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Wednesday News: The Plagiarism Edition

The frequency of pilferings from Wikipedia suggests he viewed the site as an open-source document. Another theme: He pulled stuff from the Federal Register for his piece on the president’s swag gifts; from a “government website” for his post on “25 Amazing, Official White House Petitions”; from a U.S. Senate Web site for his piece “24 Delightful Inauguration Firsts,” a post that, according to the BuzzFeed editor’s note, should have credited that Web site “as the source for almost all of the information in this piece”; from the U.S. Botanical Garden for the piece on the giant flower — all of which suggests that Johnson felt entitled to material created with the help of his tax dollars. –Washington Post

To their credit, the Times is paying more attention this time. In an email to Gawker, spokesperson Eileen Murphy wrote: “We’re aware of the situation and are looking into it.” –Gawker

By the end of this year’s tournament, which was contested from June 23 to July 6, the 2013 annual had been removed from the Wimbledon bookshelves. It has also been removed from Wimbledon’s online shop. The book should have disappeared from circulation long before that. Months earlier, as first reported today in the U.K. magazine Private Eye (the article is not currently available online), Wimbledon employees had learned that the author, Neil Harman, had plagiarized large swaths of the 2013 book. Regardless, the title remained on sale until just before the tournament’s end, when the All England Club was confronted by a writer whose work had been pilfered. Harman, who had written the Wimbledon annual for 10 consecutive years, was not assigned that task for 2014. He did, though, still write a piece on Andy Murray for the tournament program. In addition, Wimbledon allowed him to keep his credentials, and invited him to attend the tournament’s exclusive Champions’ Dinner. The club also failed to notify writers whose work they knew had been plagiarized. –Slate

Stories of lead researchers stealing the work of their grad students is not uncommon, but this represents a major twist. It seems that in this case, a proud parent (and close friend of a college professor) encouraged his daughter to conduct a science fair project that was largely based on the work of that professor/friend’s graduate student. Arrington’s science fair project seems to have been inspired by the work of a grad student, Zack Jud, who published very similar results back in 2011 — work that Arrington’s father was an author on. –i09

isn't sure if she's an average Romance reader, or even an average reader, but a reader she is, enjoying everything from literary fiction to philosophy to history to poetry. Historical Romance was her first love within the genre, but she's fickle and easily seduced by the promise of a good read. She approaches every book with the same hope: that she will be filled from the inside out with something awesome that she didnʼt know, didnʼt think about, or didnʼt feel until that moment. And she's always looking for the next mind-blowing read, so feel free to share any suggestions!


  1. Angie
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 04:36:47

    Wait, six-year-old? The article says sixth grader, and they’re usually eleven. I’d expect a six-year-old doing a science fair project (?!?) to have a LOT of parental supervision, but an eleven-year-old might well do most of it alone. I never got help with mine, anyway. Although in this case it looks like the parent was the one handing her the stolen research, so the kid’s age probably isn’t that important anyway. :/

    In general, I hope all the plagiarists (or their parents, as relevant) get smacked hard. There’s no excuse for this crap. [sigh]


  2. library addict
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 05:35:45

    In general, I hope all the plagiarists (or their parents, as relevant) get smacked hard. There’s no excuse for this crap. [sigh]

    What Angie said. Though sadly, given publishers’ histories, etc, nothing will probably be done.

  3. Robin/Janet
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 06:07:10

    @Angie: Oh, thank you for catching that! I was beyond exhausted by the time I did the news last night and didn’t even catch my own mistake.

  4. hapax
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 12:18:12

    Dayyum. With all the plagiarism going around, no wonder the publishers have no room for new authors producing original work. ;-)

    However, Buzzfeed’s problems stem from more than one editor. Almost all of their clickbait articles swipe heavily from other sources without giving credit. It’s bad enough that I refuse to go there (or link anything) anymore.

