Sunday, September 25, 2005

A "Laurence Tribe" issue surfaces at Bowdoin

At an April 2005 faculty meeting, Bowdoin University Professor Carey Phillips questioned whether senior staff were held to the same ethical standards as faculty and students. Dean of Academic Affairs Craig McEwen responded, "Senior staff are subject to the same standards as students and faculty." At the meeting, Phillips expressed concern that the work of an unidentified faculty member had been used in a grant application without that professor's permission. "Unpublished work of a faculty member was submitted, essentially verbatim, as a grant proposal without the knowledge or permission of the faculty member," Phillips said.

McEwen added that the issue would come before the Faculty Affairs Committee in May. That committee did take up the matter, but would not release details as to what happened.

McEwen told the [Bowdoin] Orient that in April 2005 he was referring to the equal application of ethical standards "as a broad philosophy because clearly there are student honor code rules that apply specifically to students. We don't have an honor code set out in the same form [for staff members], but we do have fundamentally the same expectations or appropriate conduct for attribution, and the expectation is that people won't plagiarize."

Various law school professors have suggested that the USPTO utilize review mechanisms as found in scientific publications and in grant reviews to evaluate such questions as obviousness. I had pointed out the relevance of an early episode of Law & Order ("Big Bang") wherein a professor/advisor had first unfavorably reviewed a grant proposal of a former student and then stolen it. The Bowdoin event illustrates the stealing part. The Arizona State University episode illustrates that the high stakes of the patent world motivate a number of questionable activities.

In the Laurence Tribe plagiarism matter at Harvard Law School, it has become clear that professors are not held to the same standards on plagiarism that are enforced against undergraduate students.


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