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Plaig! (non-Wegman edition)

Mark Vallen writes (link from here): What initially disturbed me about the art of Shepard Fairey is that it displays none of the line, modeling and other idiosyncrasies that reveal an artist’s unique personal style. His imagery appears as though it’s xeroxed or run through some computer graphics program; that is to say, it is […]

Wegman Frey Hauser Weick Fischer Dr. Anil Potti Stapel comes clean

Thomas Leeper points me to Diederik Stapel’s memoir, “Faking Science: A True Story of Academic Fraud,” translated by Nick Brown and available online for free download.

“Patchwriting” is a Wegmanesque abomination but maybe there’s something similar that could be helpful?

Reading Thomas Basbøll’s blog I came across a concept I’d not previously heard about, “patchwriting,” which is defined as “copying from a source text and deleting some words, altering grammatical structures, or plugging in one synonym for another.” (See here for further discussion.) As Basbøll writes, this is simply a variant of plagiarism, indeed it’s […]

Just imagine if Ed Wegman got his hands on this program—it could do wonders for his research productivity!

Brendan Nyhan writes: I’d love to see you put some data in here that you know well and evaluate how the site handles it. The webpage in question says: Upload a data set, and the automatic statistician will attempt to describe the final column of your data in terms of the rest of the data. […]

Wikipedia author confronts Ed Wegman

Wegman: “It’s not reprinted 100 percent like you had it.” Wikipedia guy: “No, you added another paragraph at the end and you changed the headline. . . . You even copied the typos that I’ve corrected on my website. It was taken verbatim and reprinted in your paper.” The original author got a check for […]

The hare, the pineapple, and Ed Wegman

Commenters here are 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 world such as war, pestilence, hunger, and graphs where the y-axis doesn’t go all the way down […]

This post does not mention Wegman

A correspondent writes: Since you have commented on scientific fraud a lot. I wanted to give you an update on the Diederik Stapel case. I’d rather not see my name on the blog if you would elaborate on this any further. It is long but worth the read I guess. I’ll first give you the […]

Wiley Wegman chutzpah update: Now you too can buy a selection of garbled Wikipedia articles, for a mere $1400-$2800 per year!

Someone passed on to a message from his university library announcing that the journal “Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Computational Statistics” is no longer free. Librarians have to decide what to do, so I thought I’d offer the following consumer guide: Wiley Computational Statistics journal Wikipedia Frequency 6 issues per year Continuously updated Includes articles from Wikipedia? […]

Another Wegman plagiarism copying-without-attribution, and further discussion of why scientists cheat

Copying from Wikipedia but introducing an error in the process . . . how tacky is that?? I’ll discuss another minor outrage and then consider the more general question of what motivates researchers to plagiarize and otherwise break the rules of scholarship. If you’re gonna steal from Wikipedia, remember to preserve formatting or you might […]

Some thoughts on academic cheating, inspired by Frey, Wegman, Fischer, Hauser, Stapel

As regular readers of this blog are aware, I am fascinated by academic and scientific cheating and the excuses people give for it. Bruno Frey and colleagues published a single article (with only minor variants) in five different major journals, and these articles did not cite each other. And there have been several other cases […]

Last Wegman post (for now)

John Mashey points me to a news article by Eli Kintisch with the following wonderful quote: Will Happer, a physicist at Princeton University who questions the consensus view on climate, thinks Mashey is a destructive force who uses “totalitarian tactics”–publishing damaging documents online, without peer review–to carry out personal vendettas. I’ve never thought of uploading […]

Another Wegman plagiarism

At the time of our last discussion, Edward Wegman, a statistics professor who has also worked for government research agencies, had been involved in three cases of plagiarism: a report for the U.S. Congress on climate models, a paper on social networks, a paper on color graphics.

Each of the plagiarism stories was slightly different: the congressional report involved the distorted copying of research by a scientist (Raymond Bradley) whose conclusions Wegman disagreed with, the social networks paper included copied material in its background section, and the color graphics paper included various bits and pieces by others that had been used in old lecture notes.

Since then, blogger Deep Climate has uncovered another plagiarized article by Wegman, this time an article in a 2005 volume on data mining and data visualization. Deep Climate writes, “certain sections of Statistical Data Mining rely heavily on lightly edited portions on lectures from Wegman’s statistical data mining course at GMU. In turn, those lectures contain ‘copy-and-paste’ material from a variety of sources, some partially attributed and some not at all.”` It looks pretty bad. And, as with the other cases of plagiarism, sometimes the small changes they made caused errors that were not in the original sources. Ouch!

