This issue presents two exciting papers on different topics in software testing. The first, Optimizing Compilation with Preservation of Structural Code Coverage Metrics to Support Software Testing, by Kirner and Hass, presents results on mapping coverage computed at the source level to coverage at the executable level. Their suggestion is to modify compilers to add additional information to the executable version of the software to make it possible to back-calculate coverage measured on the executable to the source. (Recommended by Jose Maldonado.) The second, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to Statistical Tests for Assessing Randomized Algorithms in Software Engineering, by Arcuri and Briand, presents guidelines on using statistical tests in experiments involving randomized algorithms. The authors make the point that randomized algorithms have different characteristics than other kinds of experimental research, which means different statistical analysis techniques are needed. The paper analyzes several recent publications, and recommends how their statistical tests could have been improved. (Recommended by Alexander Pretschner.)
I wrote about The Globalization of Software Engineering in a previous editorial , followed up with a discussion of language skills to support globalization , uses of references and citations , and standards for research quality . Another difficult difference that is affected by globalization is plagiarism.
All journal editors that I ask agree that we detect more plagiarism than in the past. Part of the increase is simply that we now use technology to increase observability. STVR uses an automatic plagiarism tool that searches thousands (millions?) of documents looking for overlapping text. It reports the percentage of the text in the submitted paper that is identical to text in previously published papers. We can also view the papers that have the most overlap in a tool that highlights the overlapping text. As a result, we detect more plagiarized papers, and detect them sooner. STVR rejects 10 to 20 papers annually for plagiarism.
Another reason for the increase is that many authors to not understand plagiarism. As I pointed out last month , scientists learn many things from their advisors, including what constitutes plagiarism. This, in turn, is certainly affected by culture. In countries with governments that are inherently corrupt, it is natural for plagiarism to be more common and accepted. In countries without a long tradition of individual ownership of ideas, plagiarism is not a natural concept. And in countries that are extremely competitive, the “anything to get ahead” attitude can sometimes turn to plagiarism. Thus, the increasing globalization of software engineering certainly contributes to an increase in plagiarism.
A prevailing problem seems to be “what is plagiarism?” My Merriam-Webster dictionary defines plagiarize as: “to use the words or ideas of another person as if they were your own words or ideas” . This seems simple and straightforward, but, as the saying goes, “the devil is in the details.” Below I present several (anonymized) examples.
In another example, a paper I was struggling with was rejected by two conferences, and finally accepted at a third. In the meantime, a person who was on both program committees that rejected my paper published a paper with several of my key ideas. The third example is ironic. Again, a paper I was struggling to write well was rejected twice, and I decided to send it to a journal. One reviewer accused me of plagiarism! It turned out that a reviewer from one of the conferences had published some of the ideas in my paper before I got it out. Luckily, I had released a technical report of the original paper, and was able to explain to the editor what happened. Essentially, I was accused of plagiarizing myself.
In all three situations, the author was clearly using “the words or ideas of another person as if they were his or her own words or ideas.” And this may be the worst form of plagiarism, because it is so easy to disguise and so hard to prove. In fact, two of these plagiarizers admitted privately what they did. One is now a department chair at a major university, and one an associate dean.
So yes, plagiarism occurs regularly. It is sometimes intentional, but often not. Part of our responsibility as teachers, reviewers, and editors is to educate people who were not taught in high school writing classes about plagiarism. And one of our ethical dilemmas is whether to treat unintentional plagiarism more lightly.
Thankfully, plagiarism is not as common as in some fields, for example politics . Our field is designed to prevent and detect plagiarism through education, collaboration, and the review process. Perhaps most importantly, one of our most important assets is our reputation. If we are caught plagiarizing once we can usually expect our research career to be over.
 Jeff Offutt. The Globalization of Software Engineering (Editorial), Wiley’s journal of Software Testing, Verification, and Reliability, 23(3), May 2013. http://www.cs.gmu.edu/~offutt/stvr/23-3-May2013.html.
 Jeff Offutt. Globalization—Language and Dialects (Editorial), Wiley's journal of Software Testing, Verification, and Reliability, 23(4), June 2013. http://www.cs.gmu.edu/~offutt/stvr/23-4-June2013.html.
 Jeff Offutt. Globalization-References and Citations (Editorial), Wiley’s journal of Software Testing, Verification, and Reliability, 24(1), January 2014. http://www.cs.gmu.edu/~offutt/stvr/24-1-Jan2014.html.
 Jeff Offutt. Globalization-Standards for Research Quality (Editorial), Wiley’s journal of Software Testing, Verification, and Reliability, 24(2), March 2014. http://www.cs.gmu.edu/~offutt/stvr/24-2-Mar2014.html.
 Merriam-Webster Free online dictionary. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/plagiarize, accessed March 2014.
 Michael Shermer. When Scientists Sin: Fraud, deception and lies in research reveal how science is (mostly) self-correcting, Scientific American, July 2010. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=when-scientists-sin
22 March 2014