[Taxacom] Botanical Plagiarism

Alastair Culham a.culham at reading.ac.uk
Fri Mar 8 03:13:36 CST 2013

The opportunity for inadvertent, or perhaps thoughtless, plagiarism has grown as internet sources such as Flickr and Wikimedia commons have developed such good content.  I've introduced specific teaching on copyright and attribution from our local expert, Emily Goodhand (#copyrightgirl on Twitter), for our MSc Plant Diversity students so that they at least have a fighting chance of getting attribution right when writing their blogs (http://blogs.reading.ac.uk/tropical-biodiversity/).  A four hour training session has allowed most of them to at least have a decent attempt at proper attribution and many of them have written to owners of images to ask permission for use.  This sometimes results in offers of better images (thank you to several Taxacom readers who I know have been very helpful).  

One useful resource I was shown by Emily is the Xpert attribution system http://www.nottingham.ac.uk/xpert/attribution/ which will embed information on licencing and attribution by adding a strip of text on a black background to an image.

There is a lot of bad practice around and the area of copyright and attribution can be a challenging one.  Sometimes I think users treat all CC licences as if it meant they could do anything with the material however there is also some good practice around.  The key thing to understand is that the default assumption for any material published on the internet must be that it is copyright and is owned unless it says otherwise. 


Dr Alastair Culham
Centre for Plant Diversity and Systematics
Harborne Building, School of Biological Sciences
University of Reading, Whiteknights, Reading, RG6 6AS

Curator, Reading University Herbarium (RNG)
Associate Editor, Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society
Programme Director, MSc Plant Diversity
i4Life Coordinator

From: taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu [taxacom-bounces at mailman.nhm.ku.edu] on behalf of Arthur Chapman [taxacom3 at achapman.org]
Sent: 07 March 2013 21:26
Subject: Re: [Taxacom] Botanical Plagiarism

One of the key issues here, Stephen, is that there is no attribution.

I have not seen the books, but I understand they include lots of
photographs as well as text and the attribution information has been
removed.  A lot of the Creative Commons licensing for those images
includes "non Commercial" and this person is selling them. Most people
respect the CC licensing, and if it gets abused too often, then the
images won't be made available at all.  Copyright, and Creative Commons
licensing is largely a matter of trust - trust that people will do the
right thing and most do. Very few (especially in the science world) ever
get taken to court over breaches. The key tool we have is public opinion
and this can be quickly whipped up on the Internet.  Already in this
case, the perpetrator has removed the books from certain sites.  It is
the publishers of this information that haven't followed due
diligenceand allowed them to be published in the first instance.

Publishing this information as original research and not acknowledging
the originals is reprehensible.


On 8/03/2013 8:12 AM, Stephen Thorpe wrote:
> There are several distinct issues here which should be kept apart:
> (1) Internet publishing of original material; vs.
> (2) Internet publishing of data compilation;
> (2a) Internet publishing of taxonomic names and associated information.
> (1) is surely no different to publishing the same content in a
> traditional hard copy book or paper? The same rules of copyright
> should apply. If a library has unrestricted walk in access, and pay
> photocopiers, then this is no different to the book or paper being
> posted on the web for all to read. So, whatever laws apply to
> books/papers should apply to the same material posted on the web.
> (2) this is the real issue from the perspective of biodiversity
> databases. Typically, they do not contain original material, just a
> compilation of existing data. Some datasets may be subject to
> copyright, I don't know, but taxonomic names and certain associated
> information surely should not be and indeed aren't? Of course, we are
> starting to see people publishing such compilations in hard copy, as
> their own work, when it is just copied from the web, but surely the
> responsibility is on publishers not to let this stuff be published, as
> it is just a pointless waste of time. What is more of a worry, and
> something that is increasingly rife in this neck of the woods anyway,
> is supposedly reputable institutions doing effectively this, but
> passing it off as bona fide publicly funded research! So, for example,
> a small taxonomic revision gets padded out to look monographic, just
> by copying in stuff from a previous publication and/or an existing
> website (typically by the same authors, but nevertheless...)
> Stephen
> *From:* Arthur Chapman <taxacom3 at achapman.org>
> *To:* TAXACOM <taxacom at mailman.nhm.ku.edu>
> *Sent:* Friday, 8 March 2013 9:42 AM
> *Subject:* [Taxacom] Botanical Plagiarism
> The following blog by Mark Watson about some botanical books that have
> been appearing recently - all derived from internet sources without
> attribution.may be of interest
> http://stories.rbge.org.uk/archives/1321
> Arthur D. Chapman
> Ballan, Australia
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