Avoiding plagiarism; ethics, attribution and authorship

SciDev.net recently posted an item entitled “Plagiarised scientific papers plague India”, dealing with some recent plagiarism controversies, and bemoaning a lack of intervention at government level.

“Nandula Raghuram, secretary of the Delhi-based Society for Scientific Values, an independent watchdog, told SciDev.Net that the Indian government has not heeded calls for an independent ethics body in the country.”

Attribution and authorship are critical issues to any research organisation anywhere in the world, but in practical terms how can we  make sure people are properly credited for their work?  High profile plagiarism cases certainly bring it out in the open, but nobody wants to see those (apart from the original authors perhaps!)

The SGRP published in August 2010 a “Booklet of CGIAR Centre Policy Instruments, Guidelines and Statements on Genetic Resources, Biotechnology and Intellectual Property Rights” of which ethics is a part.  However, these statements don’t deal with issues at the level of plagiarism or copyright. 

An old post on the Scientific Misconduct blog: ““We promise to be honest” at the University of Toronto – is it enough?”, talks of the University of Toronto’s use of an “honest oath”  – an interesting way of making sure people are aware of their responsibilities.  Dealing with this issue at the time contracts are signed certainly confirms awareness, but how effective is it?

We need to pay attention to these issues.  As the role of social media and knowledge sharing increases, we will need to pay even more attention to make sure individual creators are not forgotten.

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