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Another day, another plagiarist

This one isn’t actually new, but it’s new to me. It involves University of Michigan business school professor Karl Weick. Here’s the relevant paragraph of Weick’s Wikipedia entry (as of 13 Apr 2012):

In several published articles, Weick related a story that originally appeared in a poem by Miroslav Holub that was published in the Times Literary Supplement. Weick plagiarized Holub in that he republished the poem (with some minor differences, including removing line breaks and making small changes in a few words) without quotation or attribution. Some of Weick’s articles included the material with no reference to Holub; others referred to Holub but without indicating that Weick had essentially done a direct copy of Holub’s writing. The plagiarism was detailed in an article by Thomas Basbøll and Henrik Graham.[5] In a response, Weick disputed the claim of plagiarism, writing, “By the time I began to see the Alps story as an example of cognition in the path of the action, I had lost the original article containing Holub’s poem and I was not even sure where I had read the story . . . I reconstructed the story as best I could.”[6] Weick did not give a plausible explanation of how this reconstruction led to the appearance of a story with wording nearly identical to Holub’s. Basbøll and Graham write, “The American Historical Association acknowledges the existence of this common defence in specific cases of plagiarism, tersely remarking that it “is plausible only in the context of a wider tolerance of shoddy work.”

I’ve added in the links above.

Basbøll and Graham published their article in 2006 uncovering the plagiarism. This year Basbøll published a more thorough exploration in the Journal of Organizational Change Management. Basbøll’s new article has three parts:
1. A discussion of “sensemaking scholarship” and Socratic critiques; I found this all impenetrable on my first read, but it made more sense after I’d read the rest of the article and went back to this section.
2. A narrative of how Basbøll and Graham came across the plagiarism, and the response of Weick and colleagues in the academic field of organizational studies.
3. A discussion of the sociology of the academic field, and of scholarship more generally, in the context of criticism from outside.

Having laid out the basic story (and linked to the evidence), I want to explore in several directions.

Karl Weick and the Chris Rock defense

I agree with Basbøll that Weick’s defenses (here and here), do not make him look good.

There’s an interesting Schroedinger’s cat aspect to this whole story, as to many stories where someone is accused of breaking a rule. As long as Weick does not respond, one can imagine all sorts of possible defenses: maybe he copied the story and lost the note, maybe he read the story from another source, or maybe he was purposely giving misleading citations as a way of indirectly making his point about not needing the right map. But once Weick intervenes by responding, he automatically rules out various alternative explanations, thus eliminating directions where he could be defended. Which leads to the non-defense defenses by some of Weick’s academic colleagues, basically a statement that Weick is a good guy so we shouldn’t pick on him.

Everybody knows that Martin Luther King plagiarized and that’s ok, it’s a small part of his larger life story. So why should Weick be so embarrassed? I agree that it’s unseemly for him not to be open about it.

Of course, all the above is written conditional only on the information I’ve read. Perhaps due to my own inclinations, I just have a tendency to be a hard-liner on charges of plagiarism.

Karl Weick and Stephen Jay Gould

I have never heard of any of the people involved before now, but based on the comments on the orgtheory blog, I wonder if Weick has some similarities to the late Stephen J. Gould. Both seem to be controversial figures (Gould in evolution, Weick with his championing of storytelling), both are “culture heroes” to some extent, and so people don’t want to hear about it when they misbehave. Presumably they are misbehaving for the greater good!

Frank Fischer is a different story as his case is pretty boring (he’s a medium-sized fish in a medium-sized pond), so there I see it as a boring case of people defending their friends and defending their institution.

Circling the wagons

One extremely frustrating aspect of these cases is the denial or avoidance of the topic by colleagues of the offenders. For example, after I contacted an American Statistical Association committee about the Wegman case, I was told, “The Founders Award was presented to Dr. Wegman based on service to the ASA and to the profession, not on the work he did which is now being questioned in the blogosphere.” This annoyed me. First, it’s not “work he did,” it’s work he didn’t do. Second, this is not merely “being questioned.” Several cases of plagiarism by Wegman have been convincingly demonstrated. This goes beyond “allegations.”

When Frank Fischer’s plagiarisms were revealed, several of his colleagues wrote a letter incorrectly stating, “The essence of plagiarism is passing off someone else’s work as your own, and Mr. Fischer did nothing of the sort: He clearly named the authors whose work he was drawing on.” Actually, no.

And, as the links above indicate, several scholars are out there defending Weick.

