Friday, February 22, 2008

Columbia Teachers College: no rules governing plagiarism?

On February 21, the New York Times reported that Columbia Teachers College had determined there were “numerous instances in which Madonna G. Constantine used others’ work without attribution in papers she published in academic journals over the past five years.” The college said Dr. Constantine was being penalized, but did not say what the penalty was. A spokeswoman for the college, Marcia Horowitz, said Teachers College did not have set rules governing plagiarism or how it should be punished.

Those who recall the Laurence Tribe affair might recall a similar vagueness from Harvard about what penalty Tribe faced for
his admitted plagiarism.

The New York Times also noted: In 2006, the chairman of Dr. Constantine’s department, Suniya S. Luthar, passed along to administrators complaints that Dr. Constantine had unfairly used portions of writings by a junior colleague, Christine Yeh, as well as a number of students, Dr. Luthar said in an interview. Teachers College eventually asked Hughes Hubbard & Reed, a law firm, to investigate.

The New York Times article did not offer an explanation for how the academic journals did NOT notice the asserted plagiarism.

The blog Guardienne of the Tomes has a post Down and Dirty: Plagiarism which includes the line

That's right, plagiarizing, the bugaboo of librarians and professors everywhere who are attempting to educate students on the proper way to give credit to others for their hard work and original ideas.

As IPBiz has noted, plagiarism is bad, but getting the facts wrong is worse. Contemplate the failure to cite check in Law Library Journal. From IPFrontline:

In a paper titled "Peer to Peer Meets the World of Legal Information: Encountering a New Paradigm," 99 Law Libr. J. 365 (related to a symposium concerning the thoughts of Robert C. Berring), authors Ethan Katsh and Beth Noveck wrote in paragraph 8:

In their recent book, Innovation and Its Discontents, [FN5] Adam Jaffe and Josh Lerner document many patents that are anything but novel and nonobvious, such as patent number 6,368,227 for "Method of Swinging on a Swing" awarded to a five-year-old boy (subsequently cancelled). [FN6] Or patent number 6,574,645, a patent on a method for drafting a patent. [FN7] The patent awarded to Smucker's for the crustless peanut butter and jelly sandwich is, by now, legendary. [FN8] Jaffe and Lerner describe a patent sought for expirationless options thirty years after economists won the Nobel Prize for the same idea. [FN9]

The problem is that Jaffe and Lerner did not talk about US 6,574,645 in Innovation and Its Discontents, as alleged in the Law Library Journal article. But nobody bothered to check.


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