Isaac Ginsburg's "Disregard Syndrome"1 produced a spate of letters. Such anecdotal evidence for unwitting or intentional duplication of research is common. But I am not aware of any systematic study of the extent of such duplication. In 1992, I discussed "bibliographic negligence,"2 and a decade earlier I discussed "citation amnesia."3 In the latter, I cited John Martyn's now classic survey of more than 647 British scientists,4 which indicated that 22% of researchers had missed relevant information that would have saved time, money, or work. But his study did not measure the extent of deliberate disregard of the literature. And there are other variants such as unconscious plagiarism or cryptomnesia, a term invented by Sigmund Freud and discussed by Robert K. Merton,5 and reviewed in the Current Contents essays cited and in a follow-up published two years later.6
While the journal literature is often...
Interested in reading more?
Become a Member of
Receive full access to digital editions of The Scientist, as well as TS Digest, feature stories, more than 35 years of archives, and much more!