Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Presenting fantasy as fact

The plagiarism episode involving Laurence Tribe of Harvard Law School has pretty much died down. "Borrowing" by faculty members will be tolerated more than "borrowing" by students, at least at Harvard.

I came across the following text on the internet:

In the Goodwin controversy, Tribe suggested that presenting fantasy as fact was a terrible offense for an academic — worse, indeed, than plagiarism. In the Green Bag essay, published a year after his defense of Goodwin, he appears to have committed precisely that offense while also taking credit for the achievements of others (Chief Justice Burger and anyone who actually influenced him).

I would tend to agree that presenting fantasy as fact has the potential to do more damage than misrepresenting the source of a fact. Yet, law reviews seem to be quite willing to present fantasy as fact, and there is less discussion of this than of plagiarism issues.

For example, for the record, Robert Clarke never assumed "every continuation leads to a patent," and the assertion that he did is wrong, wrong, wrong. The conclusion from this error that the number of Quillen and Webster of 85% patent grant rate is the best we have is also wrong, wrong, wrong. To the extent that the patent reform debate is informed by artificially inflated patent grant rate numbers, it is wrong, wrong, wrong.


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