Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Further thoughts on the CBS and Cha plagiarisms

Of the incident of plagiarism by CBS, one IPBiz reader wrote:

the CBS plagiarism does not surprise me.....this plagiarism is becoming
an epidemic.
What is more worrisome to me is:

A) The US has had a reputation for "creativity"....which means doing
the hard work, thinking alone...and this plagiarism culture short
circuits that learning curve.

B) Of course, plagiarism also is done to make one look better than
one quality does NOT bubble to the top.

IPBiz had previously discussed Dean Velvel writing ABOUT Judge Posner's book on plagiarism:

One of the things that makes plagiarism so terrible is that it is a form of dishonesty, a form of fraud, that is sometimes used by the very best; not just by the second rate, the pathetic. When some of the very best are resorting to dishonesty, you know the society has a problem.

The bottom line on all of this is that, if one believes that truth and honesty are important, an idea long in desuetude but perhaps now making a comeback (due to Iraq), then one can also believe, contrary to Posner, that the perpetrators of plagiarism and unacknowledged ghosting should be heavily punished, regardless of supposed likelihood of detection. Only by heavy punishment, one would think, can this epidemic of fraud be ended.

IPBiz had previously discussed a review of the Posner book by Charles McGrath:

Of the clerk angle, McGrath wrote: In the book he readily acknowledges that judges publish opinions all the time that are in fact written by their clerks, but he excuses the practice on the ground that everyone knows about it and therefore no one is harmed. IPBiz notes that a common view of Ph.D. theses is that of moving bones in a graveyard, from one site to another. Does that excuse plagiarism for Ph.D. students merely because there is a perception that most theses are NOT original? What about the Ohio University students who failed to attribute material in the "background" portion of their theses? If the stuff is in "background," would not the reader of thesis understand that the student did not originate it and thus "no one is harmed"? McGrath and Posner alike don't seemed to be tuned into the reality at Ohio University. What about the debate about "plagiarizing oneself," that materialized at SIU? Certainly no one was harmed by the SIU administrator dusting off some of his earlier work. However, in the Madey v. Duke University case, there might be a different take.

IPBiz notes that a defense of plagiarism based upon "everyone knows about it and therefore no one is harmed" is simply wrong. It should be self-evident that the person copied from (and denied credit for work) is harmed. Separately, society is harmed by being denied knowledge of the person who really had the idea. The public at large will misallocate resources to the "apparent author" and deny resources to the true author, thereby making an inefficient use of resources.

A different IPBiz reader had asked about the text in a different IPBiz post referencing the Posner conjecture:

In view of a recent post by Kim on californiastemcellreport, it appears that Lee's actions both at KSOG/KJOG and at Fertility & Sterility were in violation of policies AT BOTH JOURNALS against multiple publication. Separately, by deleting Kim's name from the Fertility & Sterility paper, Lee took work, which she knew to have been written by another (Kim) and represented it as NOT having been written by Kim. This brings us back to Posner's conjecture: do custom and practice in a field excuse plagiarism, as Posner would do in the area of legal writing? May senior workers (and employers) in science substitute their names for the name of the actual author? In the realm of United States patent law, the answer to this is a strong NO; the true inventor must be named.

IPBiz notes that in the US system of patents the true inventor must be named. That is, the US system requires the identification of the person who had the original idea. In all of the current discussion about patent reform and harmonization, no one has suggested a change to the requirement that the true inventor be named.


Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

There is more on the CBS plagiarism at

Similar to the Cha case, in which Cha was stated not to know about the earlier publication in KSOG/KJOG, CBS said Couric didn't know about this copying. In defense of Couric not writing her own material, CBS noted television is a very "collaborative medium," evoking some earlier comments made by Mike at TechDirt.

5:58 AM  
Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

David Blum in Couric in the Eye of Plagiarism Case has harsher criticism of Couric AND guesses on the identity of the now-fired plagiarizing producer.

Of Couric, Ms. Couric's own writing skills may be part of the problem. In a blog entry written in March right after the resignation of Rome Hartman as her executive producer, Ms. Couric wrote: "[ Hartman is] a man of integrity, character, and honor. In the TV news business, those characteristics are too often mutually exclusive." Perhaps she can be forgiven for not knowing what "mutually exclusive" means; she was no doubt too busy typing "indefatigability," a word she apparently made up herself to describe Mr. Hartman's work methods.

Of the [possible] identity of the producer: According to sources within CBS News, her name is Melissa McNamara, a Web producer (and herself a blogger for who joined the network in October 2005 after working as a news assistant in the Washington bureau of the New York Times and as a researcher at CNN. Ms. McNamara couldn't be reached yesterday for comment. Asked to explain the reason for CBS News's silence about her identity, a spokeswoman said in a written statement: "We believe the matter has been dealt with appropriately and that the producer has paid the necessary price." She added that the network "quickly and decisively dealt with the issue" by posting a correction on its Web site and firing the producer.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

The journal Science had a quote in the April 6, 07 issue: "None of us is running for president, so I think we can get away with plagiarism." 316 Science 29.

On a more serious note, Science has an article on Singapore's Biopolis. 316 Science 38.
Senior figures are called "whales," (did they get this from Vegas?) and "ambitious young researchers" are called "guppies." Singapore plans to send abroad about 1000 students to earn degrees at foreign universities, which will cost about $590,000 per student.

2:46 PM  
Blogger Lawrence B. Ebert said...

William Heisel of the LA Times has an article out on April 13 titled Plagiarism dispute has high stakes. It includes the text:

Cha has threatened a defamation suit against the editor of the journal Fertility and Sterility, which published the paper in question, over the editor's remarks in the media that suggested the article had been plagiarized. He also has dispatched a public relations firm to present his side of the issue in newspapers and magazines.


But medical publications have something important at stake as well: their academic independence and the money it might take to defend it, journal editors said.

"In order to be able to do what Dr. Cha has done, you have to have a ton of money, and the vast majority of scientists do not," said Dr. Drummond Rennie, deputy editor of the Journal of the American Medical Assn. "He's created a situation where things are very much stacked against the journal."

Dr. Alan DeCherney, editor of Fertility and Sterility, which is essentially a three-person operation based in Birmingham, Ala., said he and the committee would not be swayed by the lawsuit threats.

"This behavior is unprecedented," DeCherney said. "Attorneys never get involved in cases like this. They just get worked out between the parties."


Cha responded March 7 with a letter from Beverly Hills attorney Anthony Michael Glassman to DeCherney, demanding that DeCherney sign a statement essentially retracting what he'd said to The Times and to the online magazine the Scientist. Glassman also sent a letter threatening to sue The Times for defamation.

"Dr. Cha stands ready to protect his rights by immediately filing a suit for defamation against you and F&S," Glassman wrote to DeCherney in the letter.

The Korean Society of Obstetrics and Gynecology [KSOG] has asked Fertility and Sterility to retract the article entirely. Some members of Fertility and Sterility's editorial board agree.

8:34 AM  

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