Monday, October 11, 2010

The Sources of Rapping

To give credit where credit is due, Keith Kloor understands what plagiarism is and Judith Curry does not. They are having it out on on the Wegman Report beat at his and hers, but the short and sour of it is Keith's

JD (146): I do find it odd that it took this long for a complaint to be lodged.

And per Judith Curry’s argument at her thread, I’m trying to get a handle on this. All I can say is, in my line of work, things are pretty cut and dry. You can’t make shit up and you can’t steal other people’s stuff and pass it off as your own.

Kloor comes at this from the standpoint of a journalist, whose reputation depends on the trust that readers and sources will have in him. Academics have a similar viewpoint, and in addition academics have to teach and enforce these ethical considerations to our students which accounts for Eli and Keith being on the same page. Keith, of course, teaches journalism.

A letter has come to Eli through Stephan Lewandowsky from another journalism professor, Nancy Longnecker
Dear Steve,

In teaching about scholarly conduct and science writing, I am always interested in finding examples to show students both appropriate and inappropriate actions. As you know, a textbook from a reputable publisher (Assessing Climate Change by D. Rapp; 2010. Springer) appears to contain substantial sections that are largely plagiarized. This provides a great example for demonstrating what not to do to students in our Science Writing classes. It is also useful in reinforcing the critical need to assess credibility of sources.

I am looking into using this example in a large first year communication class being proposed for 2012. This will be particularly relevant since the context of that class is likely to be communicating about climate change.

Kind regards,
Associate Professor Nancy Longnecker
Coordinator, Science Communication Program
What follows below has been edited heavily in an approximately one hour period after the original posting.

A major source for Chapter 1 in Dr. Rapp's book is sudden climate transitions during the Quaternary by Jonathan Adams, Mark Maslin and Ellen Thomas which appeared in Progress in Physical Geography March 1999, 23, 1-36.

But wait Lucia and the rest of μWatt'sLegions will write, that is AFTER Dr. Donald Rapp's book was published in 2008. Adams, Maslin and Thomas must have copied from Rapp. No. We have a record of the AMT paper through the majic of the Wayback Machine extending back to 1999 and, more importantly, the Rapp book uses AMT 1999 as a reference multiple times. Indeed, reading carefully, as Eli did not do at first (acknowledged error), this is an example where a defense of inadvertence could be is believable. The AMT paper, is another interesting example of how a scientific review evolves and hangs out there in neverland over a long period of time preserved in the Wayback Machine.

Eli will provide a teaser, perhaps a slightly unfair one, of one of many places where the text in Chapter 1, page 12 of Dr. Rapp's book matched that in the AMT paper without indication of a direct quote. In fairness, Eli should note that there are examples in the Dr. Rapp's text where he did correctly quote, using quotation marks and such, from the AMT paper such as on page 33. This is moving into the area where the source is acknowledged, but there is substantial copy and paste, which if not plagiarism in the sense of unacknowledged borrowing is copyright violation. Red indicates strikeouts and additions in Dr. Rapp's book, Chapter 1 Page 12.

Climatic variability on the timescale of tens of thousands of years has turned out to be a predominant pattern in eEarth history. The last two and a half million years have been marked by many global climate oscillations, between warmer and cooler conditions. This trend of oscillations appears to be merely the continuation of a pattern of variability extending back well into the Tertiary period and possibly beyond (e.g., Kennett 1995). During the last few million years, the length duration and the amplitude of these climate cycles has increased (e.g., Crowley & North, 1991; Hodell and Venz, 1992).

Large global interglacial-glacial-interglacial climate oscillations have been recurring at approximately a 100,000 year periodicity for the last 900,000 years (e.g. Berger et al. 1993; Mudelse and Schulz, 1997), though each individual cycle has had its own idiosyncrasies in terms of the timing and magnitude of changes (e.g., Lyle et al. 1992) (Adams, Maslin and Thomas 1999).

This section, and many others in the Chapter, are word for word matches between Dr. Rapp's book and the web page containing drafts of the AMT paper. While AMT is properly cited and many of the instances are short phrases or simply sentences, there is a lot of copy and paste all of which flags plagiarism software. At a minimum there was considerable carelessness. As said above, there are also many acknowledged direct quotes properly done, from AMT. For example on page 31 Surface Reflectivity (albedo) of ice and snow

According to Adams, Maslin, and Thomas (1999):

"The intensely white surface of sea ice and snow reflects back much of the Sun's heat, hence keeping the surface cool. Presently, about a third of the heat received from the Sun is reflected back into space, and changes in this proportion thus have the potential to strongly influence global climate. In general the ice cover on the sea, and the snow cover on the land, have the potential to set off rapid climate changes because they can either appear or disappear rapidly given the right circumstances. . .
Thus we have now two of ten or twenty instances where exact quotes (with grammar improved in some cases) appear in Dr. Rapp's book without quotation marks. This is acceptable for short phrases, but not so much for sentences, and not for paragraphs.


