The copy-and-paste generation: Plagiarism's many faces
lagiarism in science and research publications is widespread. It's not directly connected to the standard of a dissertation or a scientific article, but authors and institutions that are scientifically not very demanding, and prone to deliver poor work, usually take the decisive step to plagiarism faster.
Some months ago I had to rate a 50-page review paper. The authors had copied half sentences, full sentences, even complete paragraphs from references. The sentences were pasted together without fitting verbs; some new sentences came from different scientific publications and did not fit together; there were contradictions within one paragraph. What do you do with such a paper? How dare the authors submit such junk and believe they can get away with it?
Many members of the "copy-and-paste" generation seem not to be aware that plagiarism is a striking lack of scientific competence. It is not necessarily their fault; often neither their teachers nor their supervisors have introduced them to the principles and rules of scientific work and publications. Thus, they don't understand the need for accurate work and the generally accepted standards to prepare papers.
Plagiarism is a striking lack of scientific competence.
Two years ago I wrote about the plagiarism scandals all over Europe, most of them involving politicians and other people in the limelight . They mainly involved doctoral theses in countries where a doctor's title is important for the social, professional, and financial status of a person. In Germany, two government ministers were forced to step down, and in other European countries, North America, and Asia, plagiarism also took its toll.
Plagiarism and copyright infringement are closely connected and increasing due to the ease of copy-and-paste. Plagiarism means taking someone else's work or ideas and passing them off as one's own; the crime is fraud. Copyright infringement is theft. It refers to the unauthorized use of copyrighted material. "Copy-and-paste" is the modern tool to perform these crimes.
Universities and other institutions of education are one place where this regularly occurs; the other side of the coin is the highly commercial plagiarism and copyright infringement of multinational internet companies. Pirate websites like Google Book open straight and easy access to published books and magazines without paying the authors or other copyright holders any royalties.
Children and adults are not taught any more that property is a value, including intellectual property. They don't know or understand that this is one of the concepts our societies are based upon, but ask: Is plagiarism really so bad – even criminal? Google's and Amazon's lobbyists say: No, it isn't. They and many others continue bootlegging.
What is worse: shoplifting or plagiarism ... or is it a gentleman's crime? What's the damage caused by plagiarism? This includes financial damage, but also damage to the scientific and educational system – because plagiarists are not able to produce research and results on their own.
In science, plagiarists very often also damage themselves because they are found out sooner or later; their reputations, and the reputation of their groups and departments, are tainted.
Scientists or any other authors work hard to create their results, write them down, and publish them. The process is a result of their ingenuity, talent, and stamina. Copyright exists to protect these people and to give them financial and career support.
All faces of plagiarism and copyright theft are unacceptable; what belongs to you is not mine. Strangely, though, at some point "Googlism" even meets socialism: "Plagiarism saves time and effort, improves results, and shows considerable initiative on the part of the plagiarist. As a revolutionary tool it is ideally suited to the needs of the late twentieth-century ".
1. Rinck PA. The Guttenberg snippets. Rinckside 2011; 22,3:.
2. Home S. Plagiarism – Art as commodity and strategies for its negation. Aporia Press; 1987.