June 8, 2012
In its recent semiannual report to Congress, the NSF Office of the Inspector General identified eight cases of alleged plagiarism, resulting in research misconduct findings with sanctions that were under consideration at the time of the report.
"In recent years, we have seen a significant rise in the number of substantive allegations of research misconduct associated with NSF proposals and awards," the report said. "The NSF definition of research misconduct encompasses fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism."
In a 2011 presentation, Jim Kroll, director of administrative investigations for the NSF Office of Inspector General, displayed charts that indicate some 41 percent of administrative allegations were plagiarism (verbatim, intellectual theft). Of that 41 percent, OIG officials found that two-thirds of the charges were substantiated. Kroll's figures show that between 1998 and 2008, yearly actions for research misconduct rose from fewer than 10 to almost 100.
NSF officials also report that the nature of plagiarism is changing. Before year 2000, plagiarism tended to involve copying large blocks of texts and figures from very few documents. Current infractions involve mosaic plagiarism, copying single sentences from many documents to create a patchwork of copied material in texts. Proposals with plagiarized content often steal from 25 to 50-plus sources.
Greg Reed, associate vice chancellor for research, said that researchers who plagiarize endanger not only their own research careers but also the reputation of the academic institution.
"The university has a strong commitment to ensure that our researchers conduct their work according to the highest ethical and professional standards," Reed said. "Researchers sometimes forget that the text of their proposal allows reviewers and funding agencies to evaluate the knowledge and ability of the potential principal investigator. Copying text is so easy in a cut-and-paste world, but it is deceitful. It gives a false perception of the ability of the PI."
Reed said that the increasing sophistication of plagiarism software is making inappropriate copying of text very easy to identify.
In his presentation Kroll detailed the relative merits of new plagiarism tools, which will (a) search the Internet and scientific journals in a multitude of document formats, (b) provide links to all sources of similar material and give similarity percentages, and (c) highlight similar texts. The software is remarkably user-friendly and completes its analyses in minutes or hours, instead of days. The presentation notes that the growth of the availability of sophisticated detection software is an indicator that plagiarism is a growing problem.
NSF officials advise that researchers writing a proposal be meticulous about quotation, citation, and reference to ensure that appropriate credit is given the intellectual contributions of others.
"The Office of Research provides very thorough training on the responsible conduct of research in several online venues," Reed said. "In many cases, completing that training is required before a researcher can put forward a proposal. We recommend that all researchers take the training."
Training packages include a Collaborative Institutional Training program and a local course available through Blackboard.
More information: NSF OIG report to Congress | Kroll presentation The UTK Office of Research administers some $900,000 to support research and creative activities through its Scholarly Activity and Research Incentive Funds (SARIF). Seven programs are available to faculty and principal investigators whose departments fall under the jurisdiction of the chancellor of UT's Knoxville campus. The programs can provide internal support for costs of scholarship that are often overlooked by external funders. News & Opportunities is focusing on individual SARIF programs in order to make faculty more aware of the internal support that is available to them.
The Opportunities Fund
The Office of Research administers the Opportunities Fund in support of pilot studies, workshops and conferences organized by faculty and held at UT, and seed money for new research activities.
Both active and beginning researchers are eligible to apply but they must be full-time, tenure-track faculty. Departments and colleges are typically expected to match support from the Opportunities Fund on a 1:1:1 basis, though the ratio may be adjusted or waived, depending on funding circumstances.
Applicants for support from the fund must submit a letter describing the proposed research activity, the total cost of the project, and the suggested division of the cost. Approval from the department head and dean of the college should be secured before the application is submitted to Greg Reed (firstname.lastname@example.org), associate vice chancellor for research.
Awards are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis after the beginning of the university fiscal year, starting July 1.
More information The state Department of Education is expected to announce the next round of funding in the Race to the Top program in July 2012. Between $15 million and $25 million will be made available in awards focused on early literacy, personalized student learning, and teacher support. Proposals will be due in October 2012, and awards will be announced in December 2012.
The grants oﬃce at Knox County Schools is seeking to identify UT faculty or organizations that might be interested in partnering with the school district on Race to the Top projects.
Key Date: Immediately.
Contact: Elizabeth Burman (email@example.com, 865-974-8363)
Awards will be made to support the three major themes of the TN-SCORE program: advance solar conversion and innovation, components and devices for energy storage and conversion, and nanostructures for enhancing energy efficiency. Two stages of awards will be made:
Key Date: July 15, 2012 – Proposal review will begin, and awards will be made as funding allows.
More information The Social Science Research Council is sponsoring its Dissertation Proposal Development Fellowship program that supports tenured faculty in the humanities and social sciences as they guide the development of effective doctoral dissertation proposals.
Faculty who qualify for the DPDF program must apply in pairs but be based in different U.S. universities and be trained in different disciplines or bring different methodological frameworks to their proposed research field.
Faculty pairs chosen for the program will be designated research directors and paid a stipend of $10,000 to develop two workshops on the cross-disciplinary research field – one in the spring that helps students refine research questions and methods of investigation and a second in the fall that helps student fellows draw lessons from the earlier workshop and the subsequent summer of research.
The DPDF program also supports various costs for speakers, travel, etc.
Key date: October 3, 2012 – online application.
More information The U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education is supporting dissertation research in languages from their list of less commonly taught languages.
The Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Fellowship Program provides opportunities for doctoral candidates to engage in full-time dissertation research abroad in modern foreign languages and area studies. The program is designed to contribute to the development and improvement of the study of modern foreign languages and area studies in the United States.
Priority is given for a research project that focuses on any of the 78 languages deemed critical on the U.S. Department of Education's list of Less Commonly Taught Languages (LCTLs).
Additional weight is given to projects in environmental science, economics, public health, education, and political science that make use of the 78 languages.
Key Date: June 14, 2012 – submission of application.
More information A partnership of federal agencies has announced at $26 million program to support advanced manufacturing jobs. The Advanced Manufacturing Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge is being supported by the U.S. departments of Commerce (Economic Development Administration and the National Institute of Standards and Technology), Energy, and Labor (Employment and Training Administration), and well as the Small Business Administration, and the National Science Foundation.
Key Date: July 9, 2012 – closing date for applications.
More information The National Foundation for the Arts and the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Humanities are soliciting proposals for planning grants that will allow museums, libraries, historic places, and other organizations to prepare exhibits, interpretive materials, book/film discussion programs, living history presentations, and interpretive websites.
The planning grants will support the early stages of project development, including consultation with scholars, refinement of humanities themes, preliminary design, and audience evaluation.
Individuals are not eligible to apply, but any U.S. nonprofit organization [IRS 501 (c) (3)] is eligible, including state and local government organizations; public, school, academic, and research libraries; museums; associations; cultural institutions and councils; and institutions of higher learning.
Key Date: August 15, 2012 – submission of proposals for projects beginning April 2013.