Yesterday night, a renowned Dutch newspaper published a long article on a former rector of one of the largest universities in the Netherlands. Research conducted by the paper shows she didn't take regular academic plagirism / citation standards into account in various important speeches, such as the ones for the university anniversary. Although it differs per speech, the paper has in some cases traced almost 60% of her literal text back to the work of others.
Citing the newspaper directly (well, translated):
Based on research of NRC it shows that, XXX, former rector of the University of Amsterdam, has used texts in speeches and in her dissertations without clearly indicating these were the work of others.
The plagiarism is remarkable, as the rector herself took various measures fighting plagiarism.
According to XXX, her speeches are unjustly compared to academic standards.
The university will start an investigation whether former rector XXX has violated standards of academic integrity.
Focusing on the accounts of plagiarism in speeches got me wondering what the citation standards are in non- or less-scientific work, and how that might differ per type of work. Specifically, I'm interested how this might differ in:
- technical reports, written in a company context
- policy documents
- official speeches
- blogs, columns, and other more personal writings
I'd personally say that attribution is required in all cases, but when is "as John Doe has put it: research is interesting" good enough, and when would you a proper academic citation, including a full reference (either in a bibliography, or in a footnote)?
In addition to the explicit standards prescribed by professional organisations or codes of conduct, I'm wondering to what extent reality indeed matches these standards -- or whether pragmatism at some point takes over. (That might be a little opinionated, but I'm hoping the community will allow it.)
Regardless of whether she was right or wrong, I think everybody will agree these actions are clumsy at best - as they in any case raise questions nobody would like to be raised. That's not what I'm hoping to discuss or establish here. Similarly (although I think this goes without saying here), I'm not interested in opinions on whether she is or was wrong, as we don't have all the facts to determine that.