Thursday, November 29, 2007

More discussion of authorship problems at Harvard Law School

Lawrence Velvel has a piece titled: Read 'Em And Weep For Harvard, which discusses an article by Jacob Russell, called A Million Little Writers, which is in the November/December 2007 issue of 02138.

One has the text: And, whether in the sciences or the humanities, the world of scholarship has always prioritized the proper crediting of sources and co-contributors.


Still, the blurring of authorial lines might be a particular problem for Harvard’s faculty. Harvard professors are, in theory, held to a high standard, but they also have more tempting opportunities for lucrative, popular writing than professors at lesser-known institutions. (And, frequently, larger budgets with which to pay researchers.) The cult of celebrity that Harvard’s high-profile professors often cultivate requires a production line of unnamed accomplices who help maintain the professor’s prolific output—and status as an intellectual star.

Outsourced work is partly a response to time constraints; it allows a professor to both produce more—more books, more op-eds—and have more time for non-research work, such as appearing on television, taking on pro bono legal cases, and starting research centers. With such aims, a professor is often pursuing fundamentally different goals than the pursuit of knowledge: The frequent publication of quickly written popular books generally has more to do with the pursuit of fame and material success.

Of Dershowitz: Instead, as a lawyer might, he writes his conclusions, leaving spaces where he’d like sources or case law to back up a thesis.

Of Dershowitz and others: “They write first, make assertions, and farm out [the work] to research assistants to vet it. They do very little of the research themselves.” [IPBiz: sort of like Mark Lemley's research assistant on Gary Boone as the inventor of the integrated circuit.]

See also

Of the words --prioritized the proper crediting of sources--, one can ask "how high" the priority is given. One notes a discussion of Student Government at SIU on the Poshard plagiarism:

Later in the [student government] meeting, the senate unanimously passed a resolution in support of the Faculty Review Committee's recent finding that SIU President Glenn Poshard committed "inadvertent plagiarism" in his 1984 doctoral dissertation.

The committee released its findings Oct. 12.

David Loftus, a senator representing the west side of Carbondale, worked on the resolution with White.

Loftus said he understood the passion of those on both sides of the controversy surrounding Poshard.

"Listen, it is unfortunate that these events had to occur, but we support our president. He [Poshard] has done great things for this university," Loftus said. "It's time that we put things behind us and move on."

At page 54 of Poshard's thesis, Poshard copied a summary from a previous book to describe Poshard's summary of the literature. Poshard did not footnote the previous work at (or near) page 54 and did not use quotation marks to delimit the copied text. Apart from plagiarizing the work, Poshard's use of an old summary was not even technically appropriate to describe work which had developed AFTER the copied text was written.


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