What frustrates me is: Why can’t these defenders just admit it? Why not say that Wegman, or Fischer, or Weick, did something wrong but that the scholarly offenses are minor compared to the importance of their work (a tough case to make in Wegman’s case, I think, but maybe Fisher and Weick have better records here)? Why deny or dance around the plagiarism?

My guess, following Basbøll, is that these colleagues want to like the plagiarists’ work (I’m assuming that sometimes, but not always, personal friendship is involved), and it’s a lot easier to defend the work in isolation than to make the claim that the work is so good that we’re in a Martin Luther King situation where the plagiarism can just be dismissed.

A funny sidelight in all of this is the reception of the story on the orgtheory blog. When Basbøll’s first article came out, in 1996, blogger Teppo Felin dismissed the story in favor of “Karl Weick’s very sensible response,” while Omar Lizardo implicitly acknowledged the plagiarism but characterizes it as “obscure” and goes on to mock Basbøll and Graham. A few years later, the topic resurfaced on orgtheory; this time the poster (Fabio Rojas) made no judgment, the thread includes much justification of postmodernism, and there’s no direct engagement with the earlier post on orgtheory, nor do Felin and Lizardo return to the thread. My guess is that after four years, the reality of the plagiarism had sunk in, and a defense of Weick on that point would just seem silly.

And, since I’m talking blogs, here’s Basbøll’s.

The relevance of findings of plagiarism (or research fraud more generally)

As Basbøll argues, learning that part of a corpus of work is plagiarized can degrade one’s trust in the rest of the work. This is not just a moral or psychological argument of the sort that one might legitimately use against Stephen Jay Gould, Diederik Stapel, or Marc Hauser—if the guy cheated with data in one place, you can’t trust his other statements either. Basbøll is saying more than that; his point (argued in detial) is that once you accept that Weick represented a story in a poem as if it were a historical event, it casts doubt on his rules of evidence. Elsewhere, Basbøll points out that “The first four pages of [Weick’s] Sensemaking in organizations reproduce substantial parts of the sociologist Ron Westrum’s ‘Social Intelligence about Hidden Events’.” Weick’s reputation as an original thinker is threatened if it turns out that he was appropriating others’ ideas. Weick is then playing more of the role of textbook writer or popularizer (but not following proper citation rules) rather than scholar.

Similarly, if Wegman is such a non-expert in network analysis as to plagiarize a description of the field (and introduce typos while he’s doing it), it casts doubt on any empirical studies he performs using network analysis. Ultimately, such analyses must be evaluated on their own terms—but without the helpful backup associated with the idea that they were performed by an eminent statistician.

I think it’s no coincidence that the revelation of plagiarism can discredit a publication. That’s just the converse of the statement that one motivation for plagiarizing is to convey an inappropriate air of expertise.

Plagiarism is risky (especially for people such as Wegman who already had strong careers and appear to have started their major plagiarisms in the internet era) and it violates professional and public norms (as can be seen, for example, from the persistent denials even when the cases are obvious). I’ve argued before that a big motivation for plagiarism is laziness. But presumably the offenders feel that they’re getting some professional advancement in return.

In the Weick case, the copier was getting credit for a cool story, as well as credit for a certain writing style. In addition, by telling the story as if it could have been true, he was imputing a possible empirical basis for a speculative theory or, at the very least, for a catchy slogan about maps.

It has been argued that the truth or falsity of the original story has no bearing on the reception of Weick’s theory, but I’m with Basbøll on doubting that sort of history-doesn’t-matter claim. I believe, for example, that Weick’s argument would not have been so well received if, for example, it had been backed up by an anecdote from an Eric Ambler novel rather than as a (presumably actual) “incident that happened during military maneuvers in Switzerland.”

What about Frank Fischer? From his plagiarisms, he was getting credit for knowledge of a literature with which he wasn’t so comfortable; I assume that acknowledging this would have degraded Fisher’s credibility as a thinker with a broad understanding of his field.

One more thing

I had the impression that plagiarists tend to be repeat offenders. (Here’s an extreme case.) Once people found single cases of plagiarism from Frank Fischer and Ed Wegman, others pulled the string and found many many cases. I don’t know the full story on Doris Kearns Goodwin but I assume she lifted more than a paragraph or two from her unacknowledged sources. But for Weick we only have this one passage. Is this really all? Is he a one-time copier, in the mold of Ian Ayres and Laurence Tribe? Or should we treat the nonappearance of other Weick plagiarisms as evidence that his copyings are of a different sort?

