Yesterday my TA caught a case of a student plagiarizing from Wikipedia. Ho hum, happens all the time. Then I found the recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education on an exposé by Alan Sokal (of the famous bogus postmodern physics paper in the journal Social Text), who, together with a student at the University of Zagreb, exposed a case of plagiarism by U.S. political scientist Frank Fischer. Its an interesting read, but for some masochistic reason (probably because of the Wikipedia incident) I waded through the 202 comments on the paper. I recommend those to anyone interested in issues of academic plagiarism, since there are all sorts of ideas, insights, and opinions there (including some possible hijinx by anonymous posters). One link in the comments led to a blog devoted to plagiarism in dissertations at Ohio State University (and you thought THIS blog was narrow!). Wow, some wild stuff (mostly in Engineering, although one case in Anthropology, leading to withdrawal of the degree).
It seems so often that university officials try to sweep things under the carpet when faculty plagiarism or scientific fraud take place. There was a case of this at my former university, and in the end not only the plagiarist looked bad, but the university administration was tarnished. And now the Mark Hauser episode at Harvard (if you don't know about this one, just google his name).
My favorite student plagiarism case was a C or D student whose term paper (on the reliability of Bernal Diaz as a source on Aztec society) started out, "The crescent flag of the Moors had flown over Spain for seven centuries..." I searched "crescent flag of the Moors" (back in Hot-Bot days, pre-Google), and Bingo!, the entire paper was lifted from a history website at the University of Iowa. And then a student essay once sounded strangely familiar to me (did I just read this in an earlier essay? I thought) until I realized I was reading my own prose.........
Academic standards are important, whether among our students, our colleagues, or ourselves. All this news about plagiarism and scientific fraud is depressing. If you haven't read "On Being a Scientist" by the National Academy of Sciences, you should read it now, and you should give it to your grad students and advanced undergrads. The new edition is a free download, well worth the effort.
National Academy of Sciences
2009 On Being A Scientist: A Guide to Responsible Conduct in Research. 3rd ed. National Academy of Sciences, Washington, DC. http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12192.