Thursday, March 31, 2011

The View from China...

Certainly, the first version produced by Citizens Against Government Waste is the accurate translation, yes. However, the second editorialized translation makes an interesting counterpoint...

Monday, March 28, 2011

Well Said...

"Doctrines are antithetical to pragmatism."

~ Yoni Appelbaum

Yoni Appelbaum

Source: Appelbaum, Y (2011, March 24), The Political Perils of Pragmatism, Atlantic.

Friday, March 25, 2011

America's Main Street Depression

I regret that while public corporations in the US have been experiencing a profit rebound in recent months, Main Street America remains in economic depression. The decoupling of our nation's largest "too big to fail" public corporations from Main Street has created widespead economic turmoil and hardships for small companies and familes in America. The continuing demise of Main Street began when US monetary and fiscal policy-makers unwisely posited "too big to fail" as a governing principle.

Treasury Sec Henry Paulson and Federal Reserve Chief Ben Bernanke (2008)

Keep in mind that "too big to fail" was the conceptual argument invoked back in 2008 by the US Federal Reserve lead by Dr Ben Bernanke, and the US Treasury lead by Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson. Today, gigantic "too big to fail" public corporations enjoy tacit financial guarantees from the Federal government, while small companies and businesses along Main Street are essentially left out in the cold.

America's emerging consolidated banking system is now laced with systemic risks extending from Wall Street into every facet of regional banking. In my view, the nation's banking needs would be better served by many thousands of smaller community and regional banks, instead of a few "too big to fail" financial institutions aligned with Wall Street. The economic risks associated with building and maintaining "too big to fail" corporations are not well-understood. Nevertheless, our nation's central banking system continues to grow larger while Main Street America is left to languish.

I cannot help but think that the powershift from Main Street to America's center will eventually lead to new unforeseen difficulties for America. History tells us that over centralization carries risks. Recall that the former Soviet Union was never able to marshal the human know-how and technical resources to manage and direct a massively centralized command economy. Is capitalism somehow different? I doubt that the US will be able to manage from the center indefinitely.

Years from now, a comfortably retired Dr Ben Bernanke will write in his memoirs something like this:

"...I wish we at the Federal Reserve would have paid closer attention to the impact of monetary policy on small businesses and community banking in America -- in reflection, I would have been more attentive to the plight of small businesses and regional banking across the nation -- however, we had no choice but to save the largest "too big to fail" institutions in America because we felt that saving Federalism was our mandated priority..."

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Well Said...

"One accurate measurement is worth a thousand expert opinions."

~ Dr Grace Murray Hopper

Rear Adm (Dr) Grace Murray Hopper, USNR (1906-1992)

APA Philosophy Hand Signals

Everyone using the American Psychological Association (APA) style guide will want to learn the following hand signals:

APA Philosophy Hand Signals [click image to enlarge]

Public versus Private Enterprise

1. An undertaking, especially one of some scope, complication, and risk.
2. A business organization.
3. Industrious, systematic activity, especially when directed toward profit: Private enterprise is basic to capitalism.
4. Willingness to undertake new ventures; initiative: "Through want of enterprise and faith men are where they are, buying and selling, and spending their lives like serfs" (Henry David Thoreau).

public enterprise
(Economics) economic activity by governmental organizations.

private enterprise
1. Business activities unregulated by state ownership or control; privately owned business.
2. A privately owned business enterprise, especially one operating under a system of free enterprise or laissez-faire capitalism.

The world needs less public enterprise and more private enterprise...

Source: The Free Dictionary

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Innovations in Education: Sea Semester

I recently came across an interesting education program called Sea Semester: Field Programs in Marine and Environmental Studies. According to their website:
Since 1971, SEA has been a leader in off-campus study focused on marine science, maritime culture, and environmental studies. Our SEA Semester study abroad programs challenge students intellectually and physically by combining the sailing adventure of a lifetime with study of the deep ocean and the interactions of humans and the sea.
SSV Robert C Seamans

Why not study "at sea" for a semester? Follow the link below to learn more:

Sea Semester

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Domestic Spending Cuts and Libya

According to The Hill:
US military operations in Libya could wipe out a significant chunk of the budget cuts won by congressional Republicans in recent weeks, defense analysts say. GOP leaders have trumpeted enacted spending reductions that amount to more than $285 million per day since the beginning of March. But defense analysts say the Pentagon could be burning through more than $100 million per day in Libya, putting those budget savings at risk.
It seems as if the more the US cuts domestic spending, the more the US spends overseas...