I emailed Basbøll this question and he replied that Weick had indeed plagiarized elsewhere. Basbøll’s 2010 article, “Softly constrained imagination: Plagiarism and misprision in the theory of organizational sensemaking,” has several examples, none quite as smoking-gun as the Holub poem but in aggregate giving the clear impression that Weick has been in the habit of taking others’ sentences, stories, and ideas and not fully crediting them. Also not examining these stories critically: the map-in-the-Alps story is not the only questionable tale that Weick presents as factual.

No way the copying was accidental!

To get back to the copying-and-reformatting-without-attribution bit, one thing that I strongly doubt is the story that Weick is not a plagiarist at all, that the Holub poem got into Weick’s article by accident without him realizing that it was nearly a word-for-word transcription of some forgotten source.

Why do I doubt this?

First, I don’t see how the nearly word-for-word copy would’ve got into Weick’s notes without a note of the source. It’s not easy to copy word for word (I’m talking about the era before computer cut-and-paste), and it’s even more difficult to make such a copy while changing a couple of words here and there. Copying is tedious work, and of course you note the source.

The second reason I doubt the accidental-copying story is Weick’s reaction. If this had happened to me, I’d feel really bad about it! I’d be like, Sorry, dude, I’d make a big deal to acknowledge the source, if I were to put the story in a later article, I’d bend over backward to (a) get the quote exactly right, fixing the changed words, and (b) super-emphasize that Holub was the author.

But Weick didn’t do that. Instead, he acted in the way a shoplifter might react when given the opportunity to return a case of Tide to the supermarket. He quietly slipped in, put it back on the shelf, then slunk back out again. Years later, when caught on it, he’s like, Hey, whaddya talkin bout—the soap is sitting in the store, I never touched it!

Bandwidth

The other thing I wanted to note is how unusual plagiarism is. Sure, it happens all the time, but most of us don’t do it, we aren’t even tempted to do it. Let’s take a few controversial scholars: John Lott, Steven Levitt, Paul Krugman, Steve Landsberg. (OK, they’re all economists, but that doesn’t really matter, I guess economists are just pretty controversial these days.) In various combinations, these guys piss off a lot of people. But none of them are plagiarists. I imagine that these economists, like most scholars, have no desire to copy others’ words. It’s the opposite! Each of us feels that we have so much to say. We’re too busy saying our own words. To plagiarize would be to throw away some of our bandwidth. Or look at Stephen Jay Gould and Marc Hauser: they didn’t plagiarize either (or not to my knowledge). They cheated, but they had things they wanted to say.

That’s why, when I hear about someone like Frank Fischer or Ed Wegman, someone who copies and copies and copies, here’s what I think:

To plagiarize is to admit you have nothing to say.

No wonder people don’t want to admit it.

(In case you’re curious, here’s something I found on the first page of my google search, an interview with Weick (who seems to have a management-consulting style, but maybe that’s just because he’s being interviewed by John Geirland, who’s a management consultant). In this short interview, Weick tells several stories, all of which he presents as true. It is quite possible that none of these particular stories has been lifted without attribution from a translated poem.)

P.S. In case you’re wondering, here’s Holub’s poem, published in 1977 in the Times Literary Supplement (and with formatting slightly garbled, as I’m copying the text into html):

Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, who knew a lot about maps according to which life is on its way somewhere or other, told us this story from the war due to which history is on its way somewhere or other:
The young lieutenant of a small Hungarian detachment in the Alps sent a reconnaissance unit out into the icy wasteland. It began to snow immediately, snowed for two days and the unit
did not return. The lieutenant suffered: he had dispatched his own people to death.
But the third day the unit came back. Where had they been? How had they made their way? Yes, they said, we considered ourselves lost and waited for the end. And then one of us found a map in his pocket. That calmed us down. We pitched camp, lasted out the snowstorm and then with the map we discovered our bearings. And here we are.
The lieutenant borrowed this remarkable map and had a good look at it. It was not a map of the Alps but of the Pyrenees.
Goodbye now.

And here’s one of Weick’s versions:

Definitions not withstanding, I can best show what I think strategy is by describing an incident that happened during military maneuvers in Switzerland. The young lieutenant of a small Hungarian detachment in the Alps sent a reconnaissance unit out into the icy wilderness. It began to snow immediately, snowed for two days, and the unit did not return. The lieutenant suffered, fearing that he had dispatched his own people to death. But the third day the unit came back. Where had they been? How had they made their way? Yes, they said, we considered ourselves lost and waited for the end. And then one of us found a map in his pocket. That calmed us down. We pitched camp, lasted out the snowstorm, and then with the map we discovered our bearings. And here we are. The lieutenant borrowed this remarkable map and had a good look at it. He discovered to his astonishment that it was not a map of the Alps but of the Pyrenees.

