Tuesday, 19 October 2010
Wegman and Plagiarism
Slanderous accusations of "plagiarism" have been leveled by alarmists at the Wegman report. The Wegman report is of course a useful collection of quotes that disprove climate science, so it bears defending it's integrity.
Unfortunately by the literal definition of "plagiarism" the Wegman Report is indeed "guilty". But are the dictionaries wrong? I argue that yes they are. Modern dictionaries and encyclopedias are written by academics after all, and the Head Climate Gatekeeper, William M. Connolley, has the power to edit any of these books before publication.
Fortunately my fellow Climate Realists have been hard at work to find excuses. A favorite is to try and ignore the plagiarism charge and reframe it as a copyright issue. If it isn't a copyright offense what can be wrong with it? Efforts to this end include choosing to describe it as "copygate" and copious citations of the "fair use" exemption.
However it's all very confusing for laypeople. As an expert (I have studied plagiarism all my life and for many years I worked as a professional plagiarist), I shall cast some impartial light on this rather confused debate.
What is Plagiarism?
Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as the appropriation, close imitation, or purloining and publication, of another author's language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions, and the representation of them as one's own original work.
However the use of the Latin word plagiarius (literally kidnapper), to denote someone stealing someone else's work, was in fact pioneered by Roman poet Martial, who complained that another poet had kidnapped his verses. This use of the word was introduced into English in 1601 by dramatist Ben Jonson, to describe as a plagiary someone guilt of literary theft[3.
Within academia, plagiarism by students, professors, or researchers is considered by alarmists to be "academic dishonesty" or "academic fraud", and "offenders" are subject to "academic censure" and ostracization, such as that exhibited in the Climategate emails. Some individuals accused of plagiarizing in academic contexts point out that they plagiarized unintentionally, by not including cumbersome and unnecessary quotations or giving a relevant citation. This kind of thing is absolutely fine for many forms of document, eg reports intended for Congress.
Plagiarism in scholarship and journalism has a centuries-old tradition. It's nothing new and is almost expected. The development of the Internet, where articles appear as electronic text, has made the physical act of copying the work of others much more straight-forward.