A New Definition of ‘Plagiarism’?

A Redefinition of Plagiarism?

From http://terrydeacon.berkeley.edu

Berkeley’s research misconduct policy  is modeled on federal regulations  which define research misconduct to include plagiarism — “the appropriation of another person’s ideas, processes, results, or words without giving appropriate credit.”  According to regulation, in order to constitute research misconduct, plagiarism must be a “significant departure from accepted practices of the relevant research community” and must be “committed intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly.”2 




(of a person or their actions) Without thinking or caring about the consequences of an action: “reckless driving”.


From http://terrydeacon.berkeley.edu

Lissack and his institute, have, however, proposed a new definition of plagiarism, which they call “plagiarism by negligence.”  They claim that plagiarism extends beyond the conventional definition to include a failure to cite any preceding works that make use of similar concepts, explore similar ideas, or recapitulate similar, even if unoriginal, arguments.  They ask rhetorically, does “an academic have an affirmative obligation to cite or make reference to those who preceded him or her in working on similar ideas?”  They assert that ignorance of similar preceding work does not excuse lack of citation, for in the age of Google access to preceding work is easy and thus ignorance of such work represents negligence—the lack of citation constitutes “plagiarism by negligence.”  “There is no excuse,” declares Lissack in a recent paper, “to even tolerate the idea that in the Internet Age it is acceptable … to fail to see what others have written before publishing his own work. . .  Plagiarism by negligence is still plagiarism.” [emphasis added]. 19

To adopt this novel standard for defining plagiarism would create some “interesting” situations. “




Failing to take proper care in doing something: “directors have been negligent in the performance of their duties”.



careless – neglectful – remiss – inadvertent – heedless

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4 Responses to A New Definition of ‘Plagiarism’?

  1. Bruno says:

    I have a scientific academic background which I am trying to challenge whenever I find time – since I do not work in that field at all.

    I’ve had your ‘Dynamics in Action’ book in my wishlist for a while but only read a few pages today via the ‘look inside’ Amazon function.
    I am puzzled by how you so clearly describe things that I’ve been turning around for a while.
    So as I do not know you (and can’t recall how I went to hear of your book) I googled you and went on your blog http://aliciajuarrero.com/.

    The first article of your blog about plagiarism really confused me because I just read this morning the O. Sacks article on NYRB : Speak, Memory (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/archives/2013/feb/21/speak-memory/?page=2), where the notions of memory, plagiarism, creation, justice and commonwealth of knowledge are discussed.
    I searched a few minutes the direct causal link there had to be between these two readings but could’nt find it.

    So I decided to write to you :
    – to notify you the O. Sacks article which may be of interest for you
    – to thank you for your work and the accessibility you give to it, which I strongly believe in – let alone for the dynamics it will empower and the new things that will emerge from it.

    I will further read ‘dynamics in action’ to better understand and identify the structure that rely behind that kind of dynamic I experienced this morning.


  2. Mark Pharoah says:

    My father used to say to me, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery”, to dull the sting.
    The bottom line is that great ideas often take many years or even decades to permeate into scientific fields and further afield through the evolution of ideas and the expression of stances: usually, due credit comes out in the wash eventually. Of course, if one writes a book, one would normally take some pains to research the field with care. I find rather interesting how history has its own bias on things; for why should people remember Darwin and not Wallace, or Alexander Fleming, but not of Florey, Chain and Heatley? Sometimes there is a creeping augmentation of an idea and the originator’s germ that instigated the discussion is largely forgotten until they are long gone… that is until someone does some proper research on the subject source and the originator is credited. I have also wondered at times, if many professors have read the work of a student and thought, ‘hmmm… that’s a good idea. I might just incorporate some of that into my next paper.’ Perhaps, instead of a redefinition for plagiarism, there should be a halfway charge… a charge that is not as severe as plagiarism – which is enough to end the career of someone who might have a significant contribution to make – but a charge of negligence, where the evidence is not sufficient but the professionalism can be called into question and remedial steps made by publishers and others.

    • aleksmalecic says:

      In the example discussed here both Juarrero’s and Deacon’s (also Evan Thompson and Robert Rosen) contributions are worthwhile (especially Deacon’s approach to information, emergence, “absence”, and constraints), but I’m just an author of something that no one wants to look at, so what do I know.

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