Views on Plagiarism

While it may be true, as Shawn G. Clouthier writes, that "... most scientists agree on what constitutes scientific chicanery and malfeasance,"1 such agreement probably applies to the more egregious cases. Plagiarism, however, can manifest itself in a variety of subtler forms, and given the increasingly multidisciplinary and international nature of scientific research, these 'grayer' areas are likely to be a source of considerable disagreement.For example, the question of which forms of rewriting

Miguel Roig
Sep 12, 2004

While it may be true, as Shawn G. Clouthier writes, that "... most scientists agree on what constitutes scientific chicanery and malfeasance,"1 such agreement probably applies to the more egregious cases. Plagiarism, however, can manifest itself in a variety of subtler forms, and given the increasingly multidisciplinary and international nature of scientific research, these 'grayer' areas are likely to be a source of considerable disagreement.

For example, the question of which forms of rewriting represent instances of acceptable paraphrases vs. plagiarism can generate a wide range of opinion amongst academics,2 and such disagreements are probably more likely between those who work in divergent academic disciplines (e.g., natural sciences vs. the humanities and social sciences). Unfortunately, part of the problem with this particular form of plagiarism lies in the fact that most of the major professional writing guides are generally silent or offer only limited or unclear explanation about...

If we are to clean our universities of scientific misconduct, it is not enough to police them. We also must investigate and understand the reasons for the significant increase over the past decade in the recorded number of scientific misconduct cases. The intense competition among scientists over ever-shrinking research funds, on one hand, and the great rewards that the successful few are reaping, on the other, are two major reasons. The scientist of the 21st century is being measured by the dollar size of his or her award, not by the excellence of the science that the award funds.

Universities everywhere are changing the rules by which scientists are being promoted and tenured; the highest emphasis is being put on grant money. The scientific community, just like any other community, has among its members those who will more easily succumb to the pressure to succeed, and they are the ones more prone to commit scientific misconduct. Another facet of the problem that must be changed is the attitude of the scientific community toward the whistle-blower who is considered by many to be a stool pigeon. This attitude emerged from the same culture that produced the code of silence among thieves. Scientists and institutions should encourage and reward whistleblowers for exposing cases of scientific misconduct. And last, but not least, those who participate in cover-up should be punished as harshly as those who are caught committing scientific misconduct.

Solomon Rivlin

CEO, Solomon Rivlin Louisville, Ky. srivlin@att.net

Apparently the science establishment now depends on the notion that young researchers with unknown reputations are fungible (i.e., replaceable) with others who will continue to supply fresh energy, ideas, and the impetus for the next logical step. Despite the known serendipity and creativity that have provided the greatest advances in science, the PhD-granting system is geared so that particular paths of research become dynastic, in which thinking outside the box is not encouraged.

The creation of a bureaucratic science has encouraged the establishment of an unknowingly mediocre elite that by its selfish power, greed, and tenacity seeks to co-opt the incipient Newtons and Einsteins, those with revolutionary scientific ideas, while they are young and exploitable.

How to do away with the tendency for the wrong people obtaining credit? 1) Eliminate the conflating of scientific status with scientific creativity that comes with obtaining the PhD and academic tenure. These bureaucratic representations of talent falsely pigeonhole what are very individual and changeable abilities. Talent should be based on real-time abilities and real-time data rather than a representation that can be a shield preventing detailed examination. 2) Rein in unbridled competition, as it encourages deception to achieve an end that is probably as achievable by one's competition. 3) Finally, the sovereign status of academic institutions prevents legal redress by wronged individuals. Legally favoring institutions rather than talented individuals is a sure way to destroy originality, which should be positively reinforced.

Marc Kirch

Berkeley, Calif. ebspirits@yahoo.com