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Friday, March 04, 2005

Academic Dishonesty, or "Would You Sleep With Me For $1 Million?"

The always enjoyable Tyler Cowan over at Marginal Revolution is blogging on academic plagiarism:

...nearly 24% of responding [journal] editors encounter one case of plagiarism in a typical year. In addition, the survey reveals that less than 19% of responding journals have a formal policy regarding plagiarism. Moreover, there is a great deal of variance in what is considered plagiarism and what an appropriate response to plagiarism should be. A majority of editors believe that the economics profession would benefit from a professional code of ethics.

Here is the paper. I believe I have been plagiarized twice during my career, each time by a well-known economist. Not word-for-word copying, but rather using a borrowed idea --and the major idea of the paper -- rather directly without attribution.
Click here for the whole article.

I personally know of several cases of plagiarism. In one case, an individual took almost the entire structure of another person's article and used it in his own. It's likely that one of the authors that was plagiarized will be the reviewer on the thief's piece. So, there will be some payback.

This is a clear case, but a second one is not so clear. In this case, the data was provided by one author as part of a project that never resulted in anything publishable. The coauthor subsequently took the data without the first author's permission and examined the same issue (using most of the ideas in the first piece but with a different methodology) from a different perspective, with new coauthors, and without getting the first coauthor's permission.

Finally, I am aware of a finance/econ department at a small school where three of the faculty were fired for falsifying data, submitting the same paper simultaneously to several journals (sometimes with extremely minor changes, sometimes without), and in general for being idiots.

There are people who "get it" and people who don't in every sphere. I make a big deal about cheating in my classes at the beginning of each semester. Although I can't mention this example in class because of political correctness, I'm reminded of an old joke where the millionaire asks a young lady if she'd sleep with him for a million dollars. She say, "sure". He then asks "How about for $50?". The young lady responds, angrily "what do you take me for?". The millionaire then says, "We've already established that. Now, we're just haggling over price".

Oh wait, they made a movie out of that.

I do have a price for my integrity (it has to do with my family, my marriage, etc...). However, I try to keep it high enough to discourage the window shoppers, and it's definitely higher than a publication.

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