  5. Pamala Knight
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 17:48:43

    I’m a big tennis fan and have been following the Neil Harman story for a couple of weeks now. It’s AMAZING that these folks don’t feel that credit/attribution is something that needs to happen. Thanks for weighing in :)

  6. Anna Richland
    Jul 30, 2014 @ 23:09:48

    You missed my favorite (not) plagiarist of the week: Senator John Walsh. Plagiarized a 14-page paper for the Army War College to get an advanced military academic credential – it’s mandatory for higher ranking officers and promotions.

    And shortly thereafter was appointed to be the head (Adjutant General) for the Montana National Guard, and then after that was appointed to the US Senate.

    It is blatant and extreme plagiarism of a paper that was necessary for him to receive a credential — paid for with tax dollars – that is a requirement for the higher position he sought in the military. This is not like Joe Biden plagiarizing a speech, or even like a newspaper reporter plagiarizing an article. Read through the NY Times link, because the stakes are so much higher and actually depend on the academic credential being received – in the military, certain schools are mandatory for advancement at certain levels. This is much more akin to a lawyer cheating on a bar exam or a doctor cheating on her medical boards – it’s a credential, not merely and article or speech.

    The War College is also paid for with government funds (not just the college, but his salary, housing and transportation are all paid for at War College – and he couldn’t even write a 14 page paper with out like six verbatim pages?)

    And then in the intervening time – when he knew he had achieved all these big promotions on the back of the War College credential (he would NOT have become Adjutant General without it, and he wouldn’t have been appointed to the Senate without that military experience) – he couldn’t quietly go under the radar and say to the War College “guys, I had PTSD back then when I was attending, and made some bad choices, but here’s a revised paper to substitute for that one that I shouldn’t have turned in, please, I’m making good…” Nope, he outright denied it at first (which made me wonder if he didn’t even write it and thus didn’t know it had been plagiarized, just wildly speculating, but the fact that he didn’t immediately mea culpa is odd).

    People with much worse situations than his – multiple combat deployments, missing limbs, sexual assault, brain damage – on top of PTSD manage to get through college afterward without plagiarizing. I’m not buying that he should get a pass. Other vets w/PTSD don’t get a pass from their job or academic requirements. He knew the rules. He was an officer. And he couldn’t freaking write 14 pages about US Iraq policy without copying six from some Harvard academics and a DC think tank?

    If he had corrected his mistake quietly with the War College years ago, either this wouldn’t have come out at all, because it wouldn’t be available, or his answer would be “yes, I made a mistake and owned up to it in 2010 and it’s been fixed and on file for four years,” and we’d all be like, WOW, that dude has honesty and integrity! But no.

    Once again, the plagiarist can’t admit they did wrong and that it’s wrong. It’s such a huge blind spot. Seriously? It’s not crazy. My 4th grader has figured out that you can’t use someone else’s words, and that changing one or two synonyms is not changing their words. You have to change the idea too!

    I’d really like to know that Senators and senior military officers understand the difference between cheating and not cheating. It’s basic. Average every day people have to face consequences — like the Buzz Feed guy lost his job — wonder what consequences a Senator will face?

    (Sorry to rant, but as a former army officer who has written many, many papers over the years for many years of higher education in and out of the military, I’m shocked that he might get away with this – and … 14 pages???)

  7. Melissa
    Jul 31, 2014 @ 03:29:26

    @Anna Richland:

    As an USAF veteran (enlisted) – thank you from the bottom of my heart for your comment. Not to belittle the examples listed in the original post, but when a military member (regardless of rank or status) can’t meet basic standards of honor code we took an oath to uphold.

  8. Melissa
    Jul 31, 2014 @ 03:32:03


    Trigger finger got the better of me.

    Just to finish out my comment – if a military member can’t meet the standards, it leads to a lack of trust within the unit, and the mission/operation suffers (and consequently, national security). I think that is way more important than a blogger at BuzzFeed getting fired.

  9. Dusk Peterson
    Aug 05, 2014 @ 14:25:48

    On the story about the sixth-grader: NPR has posted a follow-up article disputing the scientist’s charge that plagiarism took place.

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