‘Something useful’ – food for thought

As I mentioned to Ruby, the extent to which the blog appears to have been regularly plundered for ‘new ideas’ – in fact, the evidence and conclusions of original research published here – has been a source of concern for some time: not only to me, but to the press which commissioned some formal essays on the basis of work I’d published here and on the old research blog before March 2014.

It is part of a scholar’s nature to want to share, but part of a scholar’s honour to honestly define the line between their own thoughts and discoveries and those of other people. Scholarly generosity’s other half is scholarly integrity.

What has troubled the publishers and me is less the poor efforts at imitation or the sudden bald re-assertion of information I’d gained from sometimes lengthy investigation, but the constant and (in some cases) positively determined failure to acknowledge the original source.

Another instance of this sort of thing has obliged the publisher to spend time investigating the issue of infringement, something which academic presses are not often required to do.

The editors have kindly given permission for me to offer readers what follows to explain why this blog is about to change character.

From the peer-reviewers’ updated comments:

  • The peer reviewers affirm the work’s originality and  value for future study of Beinecke MS 408.
  • The essays commissioned on our recommendation are not flawless, but the flaws are minor and the sort one expects to occur in cross-disciplinary studies of any breadth and scope.
  • One reviewer asks to be on record as saying that determining originality was a trivial exercise.  Intellectual historians are accustomed to mark the points at which  general perceptions within a given group shift from ‘A’ to ‘B’ on a given issue, and then to seek the causes for that shift within the  time-frame indicated. The average length of time between the   author’s introducing a particular conclusion and/or the process of her investigation on the one hand, and on the other, when the bare ‘idea’ became common fare, proved on average to be between three to four years. Explanation of the map – 18 months; argument for direct Jewish influence … nine years!   In each case, the interval had seen the author providing, through her blog, constant and steady additions to the evidence and argument from the body of her research, whose dated notes we have considered.  In our opinion there can be no doubt that [certain person’s name omitted] has been positively seeking out the author’s published information online while  simultaneously seeking ways to avoid crediting the author.
  • We recommend publication of these essays as soon as practicable.

Paragraphs from the lengthy infringement assessors’ evaluation of a person identified by the assessors as frequent re-user of my work.  (Note that it is not a legal opinion but part of a psychological profiling derived from documentary evidence only).

Though there is no human being without some area of cognitive disability  the assessors found that [person’s name omitted] displays an unusually wide range of  marked cognitive disability for which [s/he] has already developed highly effective coping mechanisms, chiefly social, by which to obtain and co-ordinate willing providers of compensatory services and skills.

….

able to understand only vaguely the ‘gist’ of detailed written work, presentation of the ‘gist’ in the form of an unsourced notion has a number of positive benefits while avoiding obvious display of [his/her] range of disability.

Being unable to ‘think about’ a subject, [person’s name omitted] is naturally dependent on pre-digested information obtained in personal conversations.  Their range of cognitive disability  constitutes, altogether, a substantial handicap. It was noted that in every instance when asked directly to explain a given proposition [the person] resorted to a set menu of evidently well-established responses: attempting to dismiss the question and/or disparage the interrogator; repeating verbatim (without acknowledgement of source) something said earlier  by some other person – in one case four years earlier and within the same, searchable, venue. The third set response was to have an associate provide either the disparagement or the justification.  Establishment of such effective, but set ‘menus’ of response again argues for a long-term condition for which these mechanisms have survived as perceived optimum.

It is reasonable to suppose that a defence of diminished capacity might be presented; lacking ability to form original ideas may mean that [person’s name] is genuinely unable to recognise a distinction between a passing notion and a reasoned conclusion drawn from lengthy research, and unable to distinguish originality from mere novelty”.

from the EIC

..  one pleasure of this job is that scholars are self-regulating in matters of direct and indirect plagiarism even in these days of ‘publish-or-perish’…

The individual whose  activities are deplored is not an academic and  involvement with  the manuscript’s discussion seems primarily a social activity.  The assessors found no research history nor any reasonable level of competency which might allow them to reach such conclusions independently.

The editors have no doubt about the originality or value of the essays; reviewers use terms we like to hear: ‘foundational’  ‘seminal’ and ‘paradigm..’

Our concern is  solely that we are an academic press and this survey has made clear that while study of Beinecke MS 408 is a worthy academic subject, the ‘field’ (such as it is) cannot yet be considered academic.

The editors have decided as a result to defer publication, though not to cancel. There are signs of an improving attitude towards the subject, if not yet of appropriate  self-regulation. We retain the copyright over the essays of course, though not over your research.

We feel some concern about the vulnerability of [your] ongoing research [being]shared online; not because it is [being] used but because clearly [being] used improperly and  arguably with prejudice. Such a fundamental breach of ethics [by these people] can only hinder progress in any study – and in this case leads us to delay publication. That it [i.e. such unethical mis-use of research] inevitably involves  authors and Press in time-consuming efforts at redress is regrettable .

  • last paragraph clarified by permission.

 

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