Saturday, September 22, 2007

The details of charges against Poshard of SIU

The August 30 SIUDE [Daily Egyptian] had laid out some specifics of the issues of improper citation within Poshard's Ph.D. thesis. One thing that is troubling is the following:

On page 54 of his dissertation, Poshard appears to have modeled his chapter summary, without citation or quotations, after a passage from author James Gallagher.

The last time Poshard cites Gallagher is on page 49, leaving Poshard at a loss to explain the nearly verbatim text on page 54.

"Unless I just failed to cite it," Poshard said. "What else can I say?"

Page 54 of the thesis might seem to be in the "original" as opposed to "background" portion of the thesis, and a reader might have the expectation that unquoted (or not footnoted) portions were original thoughts of the thesis author.

HOWEVER, note that the SIUDE also says:

All but one of the suspect sections is in the 41-page second chapter, entitled "Review of Related Literature."

Although it is not a good idea to fail to give proper cites to "prior art," it is separately true that incomplete citations in a "review" section do NOT cause the reader to think the thesis author is claiming prior work as being original to the thesis author. The same point could be made about many of the charges against former students at Ohio University. It's not good to fail to cite, but in a review or background section, the author is NOT claiming the work as his/her own.

A different portion of the SIUDE article had the text:

Tricia Bertram Gallant, academic integrity coordinator at University of California, San Diego, said by most contemporary standards, Poshard's dissertation contained instances of unquoted verbatim text and insufficient citation.

However, Bertram Gallant, who viewed the report without knowing the author's name, said there is no academic consensus on the definition of plagiarism and special citation rules sometimes apply to a thesis, on the graduate or undergraduate level.

IPBiz agrees that there is no single accepted definition of plagiarism. This was recently illustrated vividly in the Cha / Kim matter involving a duplicate publication in the journal Fertility & Sterility. HOWEVER, given that many theses are made publicly available (not only AT the school but also through services such as University Microfilms), a thesis author should NOT be able to rely on "special citation rules" which would be unknown to a member of the public who obtained the thesis WITHOUT knowledge of the special citation rules.

On a related note, IPBiz believes that charges of lack of novelty, as made by Loring against Thomson in the embryonic stem cell area, are much more serious matters than a failure to cite references in a literature review section. At the end of the day, more damage may be done to Thomson than will be done to Poshard (notwithstanding questioning statements about Poshard, as in


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