Basbøll notes:

This is a full quotation of the fifth paragraph of Weick’s ‘Substitutes for Strategy’ as it appears in his 2001 collection, Making Sense of the Organization, which reprints Weick 1987 (exhibit E). It will be easily seen that it is a verbatim reproduction of Holub’s poem (exhibit A), a few minor differences notwithstanding. The enjambments (lineation effects) are removed, the first stanza is left out, ‘wasteland’ is replaced by ‘wilderness’, “The lieutenant suffered: he had dispatched” is replaced with “The lieutenant suffered, fearing that he had dispatched” and, finally, Weick adds the words “He discovered to his astonishment.” There are half a dozen differences in a text of 144 words. Yet Holub’s poem is not referenced anywhere in the paper or in the book’s acknowledgements. This is a standard case of academic plagiarism, i.e., using another’s words as one’s own.

I’ll end this with a line from Weick’s official website:

Dr. Weick’s research interests include collective sensemaking under pressure, medical errors, handoffs in extreme events, high-reliability performance, improvisation and continuous change.

That sounds about right.

28 Comments

  1. Joerg says:

    “To plagiarize is to admit you have nothing to say.”

    In his first novel “Perlman’s Silence” from 1995, philosopher Peter Bieri (published under his pseudonym Pascal Mercier) develops an impressive journey inside the mind of a linguistics professor who “has nothing to say” and who eventually starts plagiarizing when the situation is such that he _has_ to say _something_ . This book is a fascinating read on many levels but it can also be read as a (fictitious, of course) case study of a well known and respected scholar turning into a plagiarist. The above quote just reminded me of the main character in this book, so I felt throwing this out here.

    Here is a link:

    http://www.amazon.com/Perlmanns-Silence-Pascal-Mercier/dp/0802119573/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1334585300&sr=1-1

    J.

  2. Rick Wicklin says:

    A great thing about the internet is that it is easy to find word-for-word plagarism. A frustrating aspect of the internet is that it is hard to determine who plagarized from whom! Here’s an example. The first sentence of the Wikipedia article on “The Normal Distribution” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Normal_distribution) includes the phrase “the normal (or Gaussian) distribution is a continuous probability distribution that has a bell-shaped probability density function.”

    If you do an internet search for that exact phrase, you get 15,500 hits! I assume they all copied from Wikipedia, but it’s not clear. It’s possible that one of them is the original source, and that one of the Wikipedia contributors plagarized that phrase.

    • John Mashey says:

      Actually, I doubt that is plagiarism by anyone, as it is a fairly standard description and there are only so many ways to say it.
      Having looked for plagiarism in math-based topics, it’s very hard to be sure about standard math descriptions.
      Far more indicative are cases where people copy odd mistakes or unusual wordings.

      For instance, “bell-shaped” is actually vague, since bells come in many shapes, such as these or these.

      Some look like Gaussian distributions, but many, such as the Liberty Bell, have flat or nearly-flat tops and cowbells are usually more trapezoidal.

      However, if the phrase had been “that has a TacoBell-shaped PDF” and that was used elsewhere, I would suspect somebody copied from someone.

      • Thom says:

        Agreed. Definitions seem a special case in science as students often have to learn them almost verbatim and they enter notes and are reproduced thousands of times. This is true even, I think, of fairly poor definitions such as this. There are also stock phrase and descriptions that reoccur without really being plagiarism.

    • K? O'Rourke says:

      Hmmm, not so sure how I would _bootstrap_ to figure out how often that phrase would be used by anyone writing on statistics.

      Say a random sample of published statistical authors being asked for a simple phrase to introduce the normal distribution?

      My prior is 20% +

  3. anon says:

    I’m not sure of the details of the case, but it sounds like there might be some amount of calling wolf here. It’s one thing if a poem was copied and submitted to a poetry magazine as an original piece on its own. It’s another if it’s simply inserted in an article. With regard to the latter, there’s a sorites paradox. Certainly one may insert very well-known quotations (“to be or not to be”, or certain famous verses from the Bible) without an explicit reference; so, at exactly what obscurity threshold does the reference become necessary? Beware of devaluing the word “plagiarism”. If it’s used for minor cases in an interchangeable way as when it’s used for major cases, eventually people are going to stop listening.