Source: Berman, R & Bennett, J T (2011, March 21), Cost of Military Campaign in Libya Could Wipe Out GOP's Spending Cuts, The Hill.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Business Intelligence versus Business Analytics

What’s the difference between Business Analytics and Business Intelligence? The correct answer is: everybody has an opinion, but nobody knows, and you shouldn’t care.

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I Hate War...

Andrew Exum (also known as Abu Muqawama) of the Center for a New America Security (2011) makes a good point about the cost of war to US taxpayers:
A Tomahawk Missile cost $569,000 in FY99, so if my calculations are correct, they cost a little over $736,000 today assuming they are the same make and model. The United States fired 110 missiles yesterday, which adds up to a cost of around $81 million. That's twice the size of the annual budget of USIP [US Institute of Peace], which the House of Representatives wants to de-fund, and is about 33 times the amount of money National Public Radio receives in grants each year from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, which the House of Representatives also wants to de-fund in the name of austerity measures.
I would add that here in my part of the world, Gov Corbett of Pennsylvania has recently proposed to cut state funding for my alma mater, Temple University, by about $80 million, which is what the US spent on a single night of bombing in Libya. Certainly, I regret the onogoing plight of innocent Libyans and others in the Arab world. However, I likewise regret that Temple University is having to endure a 50% cut in its public funding during these difficult times in America. A national debate regarding the endless costs of war to US taxpayers is urgently needed.

Source: Center for a New American Security

Monday, March 21, 2011

Origins of "Business Intelligence"

The term "business intelligence" was coined by computer scientist and inventor Hans Peter Luhn in a 1958 article that appeared in the IBM Journal (p. 314):
In this paper, business is a collection of activities carried on for whatever purpose, be it science, technology, commerce, industry, law, government, defense, et cetera. The communication facility serving the conduct of a business (in the broad sense) may be referred to as an intelligence system. The notion of intelligence is also defined here, in a more general sense, as "the ability to apprehend the interrelationships of presented facts in such a way as to guide action towards a desired goal."
Hans Peter Luhn died in 1964 at the age of 68.

Hans Peter Luhn (1896-1964)

Source: Luhn, H P (1958), A Business Intelligence System, IBM Journal, 2(4), 314-319.

The Wiki History of Civilization (in 100 Seconds)

Gareth Lloyd has geotagged the recorded history of human civilization according to Wikipedia to create the following 100 second videography. The video includes 14,238 events between 499 BC (which coincides with the beginning of recorded history) and today. While you watch the video, imagine a world map overlaying the screen as 2,500 years of human history unfolds chronologically. Notice that the recorded history of the world begins in what we know today as Asia and eventually migrates across the Americas following Christopher Columbus's discovery voyage in 1492:

Gareth Lloyd is a software engineer living in London.

Well Said...

"Libertarians recognize the inevitable pluralism of the modern world and for that reason assert that individual liberty is at least part of the common good."

~ Dr Tom G Palmer

Dr Tom G Palmer

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The Numerati (for Lovers)

by Aurelie Thiele © 2011 Aurelie Thiele

I read The Numerati [by Stephen Baker] some time ago and never got around to writing a post about it, so here is my long overdue summary. Stephen Baker is a former BusinessWeek writer with interests in technology; his latest book, Final Jeopardy: Man vs Machine and the Quest to Know Everything was published last month. The topic of The Numerati, according to the book jacket, is "a new math intelligentsia [who] is devising ways to dissect our every move [using the trail of data we leave on the Internet] and predict, with stunning accuracy, what we will do next, [in order] to manipulate our behavior."

