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Academic integrity in a cultural context

In academia it is vitally important to backup your own thoughts and ideas by using previously written authoritative papers and articles in reference.

This helps provide you more credibility as well as proof of what you’re saying actually makes sense and falls in line with previous extensive research that has been done on the subject. It also helps to build upon others so as to not have to “reinvent the wheel” each and every time. “Standing on the shoulders of giants” could potentially be the greatest lesson learned in progressing an industry and the concept of intellectual property is often not widely known and dealt with correctly.

 

In the United Kingdom, intellectual property – often known more simply as “IP” – seems to be very well documented and developed in the majority of my local communities. It is very established and protected by the law as is common in most western civilisations. On the local government website you can read extensive text regarding what is lawfully seen as intellectual property.

The law in the United Kingdom states that “Intellectual property is something unique that you physically create. An idea alone is not intellectual property. For example, an idea for a book doesn’t count, but the words you’ve written do.”. This summarises it extremely well and is a fantastic ground rule to always be able to fall back onto when thinking about intellectual property in it’s true essence.

 

I think that people in my community as well as around the globe tend to like taking credit for things irrespective of if they themselves created it or not, perhaps because it makes them appear smarter amongst their peers?

I also think that it is harder to get away with the theft of actual physical products as compared to words, literature or even snippets of software; which makes IP a difficult thing to police.

 

While working professionally, I have found that a lot of software developers often copy the contents of a function of code they are struggling with from popular websites such as StackOverflow or Github and use it as their own, without adding a comment back to the source in the code itself or any attribution whatsoever.

 

Having read up on StackOverflow regarding this exact issue and how they see intellectual property; they state that “user contributions licensed under cc-wiki with attribution required” while most Github repositories tend to have one of the many available licence agreements associated. It appears this too is very well defined and perhaps software developers should address these tactics a little more transparently.

I personally believe that if you are using some code that has been provided to you via one of the aforementioned websites – or others – then you should provide a reference to it just above where it is used, as this also provides a level of insight to developers in the future in regard to debugging it or if there are newer and better alternatives that have been provided since the original usage was suggested.

 

With the advance of the internet and interconnected networks over the past decade or more, many online tools have been invented and are now common place for all sized organisations to check their content against; many providing automatic ways to integrate.

There are many free and paid services such as copyscape.com, plagium.com, duplichecker.com, plagiarisma.net, plagiarismchecker.com and copygator.com to name a few at this point in time.

 

It was clearly not an easy, or in most cases even a possible thing to do before tools like these were brought to market as everything would have to be cross referenced by hand which would have taken an exhaustive amount of time for even the most smallest of potential intellectual property infringements. Technology has really helped automate this process and find content thieves than ever before with these automated website scrapers that check content against an indefinite amount of sources available.

 

I personally feel that “if you created it, you should be given credit for it” and even though I have not written much yet when it comes to academic papers, I believe that citing, referencing and providing sources for others to follow up on topics I have written is extremely important in order to back up my own statements and provide further reading for individuals who may be interested in finding out even more about what I may briefly have touched on.

 

Below is my checklist of how I will maintain a successful transition to this new environment:

  • Read up as much as possible on the topic at hand
  • Research authoritative papers to learn about what others have already discovered
  • Make notes of useful key points
  • Write my own paper citing relevant points to back up my key facts I am trying to get across
  • Reference back to the original sources I used for follow-ons
  • Double check everything reads well and all facts are backed up appropriately
  • Use the Turnitin tool to check how original my final draft is before submitting it

 

 

A little while ago I attended a brief online webinar on Turnitin which covered off most of the features of the tool itself quite well. I then personally experienced using Turnitin during week 1 for the first time and was pleasantly surprised at how detailed it’s output was. It appears to be a very valuable tool in helping assess the percentage of my own written work compared to what I may have used to reference other’s words and help back up my own sentiments.

 

 

References:

 

Phrases.org.uk: Standing on the shoulders of giants (1676) Available from: http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/268025.html (Accessed: 11th December 2016)

UK government website: Intellectual property and your work (2016) Available from: https://www.gov.uk/intellectual-property-an-overview/what-ip-is (Accessed: 11th December 2016)

Creative Commons: Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported – Cc-wiki (2016) Available from: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ (Accessed: 11th December 2016)

StackOverflow Blog: Attribution required – (2009) Available from: https://stackoverflow.blog/2009/06/attribution-required/ (Accessed: 11th December 2016)

Techentice.com: Best free copyscape alternatives – (2013) Available from: http://www.techentice.com/best-free-copyscape-alternatives/ (Accessed: 11th December 2016)