    • Andrew says:

      Anon:

      An essentially word-for-word transcription without giving credit: that looks like plagiarism to me. In addition, I think it’s a bad idea to represent an story from a poem as if it had actually happened. If you want to give management advice based on fiction (e.g., The Harry Potter Style of Management), then, hey, go for it, but please (a) credit your sources and (b) don’t pretend you’re talking about something that actually happened.

      And, perhaps most importantly, when someone catches you at it, do the honorable thing and admit it.

  4. John Mashey says:

    The latest chapter in Wegman story:

    Wiley lets Ed Wegman and Yasmin Said quietly revise 2 plagiarism-filled articles they wrote for journal they edit with David Scott. There was no notice to the complainants, no retractions, they just reworded the copied text, inserted citations, and fixed many of the errors, including the 2^n vs 2n error that Andrew discussed last Fall.

    While Andrew noted that people often want to ignore plagiarism, that seems a rare case.

    Note: in an
    Online publication, the only way this gets noticed is of someone familiar with the problem happens to monitor the abstracts and sees they changed.

  5. Nick Cox says:

    Just going on the blog material, and not having chased up all the references:

    I’ve read this kind of story more than once before about lost soldiers saving themselves even though they had the wrong map. It’s a story that mildly intrigued me even though it pivots on something I regard as very implausible indeed, namely that the soldiers just happened to have such a map in their possession and also did not realise that it was the wrong area (e.g. didn’t realise that the placenames made no sense???). I never wrote down a source when I encountered it, partly because it seemed too far-fetched to be credible and partly because I never wanted to quote it in a professional publication.

    By the way, I am a geographer with more-than-average experience in route-finding in hill and mountain areas.

    I’d classify the story as a meme or “rural legend” and don’t share outrage that no source was given. It sounds a long distance from Wegman-type plagiarism.

    It is also worth emphasising that Holub himself was quite explicitly retelling an older story. Also, what bizarre circumstances led to Hungarian soldiers being on maneuvers in Switzerland? The mangled details count against the story of plagiarism and suggest rather that Weick was just ignorant of the history of the period.

    • Andrew says:

      Nick:

      Given that Weick copied Holub’s poem nearly word for word, I can’t see how it could be a mere transcription of a widely circulating story. I can’t see how the wording could’ve got into Weick’s paper without him copying it.

      • Nick Cox says:

        I see that you can’t see that, but I also consider that the case is not quite as clear-cut as you believe. What was Szent-Gyorgi’s version? What references did Holub give?

        I don’t support plagiarism. I’ve had my own work plagiarised in print and my own words copied one for one. It is a lousy thing for a scholar or scientist to do to others. I don’t support sloppy note-taking or referencing either. But on my reading this case is not as clearcut as some others. Very busy or very productive people often cut corners and don’t pay much attention to detail. It’s not admirable but it happens.

        Perhaps these questions have been raised before, but I think serious public accusations demand careful consideration of all the possibilities and all the details.

        • Andrew says:

          Nick:

          All things are possible, but I read Basbøll’s articles pretty carefully and I don’t think it’s plausible that Weick got this from any source other than Holub. Nor do Weick’s evasive responses seem consistent with such alternative explanations.

    • John Mashey says:

      Without claiming that this story makes sense, I though this was supposed to be in the Alps, with no mention of Switzerland, which seems really unlikely. Maybe Austrian Alps, although even that seems weird, but then, these guys were really lost.

      • Nick Cox says:

        Szent-Gyorgi was Hungarian. At a wild guess the story is least implausible if set in the early 20th century when Hungary was still part of Austria-Hungary and that had plenty of mountainous areas. But whether peacetime or wartime, those Hungarian soldiers could only be in Switzerland because they had accidentally invaded it.

        It seems more likely to me that somebody (Weick, perhaps) just remembered “Alps” and automatically associated the Alps with Switzerland.

        I readily agree that Weick not giving a source for his story is poor practice, and his not wanting to admit that it was poor practice is even poorer practice. But the less standard parts of the complete story seem to me more interesting than yet another “Scumbag plagiarist!” denunciation. That’s already been done, over and over.

        • Thomas says:

          I go through some of the details of the story and its reception (perhaps at tedious length) in a working paper you can download here (it’s paper no. 4).

          I’ve never thought of this as a “denounce the scumbag” job. In fact, this is a rare instance of a plagiarism case that has been developed almost entirely within the peer-reviewed journal literature. My main goal is to correct the errors that stem from Weick’s scholarship, not to cause a public scandal.