Whoever wrote the book jacket got a bit carried away ("the mathematical modeling of humanity", really?) but the book itself makes an important contribution. It is divided in seven chapters: Worker, Shopper, Voter, Blogger, Terrorist, Patient and Lover; in each, Baker describes what he learned from extensive discussions with experts in the field. To be honest, I am not quite sure I belong to his intended audience (who seems to be the majority of the population who doesn't practice data-mining nor math modeling, and needs to be educated about the potential and pitfalls of data), although Baker did attend the INFORMS annual meeting two years ago and autographed some of his books to operations researchers. On the other hand, I don't know if the people who would benefit most from his research will be sufficiently interested in data-mining to buy a whole book on it - I can see how they would gain from an article in their favorite magazine, but a book is a tougher sell. Thankfully, The Numerati is now out on paperback and Kindle, so people can get the book relatively cheaply.

I found myself a bit frustrated at times by the book's high-level descriptions, since I understand the technical part enough to want to know more about the complexities faced by the experts Baker interviewed, but the level of technicality was excellent for a layperson interested in learning more. I particularly enjoyed reading the issues faced by Google's Adsense with respect to spam blogs, or splogs, (in the "blogger" chapter); as an update, Google changed the way it ranks search results just last month to try to fight content farms.

Also, the "patient" chapter was fascinating from beginning to end; it focused on networked gadgets that can help hospital patients or people in poor health. A scientist at Intel Research Lab whom Baker interviewed "sees sensors eventually recording and building statistical models of almost every aspect of our behavior. They'll track our pathways in the house, the rhythm of our gait." But Baker also points out that taking advantage of this technology is not as easy as it sounds. In my favorite anecdote, on p.158 of the hardcover edition, he explains: "One woman, researchers were startled to see, gained eight pounds between bedtime and breakfast. A dangerous accumulation of fluids? Time to call an ambulance? No. Her little dog had jumped on the bed and slept with her."

However, the potential of data analysis is undeniable: according to the Intel scientist, "specialists studying the actor Michael J Fox in his old TV shows can detect the onset of Parkinson's years before Fox himself knew he had it" (p.165). In another startling analysis, described p. 177, researchers at University College London studied the manuscripts that prizewinning novelist Iris Murdoch left behind when she died of Alzheimer's, and were able to identify a curve followed by her use of language in her books, growing more complex until the height of her career and then falling off. While Baker sometimes oversells his case by picturing a distant future where our lives will be dominated by data-mining, rather than the more relevant (for readers) near- to medium- term, the studies he quotes are very interesting.

Finally, the "lover" chapter has an unexpected application to the resumes of job candidates: "according to BusinessWeek, 94 percent of US corporations ask for electronic resumes. They use software to sift through them, picking out a selection of "finalists" for human managers to consider" (p.195). Baker comments: "The point is that when we want to be found... we must make ourselves intelligible to machines. We need good page rank. We must fit ourselves to algorithms."

Republished with kind permission of Aurelie Thiele

On Fortitude

The fortitude of the Japanese people sets an example for the world...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Well Said...

"Power is not alluring to pure minds."

~ Thomas Jefferson

Hon Thomas Jefferson (1743–1826)

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A Century of Inflation II

Back in 1909, a bottle of Coca-Cola cost about 5 cents. Today, a bottle of Coca-Cola costs at least $1.50, which is 95% higher than the price 100 years ago.

Reality is that over the past century, the US dollar has lost 95% of its purchasing power (at least when it comes to buying a bottle of Coke).

PS: Learn more about the history of Coca-Cola at:

Coca-Cola Company

Enjoy Coke!

A Century of Inflation

Below is a copy of a postcard mailed in the US back in 1909 -- notice that the cost to mail a postcard that year was a penny. Today, the US postage rate for postcards is 30 cents. Said another way, the price of a US postcard stamp in 1909 was 97% less than today.

