Plagiarism in Economics

We are all aware that plagiarism exists, and RePEc has helped expose quite a few cases through its open bibliographies. But sanctions for plagiarism are rather limited. An offended party may complain with the administration of the accused offender, in some cases without consequences, and in others with sanctions that can lead to dismissal. But the now convicted offender may simply take a new job as if nothing happened, the new employer being oblivious to what happened.

Economics does not have an ethics board that could deal with such cases beyond the current employer of an accused offender. There is now a proposal to create a committee dedicated to plagiarism. This committee would examine cases and vote on sanctions which may go all the way to publicly exposing the plagiarist. A group of volunteers have are discussed a simple set of procedures. Over the next month, the plan is to solicit comments from the public through this blog and call for further volunteers to participate in the committee. After that the committee would become active and deal with any new plagiarism cases that come to its attention. Please contact any current member to participate.

To view the current proposal and committee members, see a simple and bare bones site at The committee awaits your reaction. Beyond comments, you can also vote your reaction below.

8 Responses to Plagiarism in Economics

  1. sterndavidi says:

    The threshold for plagiarism needs to be clearly defined. Some plagiarism is simply sloppy quoting and citing of others work within an otherwise original paper. At the other extreme a whole paper might be essentially ripped off with varying degrees of alteration. I don’t think the first should have any sanctions but such material might be removed from RePEc if it was thought to be a problem. The latter should require some kind of sanction as everyone knows this is wrong.

  2. Great idea. However, in “procedures”, you say “Only case where both the plagiarising and plagiarised works are listed on RePEc will be considered.”

    What about papers published on RePEc that are ripped off from articles published elsewhere, or articles published elsewhere ripped off from RePEc?

    I do think this should also come under your remit. Why do you choose to only consider cases where both papers were published on RePEc?

  3. David: this is why a two-thirds majority is required for a sanction.

    Alexia: We do not really know how many cases will come to light. We may relax requirements in the future.

  4. chatterjeeecon says:

    Yes, its a long overdue, so go on…

    Taking on this opportunity to quote a few things on the topics of plagiarism, I would first and foremost say that, plagiarism is an offence rather crime an aspect similar in grade to piracy or counterfeiting. When someone has put in some great effort to set some original ideas or conceived some novel ideas, and then, when it is copied, there occurs a breach of copyright or violations, or simply, “copyfraud”-according to a paper published. Thus in general, it is a genuine breach of conduct on the part of the agent who just simply “copy-and-paste” the original work without even contributing anything to the development of the parent idea(s), or, citing as such.

    However, as sterndavidi mentions above, there still remains much idiosyncrasy in defining what truly plagiarism is, or, to what extent a term plagiarism needs to be ascribed (stamped) on a violator to underwrite a work as “plagiaristic, rather, imitative.” I want to shed some thoughts on this matter personally:

    To define the true context of plagiarism, as “a confidence of trust bestowed upon us against true violation and breach of such empowered on the peers while working on intellectual property, as it is indeed be described as an “art and piece of academic work” undertaken thereof by these agent(s), and anyone who, intentionally and knowingly that the work or ideas improved or conceived by someone prior to him or her, and with this contextual state of knowledge in mind, reproduces similar work without citing the original contributor, and without obtaining permission to reproduce such content, is but, a plagiarist.”-

    But as indeed, here is some caveat: All works of intellectuality involves genuine cost of search, innovation, and execution which in some countries defined as developing, may take a heavy toll on individual researcher(s) and innovators, although nobody sends chariots or ask them to undertake such endeavor. It is, rather, not in one’s own sake but for the sake or benefit of peers or her citizens that her expressions of freedom of “thoughts and ideas” suppressed through the ages due to political disorientations or lack of information sources might have prevented her to express her views and ideas in complete.

    Notwithstanding these externalities, some genuine researcher(s) conceive ideas that in some tune, mimic or reproduce unintentionally or uncovetously, since, the researcher may not be able to bear the search cost to the fuller extent (if they are undertaking such research without supportive measures); or in some aspect, is not aware of such work been done in past, and thus is a severe drawback on the part of these agents to be looked upon. The individual thus seems to fall in a kind of “deferential trap”: a dilemma of what is defined and what should be defined. So, in that case, if any similarities does arise in published works, that needs to be pointed out first, and if undeterred, to be dealt/removed later. As such, ascribing to such efforts as plagiarism needs to be reevaluated on these contexts. It is rational however, to think that with the spread of globalization and availability of more free information, one needs to be careful enough to avoid such in restlessness while undertaking such initiatives.

    And for the other part, which also needs to be looked upon, is random “copyfraud”, and be strictly dealt with, since, it takes much effort for the part of the agent(s) who really conceive novel ideas, and quite contemptuous if such efforts are copied randomly without contributing anything to the originality, or properly citing the owners’ efforts and obtaining prior permissions. Off course, we do not want to endeavor to allow flourish such a crooked domain as plagiarists paradise.

    Thank You,
    Sidharta Chatterjee

  5. The committee, based on the feedback received, has decided to go “live” now. Also, the number of members has increased to 21, showing that many people care about plagiarism and are willing to do something about it.

  6. I read a complaint was filed that was regarded important by the committee but it was rejected because it was filed anonymously:
    The whole thing has been out for quite a while and is well documented in the wiki with evidence on numerous cases published in dozens of journals, involving 20 authors. What does it say about our discipline if nobody dares to come forward and submit this non-anonymously and no action is taken?

  7. Sorry for the delay in approving your message, I was in China with no access to the blogging platform.

    It was felt by many on the committee that it should not become a conduit for anonymos accusations. We guarantee the anonymity of the submitter, if requested, but we want a real person to bring the case to the table. We hope this small cost will prevent the committee from being overburdened by cases that are not worth pursuing.

    This says nothing about the merits of the case that is described. My understanding is that the relevant journals have been contacted, and the committee would take on the case if the journals are not reaching a conclusion, and somebody submits the case. We are not activiely seeking work.

  8. Thank you for your answer. Journalist Olaf Storbeck wrote about the self-plagiarism in the press, so it’s not just an anonymous complaint. You find ample evidence in the google docs document he compiled. The freyplag website covers further cases, now also very obvious ones, unrelated to the previously mentioned authors and including plagiarism not only from their own papers. (in English)

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