In response to some interesting discussions with my students, I’m gearing up for a longish post on plagiarism’s place in the pantheon of scientific misconduct. To the extent that scientists can provide a clear definition of misconduct, it’s usually FFP: fabrication, falsification, and plagiarism. So, plagiarism is in there, but there’s frequently a sense that it’s not the same kind of ethical violation.
Before launching into my take on the issue, I thought it might be good to canvas the readership:
- Is plagiarism just as heinous a crime against science as fabrication and falsification, or is it a lower-level offense?
- Does your answer to #1 depend on whether we’re talking about finished scientific work (e.g., a manuscript submitted to a journal) or something like a grant proposal?
- Do scientists mean the same thing by “plagiarism” as English teachers and that crowd?
A related issue: I’ve heard vague claims that there are some cultures in which “plagiarism” as defined by U.S. standards is not viewed as an ethical breach at all, and that this may explain some instances of plagiarism among scientists and science students working in the U.S. after receiving their foundational educational experiences in such cultures. To my readers oversees: Is there any truth to these claims? (I’m suspicious, at least in part because of an incident I know of at my school where a student from country X, caught plagiarising, asserted, “But, in country X, where I’m from, this is how everyone does it. Sorry, I didn’t know the norms were different here.” Unfortunately for this student, the Dean was also from country X and was able to say, with authority, “‘Fraid not.”)
I anxiously await your input.