Said still another way, the US dollar has lost 97% of its purchasing power during the past century (at least when it comes to mailing postcards). Assuming that inflation remains on that same trajectory in the coming century, the cost of a postcard stamp in the year 2109 will be $9.00, up from $0.30 today.

PS: The reverse side of the above postcard appears below.

PPS: Wallace, Idaho has not changed much over the years -- you can visit their website by following the link below.

Historic Wallace, Idaho

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Ideas Have Consequences

Here is an encouraging quote by Prof Richard M Weaver (1948) that cosmopolitans will enjoy:
The discipline of poetry may be expected first to teach the evocative power of words, to introduce the student, if we may so put it, to the mighty power of symbolism, and then to show him that there are ways of feeling about things which are not provincial either in space or time. Poetry offers the fairest hope of restoring our lost unity of mind.
Perhaps society has reason for hope afterall.

Source: Weaver, R M (1948), Ideas Have Consequences, University of Chicago.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

On American Fascism

The following message by Henry A Wallace, 33rd Vice President of the US, is as pungent today as it was in 1944:
The American fascists are most easily recognized by their deliberate perversion of truth and fact. Their newspapers and propaganda carefully cultivate every fissure of disunity, every crack in the common front against fascism. They use every opportunity to impugn democracy. They use isolationism as a slogan to conceal their own selfish imperialism. They cultivate hate and distrust... They claim to be super-patriots, but they would destroy every liberty guaranteed by the Constitution. They demand free enterprise, but are the spokesmen for monopoly and vested interest. Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.

Hon Henry Agard Wallace (1888-1965)

Source: Wallace, H A (1944, April 9), New York Times.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Phi and Growth

Well Said...

"Art is a lie that makes us realize truth."

~ Pablo Picasso

Pablo Ruiz Picasso (1881-1973)

US Expected to Spend $1 Trillion for F-35 Fighters

The Atlantic is reporting that the US will eventually spend $1 trillion to acquire and maintain the new F-35 fighter (2011).

Is anyone else suffering from "sticker shock"...?

Source: Tierney, D (2011, March 15), The F-35: A Weapon That Costs More Than Australia, Atlantic.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Magnificent Universe

Well Said...

"The eternal mystery of the world is its comprehensibility."

~ Albert Einstein

Dr Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

Fibonacci Numbers

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The Three Rules of Work

1. Out of clutter, find simplicity.
2. From discord, find harmony.
3. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.

~ Albert Einstein

Dr Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

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A Travel Guide to a Done Dissertation

Doctoral candidates embarking on the dissertation odyssey will want to consider using Destination Dissertation as their guide. The following endorsement by Prof Monica M White is instructive:
Destination Dissertation demystifies the process of conducting, writing, and presenting original research, completing dissertations, and making the transition to journal articles. The travel metaphor is creative and one to which all of us, as scholars, can relate. The format is cohesive, and the chapters flow according to the process of the dissertation format. The techniques suggested are ones that students in my methods classes have found extremely beneficial.

I echo Prof White's endorsement of Destination Dissertation and urge that doctoral learners refer to the guide throughout their dissertation travels. No doubt, the best dissertation is a done dissertation.

Learn More

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Understanding Teachers' Unions

By the way, be sure to visit Xtranormal to learn how you can create similar movies.

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The Plight of Men in America

I enjoyed this "fantasy editing" piece by Prof Mark J Perry -- economists are increasingly highlighting the extant evidence regarding the plight of men in America:

Obama Says US Needs Progress for Men’s Equality

The true story of and about men in America is one that has yet to be written...

The Ability to Speed Read

Almost 30 years ago, I experienced Speed Reading with Dick Cavett (Time Life Video). The self-paced video training program changed my life for the better.

I am not sure how speed reading can be applied to reading electronic books and articles (though "surfing" has some similarities). I did a search on Amazon to look for the latest on "speed reading," but was disappointed to find only dated offerings. Moreover, the Dick Cavett speed reading videos I enjoyed are long discontinued. Is speed reading a lost art?

