Publication Ethics Resources

creating publication standards

This is a public AAA Task Force  public

document draft

    Julie Smith David
    COMPLETED: Draft Plagiarism Policy
    document draft posted October 14, 2013 by Julie Smith David, last edited July 1, 2014, tagged completed 
    1654 Views, 5 Comments
    document name:
    COMPLETED: Draft Plagiarism Policy


    The first draft of our plagiarism policy has been available on the Publications Ethics Task Force web site since September 28, 2013.  To encourage member involvement with our emerging policies, the task force also hosted a panel discussion at the Annual Meeting, and we received very thoughtful, detailed comments from those in attendance about publication ethics in general, and the plagiarism policy in particular.

    We have updated the plagiarism policy (click below) to address the questions/concerns that were raised.  This new version reflects several major changes:

    1)  We are now focused on the cultural norms that we want to encourage, rather than the rules and procedures that we will follow.

    2)  We have developed definitions to educate our community more explicitly.

    3)  We have highlighted preventative controls (the use of plagiarism detection software in the review process, in this case).

    4)  We have (we believe) made the procedures more clear and transparent.

    Please review this policy, and provide comments.  We will make one more revision prior to recommending its adoption to the Board at their November meeting.



    • Dave McCormick

      I particularly like the definition of plagiarism and reference to "self-plagiarism, also called duplicate publication and text recycling." Although it has been easy to identify student plagiarism from publicly available sources, many policies do not specifically preclude copy-and-paste of one's own work. Granted, great published works by well-known authors of many years refer to their own prior works by citation and reference, but it is good to clearly describe this practice.

    • Mary B Curtis

      I would like us to state what the author's right are. I am concerned that this is all about the AAA and nothing about those who will face these accusations.

    • Julie Smith David

      We have updated the policy based on the feedback received, and the final version has been posted online on our main policies page:

      Although we've sent out announcements of the finalized policy, I'm sorry I didn't update this space sooner!  Although we took all comments we had into account before finalizing, and Mary, we will consider yours as we develop our next policies.

    • Robert E Jensen

      .. her thoughts – if not always her words – remain her own.
      "In Her Own Words," April 25, 2014," by Colleen Flaherty,  Inside Higher Ed, April 25, 2014 ---

      Brown University’s investigation into a professor accused of plagiarism was supposed to remain confidential. But after it was leaked to the student newspaper, the professor is speaking out both to apologize for what she says was unintentional plagiarism and to assert that her thoughts – if not always her words – remain her own.

      While some colleagues criticized the university’s response to its inquiry into Vanessa Ryan, assistant professor of English, especially in light of the fact that she recently was named as an associate dean who oversees a graduate teaching program, others have come to her defense. Plagiarism is often framed as an ethical choice, they say, but unintentional plagiarism is easier and maybe more common than many believe.

      “In August 2013, I learned that my book contains inadvertent errors of attribution, which resulted from mistakes I made in documenting my research as I worked on the project over many years,” Ryan said via email. “I take full responsibility for these mistakes.”

      At the same time, she said, “While, as a result of these mistakes, my book uses words from other scholars’ writings without attribution, the substance of the ideas in the book is my own.”

      Last year, Brown University received an anonymous allegation that Ryan’s book, Thinking Without Thought in the Victorian Novel, published in 2012 by Johns Hopkins University Press, contained numerous instances of plagiarism.

      David Savitz, vice president for research at Brown, said his predecessor determined that there was enough cause to convene a three-member panel of senior faculty members familiar with Ryan’s area of research but without personal ties to investigate.

      After a “very serious” inquiry, “what they found didn’t rise to the level of the research misconduct,” Savitz said of the panel. Although there were unattributed quotes, Savitz said the panel found they weren’t central to Ryan’s argument, and were related to “peripheral or contextual issues.”

      Quoting from the panel’s report, Ryan said the investigators found the “passages did not reflect the co-opting of others’ views as [my] own and notwithstanding these passages, the contribution of [my] book still stands.”

      Ryan said she took immediate action, notifying her publisher, her department chair, other colleagues and the scholars improperly cited in her book.

      She added: “I want to underscore how seriously I take academic integrity and how distressed I am to have made these unintentional mistakes. As my students and colleagues know, I am passionate about my work as a scholar, teacher, and member of our academic community.”

      Still, some at Brown are not satisfied by that apology or by the university’s response to the query. Someone with access to the confidential plagiarism report leaked it to the student newspaper, the Brown Daily Herald. The paper ran a story and also reported that 13 English professors had written to the administration questioning the findings of the report and Ryan’s appointment in January as associate dean of the graduate school, in which she leads a training program for teaching assistants. To some faculty, it seemed like the wrong job for someone accused of bad academic behavior, however unintentional.