One of the authors Wegman stole from was Brian Everitt. Couldn’t Wegman have just invited Everitt to be a coauthor of his article? To steal his work, that’s sooooo tacky.

A (not quite) grand unified theory of plagiarism, as applied to the Wegman case

A common reason for plagiarism is laziness: you want credit for doing something but you don’t really feel like doing it–maybe you’d rather go fishing, or bowling, or blogging, or whatever, so you just steal it, or you hire someone to steal it for you.

Interestingly enough, we see that in many defenses of plagiarism allegations. A common response is: I was sloppy in dealing with my notes, or I let my research assistant (who, incidentally, wasn’t credited in the final version) copy things for me and the research assistant got sloppy. The common theme: The person wanted the credit without doing the work.

As I wrote last year, I like to think that directness and openness is a virtue in scientific writing. For example, clearly citing the works we draw from, even when such citing of secondary sources might make us appear less erudite. But I can see how some scholars might feel a pressure to cover their traces.


Which brings us to Ed Wegman, whose defense of plagiarism in that Computational Statistics and Data Analysis paper is as follows (from this report by John Mashey):

(a) In 2005, he and his colleagues needed “some boilerplate background on social networks” for a high-profile report for the U.S. Congress. But instead of getting an expert on social networks for this background, or even simply copying some paragraphs (suitably cited) from a textbook on the topic, he tasked a Ph.D. student, Denise Reeves, to prepare the boilerplate. Reeves was no expert: her knowledge of social networks came from having taken a short course on the topic. Reeves writes the boilerplate “within a few days” and Wegman writes “of course, I took that to be her original work.”

(b) Wegman gave this boilerplate to a second student, Walid Sharabati, who included it in his Ph.D. dissertation “with only minor amendments.” (I think he’s saying Sharabati copied it.)

(c) Sharabati was a coauthor of the Computational Statistics and Data Analysis article. He took the material he’d copied from Reeves’s report and stuck it in to the CSDA article.

Now let’s apply our theme of the day, laziness:

Why no Wegmania?

A colleague asks: When I search the web, I find the story [of the article by Said, Wegman, et al. on social networks in climate research, which was recently bumped from the journal Computational Statistics and Data Analysis because of plagiarism] only on blogs, USA Today, and UPI. Why is that? Any idea why it […]

Organizations that defend junk science are pitiful suckers get conned and conned again

So. Cornell stands behind Wansink, and Ohio State stands behind Croce. George Mason University bestows honors on Weggy. Penn State trustee disses “so-called victims.” Local religious leaders aggressively defend child abusers in their communities. And we all remember how long it took for Duke University to close the door on Dr. Anil Potti. OK, I […]

Dear Cornell University Public Relations Office

I received the following email, which was not addressed to me personally: From: ** Date: Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at 9:42 AM To: “” Cc: ** Subject: Information regarding research by Professor Brian Wansink I know you have been following this issue, and I thought you might be interested in new information posted today on […]

Whassup, Pace investigators? You’re still hiding your data. C’mon dudes, loosen up. We’re getting chronic fatigue waiting for you already!

James Coyne writes: For those of you who have not heard of the struggle for release of the data from the publicly funded PACE trial of adaptive pacing therapy, cognitive behaviour therapy, graded exercise therapy, and specialist medical care for chronic fatigue syndrome, you can access my [Coyne’s] initial call for release of the portion […]

“Statistical heartburn: An attempt to digest four pizza publications from the Cornell Food and Brand Lab”

Tim van der Zee​, Jordan Anaya​, and Nicholas Brown posted this very detailed criticism of four papers published by food researcher and business school professor Brian Wansink. The papers are all in obscure journals and became notorious only after Wansink blogged about them in the context of some advice he was giving to graduate students. […]

What is valued by the Association for Psychological Science

Someone pointed me to this program of the forthcoming Association for Psychological Science conference: Kind of amazing that they asked Amy Cuddy to speak. Weren’t Dana Carney or Andy Yap available? What would really have been bold would have been for them to invite Eva Ranehill or Anna Dreber. Good stuff. The chair of the […]

Should scientists be allowed to continue to play in the sandbox after they’ve pooped in it?

This picture is on topic (click to see the link), but I’d like it even if it weren’t! I think I’ll be illustrating all my posts for awhile with adorable cat images. This is a lot more fun than those Buzzfeed-style headlines we were doing a few months ago. . . . Anyway, back to […]