In the mean time, I have read many more fantastic books with higher reading comprehension during my lifetime than I would have had I not encountered Dick Cavett's video course so many years ago.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

The Compleat Business Intelligence (BI) Analyst

According to Gert H N Laursen and Jesper Thorlund (2010), the business intelligence analyst is "a bridge builder between the company and its technical environment" (p. 134).
[Business intelligence] analysts need to master three professional competencies to be successful: business, method, and data. We can add to this certain key personal competetencies: the ability to listen and to convince. These are necessary if a task is to be understood, discussed with all involved parties, and delivered in a such a way that it makes a difference to business processes and thereby becomes potentially value-adding.... All in all, it sounds as if we need a superman. And that might not be far off, considering the fact that this is the analytical age. (Laursen & Thorlund, p. 101)
Global enterprise is looking for more than a few good people who can fill this standing order for expertise.

Source: Laursen & Thorlund (2010), Business Analytics for Managers: Taking Business Intelligence Beyond Reporting, Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

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Business Intelligence and Strategy

[Click image to expand]

Source: Williams, N (2011, March 2), Business Analytics & BI Strategy: What is the Mission? BeyeNetwork.

Why Business Analysts Must Understand the Business

Monday, March 07, 2011

Well Said...

"A concept in business, as in a story, must be told forcefully and simply, with consequential logic mixed with dramatic leaps."

~ Glenn Schaeffer

"Dr" Glenn Schaeffer

Source: Schaeffer, G (2010, May 19), Why the MFA is the New MBA, Vegas Seven.

March Snow in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania

The view from my balcony this morning -- such is life in the Allegheny Mountains of Pennsylvania!

State College, Pennsylvania [click image to enlarge]

Saturday, March 05, 2011

US Healthcare Costs vs Life Expectancy

This chart produced by KPCB (2011) is disturbing. Why is the per capita cost of healthcare in the US so much higher than in Japan and the UK, yet life expectancy in the US is so much lower?

I suppose factors such as diet, crime, and war could be mitigating life expectancy in the US. However, why are healthcare costs so much higher in the US as compared with other countries? A better understanding of the relationship between healthcare costs and life expectancy in the US seems in order.

Whenever I consider the dollar figures and outcomes of US government spending for programs such as healthcare, defense, homeland security, public salaries, and everything else, I am always left with the eerie feeling that someone or somebody is picking my pocket as a taxpayer...

Source: KPCB

Friday, March 04, 2011

Citations and References Made Easy

Professional standards require that scholarly writing comply with style manuals published by such institutions as the American Psychological Association (APA), the Modern Language Association (MLA), the Council of Science Editors (CSE), and others. Each of these writing styles specifies unique formats for typing citations and references. Unfortunately, some researchers struggle with the standards, which can result in papers being rejected by reviewers.

The good news is that automated formatting support is available from a number of vendors. The solution I recommend most often is EndNote (Thompson Reuters). I have been using EndNote now for over a decade. Every reference found in any of my research publications is stored in the EndNote database, which works like a glove with Word (Microsoft). Over the years, my EndNote database has grown with me as I accumulate new articles, books, and references in my field. Here is how the creators of EndNote describe their solution:
Millions of researchers, scholarly writers, students, and librarians use EndNote to search online bibliographic databases, organize their references, images and PDFs in any language, and create bibliographies and figure lists instantly. Instead of spending hours typing bibliographies, or using index cards to organize their references, they do it the easy way—by using EndNote! And EndNote Web is included with EndNote so you can collaborate with others easily.
If you are a researcher or learner seeking to publish a manuscript, thesis, or dissertation, I urge you to begin using EndNote sooner than later. Follow the link below to learn more:

Learn More

Plagiarism is Ruinous

Need proof that plagiarism can ruin your career. Consider recent events in Europe where Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg recently resigned his office as German Defense Minister after admitting that he plagiarized his doctoral dissertation at the University of Bayreuth.

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg is a notable descendant of Leopold II, Holy Roman Emperor, and Aloys II, Prince of Liechtenstein. Prior to this plagiarism scandal, Guttenberg was considered a rising star in German politics. No doubt, plagiarism is ruinous...

