that track when kids are on and off the bus, electronic health records in the nurse’s office, and a school surveillance system that has eyes everywhere. Unwittingly, parents, teachers, and other trusted adults are compiling digital dossiers for children that could be available to everyone—friends, employers, law enforcement—forever. In this incisive book, Leah Plunkett examines the implications of “sharenthood”—adults’ excessive digital sharing of children’s data. She outlines the mistakes adults make with kids’ private information, the risks that result, and the legal system that enables “sharenting.”

Plunkett describes various modes of sharenting—including “commercial sharenting,” efforts by parents to use their families’ private experiences to make money—and unpacks the faulty assumptions made by our legal system about children, parents, and privacy. She proposes a “thought compass” to guide adults in their decision making about children’s digital data: play, forget, connect, and respect. Enshrining every false step and bad choice, Plunkett argues, can rob children of their chance to explore and learn lessons. The Internet needs to forget. We need to remember….(More)”.

Exploring Digital Ecosystems: Organizational and Human Challenges


Proceedings edited by Alessandra Lazazzara, Francesca Ricciardi and Stefano Za: “The recent surge of interest in digital ecosystems is not only transforming the business landscape, but also poses several human and organizational challenges. Due to the pervasive effects of the transformation on firms and societies alike, both scholars and practitioners are interested in understanding the key mechanisms behind digital ecosystems, their emergence and evolution. In order to disentangle such factors, this book presents a collection of research papers focusing on the relationship between technologies (e.g. digital platforms, AI, infrastructure) and behaviours (e.g. digital learning, knowledge sharing, decision-making). Moreover, it provides critical insights into how digital ecosystems can shape value creation and benefit various stakeholders. The plurality of perspectives offered makes the book particularly relevant for users, companies, scientists and governments. The content is based on a selection of the best papers – original double-blind peer-reviewed contributions – presented at the annual conference of the Italian chapter of the AIS, which took place in Pavia, Italy in October 2018….(More)”.

We Need a New Science of Progress


Patrick Collison and Tyler Cowen in The Atlantic: “In 1861, the American scientist and educator William Barton Rogers published a manifesto calling for a new kind of research institution. Recognizing the “daily increasing proofs of the happy influence of scientific culture on the industry and the civilization of the nations,” and the growing importance of what he called “Industrial Arts,” he proposed a new organization dedicated to practical knowledge. He named it the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Rogers was one of a number of late-19th-century reformers who saw that the United States’ ability to generate progress could be substantially improved. These reformers looked to the successes of the German university models overseas and realized that a combination of focused professorial research and teaching could be a powerful engine for advance in research. Over the course of several decades, the group—Rogers, Charles Eliot, Henry Tappan, George Hale, John D. Rockefeller, and others—founded and restructured many of what are now America’s best universities, including Harvard, MIT, Stanford, Caltech, Johns Hopkins, the University of Chicago, and more. By acting on their understanding, they engaged in a kind of conscious “progress engineering.”

Progress itself is understudied. By “progress,” we mean the combination of economic, technological, scientific, cultural, and organizational advancement that has transformed our lives and raised standards of living over the past couple of centuries. For a number of reasons, there is no broad-based intellectual movement focused on understanding the dynamics of progress, or targeting the deeper goal of speeding it up. We believe that it deserves a dedicated field of study. We suggest inaugurating the discipline of “Progress Studies.”…(More)”

The Remarkable Unresponsiveness of College Students to Nudging And What We Can Learn from It


Paper by Philip Oreopoulos and Uros Petronijevic: “We present results from a five-year effort to design promising online and text-message interventions to improve college achievement through several distinct channels. From a sample of nearly 25,000 students across three different campuses, we find some improvement from coaching-based interventions on mental health and study time, but none of the interventions we evaluate significantly influences academic outcomes (even for those students more at risk of dropping out). We interpret the results with our survey data and a model of student effort. Students study about five to eight hours fewer each week than they plan to, though our interventions do not alter this tendency. The coaching interventions make some students realize that more effort is needed to attain good grades but, rather than working harder, they settle by adjusting grade expectations downwards. Our study time impacts are not large enough for translating into significant academic benefits. More comprehensive but expensive programs appear more promising for helping college students outside the classroom….(More)”

Blockchain and Public Record Keeping: Of Temples, Prisons, and the (Re)Configuration of Power


Paper by Victoria L. Lemieux: “This paper discusses blockchain technology as a public record keeping system, linking record keeping to power of authority, veneration (temples), and control (prisons) that configure and reconfigure social, economic, and political relations. It discusses blockchain technology as being constructed as a mechanism to counter institutions and social actors that currently hold power, but whom are nowadays often viewed with mistrust. It explores claims for blockchain as a record keeping force of resistance to those powers using an archival theoretic analytic lens. The paper evaluates claims that blockchain technology can support the creation and preservation of trustworthy records able to serve as alternative sources of evidence of rights, entitlements and actions with the potential to unseat the institutional power of the nation-state….(More)”.