  6. Wonks Anonymous says:

    I had heard Kahneman tell the story of soldiers in the Alps before. I found it very thought-provoking, and now to learn it was made up I am rather mad! I don’t know if Weick was the first to present it as if it were an actual historical incident though.

  7. Thomas says:

    @Nick Cox, I agree that it is a “rural legend”. In fact, there is evidence that it was circulating among Szent-Gyorgyi’s colleagues before it entered org studies. And Holub of course already calls it a “story from the war”. That does not excuse the fact that Weick’s version is a verbatim transcription. If Malcolm Gladwell tells a familiar story in the New Yorker, I am allowed to tell it without citing him (because it’s a well-known legend, etc.). But I’m not allowed to use Gladwell’s words. Likewise, I’m allowed to summarize the plot of Hamlet without citing everyone else who has done so. But I’m not allowed to use 144 words of some minor scholar’s article on Hamlet to do it.

    Much of my point is that Weick takes something that should be treated as a myth and presents it as a “incident that happened”, which he then takes to teach us that “any old map will do”. Weick does not just mangel the details. He distorts the facts. As Stoat said in the Wegman case: plagiarism is “evidence that the author has been sloppy and – in this case – bolsters the argument that the author didn’t really understand what he was doing, or was deliberately misleading.”

    @Wonks: I’d love to know when you heard Kahneman tell it.

  8. martin says:

    A recent case of plagiarism with an ironic twist is the one by Bruno S. Frey. He is an economist who is very outspoken and critical about the publish-or-perish-culture in science. Nonetheless he got caught sending identical papers to different journals without crossreferencing. He got a slap on the wrist from his University (Zürich), some friends and colleagues jumped in to defend him but the affected journals bannend him from further submitting manuscripts. Olaf Störbeck has a nice overview: http://economicsintelligence.com/?s=frey

  9. John Mashey says:

    Regardless of the reality of the original story, there is a mathematical interpretation.
    Consider being lost in mountains as an optimization problem, and the soldiers giving up as being at a local minimum. (Such problems are often described as terrains with terms like “hill climbing” after all.)
    A real map would show ways out of the minimum.

    A wrong map at least induces motion in some random direction, perhaps far enough to escape.
    In some sense this might be little like a step in simulated annealing, (which circles back to plagiarism, as Said and Wegman(2009) plagiarized Wikipedia’s description into a poor discussion of that topic.)

    • K? O'Rourke says:

      John: That thought was actually what confirmed my dis-interest in applying statistics in a business setting – the idea that a decisions to get things moving was _almost_ as important as getting a less wrong decision.

    • Nick Cox says:

      Nice try, but the sign is wrong. Most mountain problems have people lost and too high and in danger. Still, we all know that in that circumstance you just negate the objective function.

      The mentions of story-telling style reminded me of a once much-hyped author on thinking methods, who as far as I can tell made a very successful career out of books, media appearances and motivational talks in which banal ideas were re-packaged under slightly new headings. His style mixed slightly gnomic aphorisms and supposedly telling anecodotes, with no references so far as I can recall except to the author’s other work. He was strong on how important it is to be a creative problem-solver, and who disagrees? I realised that I had been suckered into buying entertaining but empty statements of the obvious when I heard his praise for a child’s design for a potato-peeling machine. In essence the ingenious young person had a box with two arrows: unpeeled potatoes go in here; the potatoes are peeled inside here; the peeled potatoes come out here. This was held up to readers as an example par excellence of concentrating on the essentials and ignoring secondary details, which can be delegated to technical people. The extent to which such a solution is no solution at all was not discussed.

      I suppress the biographical details. I have no reference for this story. I did not consciously or physically copy it from anyone or anywhere else.

  10. Steve Sailer says:

    Is “Basbøll” a real name? If so, cool!

  11. […] have recently had a discussion (here and here) of Karl Weick, a prominent scholar of business management who plagiarized a story and […]

  12. […] occasionally bothered that I spend so much time attacking frauds and plagiarists. See, for example, here and here. Why go on and on about these losers, given that there are more important problems in the […]

  13. Apparently, there’s another plagiarism scandal brewing, this time in history at ASU. Have you seen the story and if so, do you have any thoughts about they do or do not fit the patterns you’ve been describing on your blog?

  14. […] points to the work of Karl Weick, who has not been accused of faking his research results but has copied chunks of another’s work in his papers without attribution. Unlike the utterly discredited […]