Related Posts:

Plagiarism Visualized

US Employment to Population Ratio Stagnating

The latest employment data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the US employment to population ratio* stood at 57.8% for February 2011, up from 57.6% the previous month, but down from 57.9% a year ago. The US employment to population ratio has been trending downwards since 2000.

Many economists believe that reporting the number employed as a percentage of the civilian population provides a more accurate description of the current state of employment than conjecturing the number of "unemployed" in a population. The US employment to population ratio reached a historical peak of 64.4% on an annual basis in 2000.

*The BLS defines employment and population (civilian noninstitutional) as follows:
Employment consists of all persons who, during the reference week (the calendar week including the twelfth day of the month), (a) did any work at all (at least 1 hour) as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession or on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers in an enterprise operated by a member of the family, or (b) were not working but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent because of vacation, illness, bad weather, childcare problems, maternity or paternity leave, labor-management dispute, job training, or other family or personal reasons, whether or not they were paid for the time off or were seeking other jobs.... The civilian noninstitutional population consists of persons 16 years of age and older residing in the 50 States and the District of Columbia who are not inmates of institutions (for example, penal and mental facilities and homes for the aged) and who are not on active duty in the Armed Forces.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics

Map Your Mind...

Looking for software that can help you think and capture your thoughts and ideas? Consider adding PersonalBrain (TheBrain Technologies) to your personal software ensemble. Here is how the creators of PersonalBrain describe the capabilities of their applicaion:
Our own organic brains aren't always linear. Our greatest ideas and insights are dependent on a cascade and convergence of many others. That's why PersonalBrain focuses on connecting information instead of separating it. PersonalBrain moves beyond linear folders and lists, letting you create a network of information organized the way you think about it. You don't have to force any idea or project into a single folder. With PersonalBrain you can connect things to anything else. PersonalBrain applies visualization to your information, creating a digital map similar to paper-based mind maps you may be familiar with, but so much more powerful...
Follow the link below to learn more about this innovative software application.

Learn More

PS: The basic version of PersonalBrain is free...

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Well Said...

"I am just absolutely convinced that the best formula for giving us peace and preserving the American way of life is freedom, limited government, and minding our own business overseas."

~ Ron Paul

Hon Ronald Ernest "Ron" Paul (1935- )

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Few Americans Support Cutting Entitlements

The following report from the Wall Street Journal speaks volumes about the fiscal policy preferences of Americans at large:
Less than a quarter of Americans support making significant cuts to Social Security or Medicare to tackle the country's mounting deficit, according to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll, illustrating the challenge facing lawmakers who want voter buy-in to alter entitlement programs.... In the poll, Americans across all age groups and ideologies said by large margins that it was "unacceptable'' to make significant cuts in entitlement programs in order to reduce the federal deficit. Even tea party supporters, by a nearly 2-to-1 margin, declared significant cuts to Social Security "unacceptable."
Apparently, only a narrow minority of Americans support making significant cuts to entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare. Considering the popularity of these programs, such findings come as no surprise...

Source: King, N Jr & Greenberg, S (2011, March 2), Poll Finds Support Lacking for Entitlement Reductions, Wall Street Journal.

Well Said...

"Experience is inevitable; learning is not."

~ Prof Paul J H Schoemaker

Prof Paul J H Schoemaker (1949- )

Plagiarism Visualized

Germany's defense minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, recently resigned after admitting that he plagiarized his doctoral dissertation at the University of Bayreuth. Gregor Aisch of has created a visualization that illustrates the extent of Guttenberg's plagiarism as shown below. Note that the dark red lines indicate word-for-word plagiarism, while the lighter shades of red indicate other degrees of plagiarism.

I know that most universities today routinely evaluate submitted doctoral dissertations using automated plagiarism detection services such as SafeAssign. Plagiarism is more than a moral hazard, but a career risk as well...


Tuesday, March 01, 2011