As Copygate turns
Posted by Jeff Id on October 9, 2010
I’ve spent the last several hours looking at references and such from the alleged plagiarism included in the Wegman report. Deep climate has been ranting on about it for a long time now, I’ve found the discussion both tedious and uninteresting but primarily the lack of organization of the story combined with discussions of Wegmans differences of opinion (Bias in Deep’s view) at his blog makes the issue difficult to penetrate.
Several sections of the Wegman report are very believable rewordings of the literature, and I find it impossible to conclude that pre-dated sources were not correctly identified by Deep.
Plagiarism is defined in dictionaries as “the wrongful appropriation, close imitation, or purloining and publication, of another author’s language, thoughts, ideas, or expressions, and the representation of them as one’s own original work.” The modern concept of plagiarism as immoral and originality as an ideal emerged in Europe only in the 18th century, while in the previous centuries authors and artists were encouraged to “copy the masters as closely as possible” and avoid “unnecessary invention.”
The 18th century new morals have been institutionalized and enforced prominently in the sectors of academia and journalism, where plagiarism is now considered academic dishonesty and a breach of journalistic ethics, subject to sanctions like expulsion and other severe career damage. Not so in the arts, which have resisted in their long-established tradition of copying as a fundamental practice of the creative process, with plagiarism being still hugely tolerated by 21st century artists.
So it is the representation of someone else’s ideas as your own work. The sections of the Wegman report which can be credibly stated to NOT be his own work include some from a book by Raymond Bradley. In the ever-left USA Today, Bradley is quoted as writing:
“Clearly, text was just lifted verbatim from my book and placed in the (Wegman) report,” says Bradley, who is also one of the authors of the 1999 Nature study. In response to earlier concerns raised by the Deep Climate website, Bradley says he wrote a letter in April to GMU, noting the possibility of plagiarism and demanding an investigation of both the 2006 report and a subsequent, federally-funded study published by some of Wegman’s students. “Talk about irony. It just seems surreal (that) these authors could criticize my work when they are lifting my words.”
Now it sure sounds serious, the best representation of the copied text I can find is from the Deep Climate website copied here.wegman-bradley-tree-rings-v20
In my opinion the text was obviously a sligtly reworded version of Bradley’s book. That issue is a no brainer, but I wonder if that rises by itself to the level of plagiarism. Certainly, nobody expected that Wegman knew this stuff on his own, he’s a statistician and was asked to testify on statistics issues. It’s hard to imagine anyone reading the report would misinterpret Wegman as representing himself as an expert in paleoclimatology so of course you would expect this sort of background information to be compiled from sources.
So the question is, were the sources referenced correctly? After all, this is a congressional report, not a scientific paper.
The book in question was: Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary
Riveting title aside, I looked to the bibliography of Wegman’s report.07142006_wegman_report
Bradley, R. S. (1999) Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quarternary, 2nd
Edition, San Diego: Academic Press.
So it seems to me that to accuse academic misconduct from this section on basic background information on paleoclimatology, means that we must assume that first Wegman’s report represents that he himself came up with the field. Also, since there was slight rewording of the text based on some improved wording and differences of opinion, how could he possibly cite the information in a quotation fashion. It wasn’t a direct quote.
I assume then that Ray and Deep are basically insisting that Wegman must use his words exactly as written by Ray with no changes and then place quotes around the whole thing? As we know, in climate science there is often little room for differences of opinion.
Is it correct to insist that he can’t cite the book and insert changes to the text where appropriate for a congressional report?
And I find it particularly odd that Raymond Bradley who was one of the critiqued authors by Wegman’s report, who’s book was cited by the Wegman report, just now after years noticed that the wording was too similar for his liking.
I’m inexperienced in how plagiarism and proper citation are addressed in non-scientific literature so perhaps someone can enlighten me but it seems to me that this is a totally fabricated issue.