Friday, March 04, 2005

Whose line is it, anyway? 

I was talking about this regarding something else with a friend, and this morning Tyler Cowen notes a paper by Walter Enders and Gary Hoover. Here's the abstract:
This paper reports the results of a survey regarding the instances of plagiarism reported by journal editors in the economics profession. The survey finds that nearly 24% of responding 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.
Prof. Cowen reports a similar event to one I experienced several years ago:
Not word-for-word copying, but rather using a borrowed idea --and the major idea of the paper -- rather directly without attribution. (In each case the instance was pointed out to me by somebody else as well, so I am inclined to dismiss the possibility of self-delusion on my part. Plus in each case I know the plagiarizer had access to the paper.) In each case the plagiarist took an unpublished paper and improved upon my original idea. In neither case did the plagiarist gain anything concrete from the action, nor have I suffered any real net harm.
In my case, the publication of the paper precluded our ability to get our paper -- I had a co-author -- published in a refereed journal. And it's common enough that the percentages reported in the Enders/Hoover study strike me, if anything, as too low.