CapitalClimate said...

JC's own loosey-goosey standards are just the tip of the iceberg of plagiaristic ignorance. Here's the best example I've seen so far, by one Peter Wilson:

I frequently write reports and analyses for various parties, and have no compunction in copying and pasting others work, and have no issue with others using my work in this way. Of course, by doing so I assume full responsibility for its accuracy, and that is all that is expected – accuracy and responsibility. Concepts like plagiarism are totally foreign to such report writing . . .

One might wonder, not Eli and the present company, of course, what those "various parties" would be willing to pay for such work were they to know of its provenance.

CapitalClimate said...

Link for the previous citation:

CapitalClimate said...

Here's another gem. Shorter version: No problem. It was done for the government, so it should be expected to be crap:

Hank Hancock | October 9, 2010 at 9:36 pm | Reply

The Wegman committee report was not written to any APA, MLA, or CMS format standards as far as I can tell. It seems evident to me that the report borrows from and compares many sources of work with a mixing of comments thrown in using the committee’s own ad-hoc report format. Most citations (where attempts are made) exist mainly as in-text side comments or narrative references. If I saw any attempt to structure the report to professional scientific publication standards then I would be unmerciful in criticizing it. Otherwise, I accept it is a report written to be read by an audience of politicians, not that politicians read anything important to the public’s interests these days.

If we are going to use the rather bad structure of the report to discredit the science the report purports to represent then we need to be fair in making it cut both ways.

Anyway, good enough for government work, I suppose.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps JC should be told of GIT's institutional misconduct policy then:

N. Scientific or other scholarly misconduct or misconduct in science means fabrication, falsification, plagiarism, or other practices that seriously deviate from those that are commonly accepted within the scientific community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research. It does not include honest error or honest differences in interpretations or judgments of data.

and that they adhere to the Federal Policy on Research Misconduct's definition of plagiarism.

Cymraeg llygoden

Anonymous said...

I'm pretty amazed at how accepting of poor scholarship some people are showing themselves to be. Here's how the GMC handled Raj Persaud's plagiarism of Richard Bentall's (and others) work:

"Media doctor hit with suspension

Celebrity psychiatrist Dr Raj Persaud's has been suspended from practising for three months over plagiarism."


Anonymous said...


I was going to mention Raj Persaud in connection with this topic elsewhere. The Wikipedia entry for him contains quite a lot of info about him and references, including to the Bentall case in the Guardian.

Cymraeg llygoden

BillD said...

As someone who spends a lot of time teaching at a university and writing, reviewing and editing scientific papers, I am amazed that so many people think that it's ok to cut and paste. For undergraduates, graduate students annd practising scientists, this is not ok. I am afraid that Wegman has been a poor example and his Ph.D students will pay for it. I'm not sure about copyright suits, but nearly everyone in academics should see about the problems with cut and paste. We are supposed to understand concepts well enough to put them in our own words.

This also ought to be clear to journalists, although perhaps it's not surprising that nonacademics and nonjournalists--would not understand.

Anonymous said...

Even on a blog I would expect cut and paste to be referenced, maybe no more than "cop a look at what fred says". It is so easy to provide a link. Presenting someone else's work as your own is dishonest wherever it happens.

Have a couple of careers now been Rapped up

Little Mouse

Anonymous said...

I've just reread CapitalClimate's first post and now followed the link. I misread it originally as being from JC for some reason. JC will obviously know about GIT's institutional misconduct policy, so what I wrote at 9.22 AM above is not really apposite (unless she opines to the contrary in the future of course -- but she has more sense than that, I'm sure). It would be interesting to see what she might write in answer to that Peter Wilson comment though.

Cymraeg llygoden

Anonymous said...

Eli, you seem to have got up Rapp's nose somewhat. It really seems to have rattled him, especially given the vehement, vituperative vitriol of his Godw[h]ining spray at one point in his diatribe:

" Thus, Bradley, Mashey and various nuts on the website often hiding behind the cloak of anonymity, who defend turf not truth, are out to personally attack those who point out that the hockey stick is a pile of junk."

And it's to ricketty wagons such as this that Curry has hitched her star? Meteor, more like...

Bernard J. Anonymous XVII

Anonymous said...

So, any plagiarism on Dr Rapp's part would be unwitting then, is the inference.

"My Sweet Lord".

Perhaps Dr Rapp should read this on unwitting plagiarism, which I'm sure Elsevier's and the Praxis/Springer's counsel will be aware of.

"He's So Fine"... well, probably not.

At Bath Spa University, unwitting plagiarism gets you marked down and a warning letter:

"In cases of unwitting plagiarism only, that is when it is agreed that the student cannot reasonably be expected to have realised that plagiarism had occurred:

1. A maximum mark of 40% shall be applied for the assessment item, and a warning letter will be issued."

I daresay it's little different elsewhere.

Cymraeg llygoden

Anonymous said...

Ah, here's a better reference to the George Harrison case.

Cymraeg llygoden