May 04, 2006

And Putin makes three

No, we're not going to change our name to "Plagiarism Log". But I guess I have to add a brief reference to the third case of high-profile plagiarism that surfaced during the past couple of months. As WikiNews explained on March 29:

Researchers at the Brookings Institution, a non-profit think tank located in Washington D.C., have recently accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of making improper use of almost 16 pages and six figures from a 1982 translation of a 1978 textbook in his economics dissertation. Strategic Planning and Policy, written by University of Pittsburgh professors William R. King and David I. Cleland, was published in 1979.

The article adds the speculation that Putin may be guilty of hiring a ghostwriter and thus innocent of direct copying himself:

Many Russian government officials at the time would pay a ghostwriter for such publications, as gaining a degree could add legitimacy to one's governing policy. In that sense, it is possible Putin bought or paid for the dissertation and did not read over - in essence, passing plagiarised work off as his own, but not himself committing plagiarism. Gaddy states: "It's very clear he never wrote the thing in the first case, this is a clear diploma-mill-type operation. This is a dissertation, paid for, made-to-order."

I suspect that this sort of thing has always been commoner than is generally realized, both in the case of adult "students" with more money than time or patience, and also in the case of much younger students who make informal in-kind deals of one sort or another. These days, the internet is no doubt globalizing the trade in schoolwork through outsourcing of essays and term papers as well as more direct copying.

[Hat tip to Jim Gordon]

[Eric Bakovic reminds me that no discussion of Russian plagiarism would be complete without reference to Tom Lehrer's classic Lobachevsky:

Who made me the genius I am today,
The mathematician that others all quote?
Who's the professor that made me that way,
The greatest that ever got chalk on his coat?

One man deserves the credit,
One man deserves the blame,
and Nicolai Ivanovich Lobachevsky is his name. Oy!
Nicolai Ivanovich Lobache...

I am never forget the day I first meet the great Lobachevsky.
In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics: Plagiarize!

Plagiarize, Let no one else's work evade your eyes,
Remember why the good Lord made your eyes,
So don't shade your eyes,
But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize...
Only be sure always to call it please, "research".


Posted by Mark Liberman at May 4, 2006 09:48 AM