“Bats Are really Cool Animals!” Teaching Academic Integrity

Great interview here from Retraction Watch (@RetractionWatch) about an adult submitting a child’s paper for publication (as an experiment) — and it being accepted: http://retractionwatch.com/2016/10/18/bats-are-really-cool-animals-how-a-7-year-old-published-a-paper-in-a-journal/.

The journal editor sent the manuscript back to the author to revise, and included plagiarized passages as suggested additions.

When do we start to teach academic ethics? In graduate school? In college? Either is probably far too late in life.

As a 6th grader (12 years old), my paper was plagiarized by a classmate. I suffered grave consequences, not the least of which was being accused of being the plagiarist.

Internally I must have made a vow to never let that happen to anyone again — probably why I became an editor, writing instructor, and consultant in best practices in publishing.

What’s noteworthy is that the incident was not used as a teachable moment about being ethical. No one asked why or how the plagiarism occurred. No one offered a code of acceptable behaviors in an academic community.

Some of us in the U.S. are old enough to remember the “Good Citizenship” modules in our elementary school classrooms. And for our parents, it was “Civics.”

That curriculum seems to have gone by the wayside — and if we look around us, we can see the gap that got created with its disappearance. Just check out our Presidential election. *sigh*

What wasn’t included in that curriculum , though, was academic ethics and conscience.

How many academics will plagiarize unknowingly? How many knowingly, because they just don’t understand the gravity and impacts of it? How many editors and publishers will cut corners? How many will start unethical open access publishing enterprises because they haven’t learned how not to — or don’t care, and will take advantage of authors who haven’t been trained in what to expect from ethical publishers?

Let’s all look around us and see where we can be responsible for and support a higher level of integrity in the world of academic publishing.
It starts with each one of us.