      Ryan is still a faculty member, but is on administrative leave from that position until her contract expires next year, a university spokeswoman said.

      James Egan, professor of English, said via email: “I stand behind what we wrote in the letter,” referring to the faculty letter saying that the university had acted inappropriately. But he declined further comment due to a department decision not to speak with media about the case.

      Philip Gould, department chair, said he was not immediately available for comment.

      Despite the criticism from some of her colleagues at Brown, others have stood behind Ryan since the allegations went public.

      Kate Flint, a Victorianist who is familiar with Ryan’s work, and who is chair of the department of art history at the University of Southern California, said that Ryan’s response to the allegations demonstrates her academic integrity. Immediately, Flint said, Ryan called her to explain and offer an apology (although Flint’s work was not part of the investigation, to her knowledge).

      Continued in article

      It's Rare for Universities to Fire Tenured Professors Who Plagiarize
      "Columbia U. Says It Will Fire Professor Accused of Plagiarizing a Former Colleague and Students," by  Thomas Bartlett, Chronicle of Higher Education," June 24, 2008 ---

      A Columbia University professor has been suspended and will be fired for plagiarism and for obstructing the university's investigation into her case, a spokeswoman said on Monday.

      The allegations against Madonna G. Constantine, a tenured professor of psychology and education at Columbia's Teachers College, first came to light in February after an investigation, conducted by a law firm hired by the university, found that Ms. Constantine had plagiarized the work of a former colleague and two former students (The Chronicle, February 21). This month a faculty committee accepted the administration's ruling.

      In February university officials reduced her salary and asked for her resignation, which she did not give.

      A spokeswoman for the university confirmed that a memorandum was delivered to faculty members on Monday informing them of the decision to suspend Ms. Constantine, pending dismissal.

      The spokeswoman declined to give further details.

      In an interview last February, Ms. Constantine vigorously defended herself against allegations of plagiarism, and argued that it was she instead who had been plagiarized. She also contended that the university is biased against her and that her accusers are motivated by envy and racism (The Chronicle, February 22).

      Ms. Constantine did not respond to an interview request Monday afternoon. But her lawyer, Paul J. Giacomo Jr., said the university had ignored information that would clear her. "The evidence that was offered by her accusers is highly questionable and is belied by evidence in Teachers College's own records," he said. Mr. Giacomo said that his client was keeping all options open and that she may appeal her termination to a faculty committee.

      Continued in article

      Jensen Comment
      Punishments for faculty plagiarism are seldom as hurtful as punishments for student plagiarism. The key is admission of guilt with a humble apology. Denial and defiance can be more costly as Madonna G. Constantine discovered at Columbia University (see above link).

      Bob Jensen's threads on professors who plagiarize or otherwise cheat (e.g. create phony data or cherry pick data) ---

      Princeton's Nobel Laureate economist and political activist Paul Krugman is sometimes known to cherry pick data or even invent data in order to make a political point ---
      Paul Krugman ---
      Professor Krugman is not moving to CUNY as an endowed professor of economics.

      . . .

      Krugman's columns have drawn criticism as well as praise. A 2003 article in The Economist[ questioned Krugman's "growing tendency to attribute all the world's ills to George Bush," citing critics who felt that "his relentless partisanship is getting in the way of his argument" and claiming errors of economic and political reasoning in his columns. Daniel Okrent, a former The New York Times ombudsman, in his farewell column, criticized Krugman for what he said was "the disturbing habit of shaping, slicing and selectively citing numbers in a fashion that pleases his acolytes but leaves him open to substantive assault.

      "The Missing Data in Krugman’s German Austerity Narrative" Daniel J. Mitchell, Townhall, February 25, 2014 --- 

      There’s an ongoing debate about Keynesian economics, stimulus spending, and various versions of fiscal austerity, and regular readers know I do everything possible to explain that you can promote added prosperity by reducing the burden of government spending.

      . . .

      But here’s the problem with his article. We know from the (misleading) examples above (not quoted here)  that he’s complained about supposed austerity in places such as the United Kingdom and France, so one would think that the German government must have been more profligate with the public purse.

      After all, Krugman wrote they haven’t “imposed a lot of [austerity] on themselves.”

      So I followed the advice in Krugman’s “public service announcement.” I didn’t just repeat what people have said. I dug into the data to see what happened to government spending in various nations.

      And I know you’ll be shocked to see that Krugman was wrong. The Germans have been more frugal (at least in the sense of increasing spending at the slowest rate) than nations that supposedly are guilty of “spending cuts.”


    • Robert E Jensen

      The Purdue Owl: Preventing Plagiarism --- 

      Detecting Plagiarism and Cheating ---