I recently reviewed a paper where, a few paragraphs into the introduction, the words seemed strangely familiar. After some cross-checking, I realised that the author of the paper had copied about two paragraphs verbatim from one of my papers. After a bit more digging, I found other places in the paper where the author had copied from other researchers’ work as well. In all cases, no quotation marks had been used nor any reference had been provided. The papers the author had copied from were listed in the reference section though.
Today I received a letter from the journal’s editor, informing me that the paper had been rejected. The editor considered this a minor case of plagiarism, as it was not clear whether the author was doing this intentionally or simply had not had enough guidance and experience in academic conduct. The actual research work, while faulty and shallow, seemed original. Maybe putting the copied-from papers into the reference section had been smart way of guarding against accusations of malicious intent.
In a strange coincidence, today the University of Bayreuth declared the dissertation of one of its graduates, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, former defense minister of Germany, a case of intentional plagiarism.
Quo vadis, academia?