As Bora is fond of pointing out, the weblog is nothing more or less than a tool. A communication tool that should be considered no differently from other tools such as the slide projector, the microphone, the printed journal or the telephone. For that matter, little different from airspace. The recent discussions on blogger pseudonymity (Abel, PalMD, Sciencewoman, Janet, PhysioProf) have been rattling around in my head and for some reason I had a thought about plagiarism. The question for today is this.
If you have a pseudonymous blog do you run the risk of plagiarizing yourself?
Plagiarism in academic scientific writing is a little different than the more-familiar definitions in the highschool and college classroom setting. I had a post a year ago about the Office of Research Integrity of the NIH's clarification on plagiarism. I think I've perhaps discussed my supposition that the anti-plagiarism background of the graduate student interferes with generating good paper drafts because they are trying to be unique and all that. Of course, academic papers in a lab may plagiarize previous publications from the group quite freely when it comes to Methods descriptions and even to some extent when it comes to Introduction and Discussion. There are only so many ways to make the same point which may form the relevant argument within multiple presentations of new data.
It is also the case that there are some PIs who generate endless numbers of review articles for slightly different journal audiences. These reviews may reiterate the same points over and over; of course, the points are often collected from those originally presented in the context of a primary data article.
To go one step further we need recognize that at its best, science is a continual communication in which thoughts may be expressed to colleagues in many formats. So you may write something into a paper that is essentially an exact copy of things that you say in your platform presentations or seminars. Right?
Now where it gets a little dodgy is when you write and publish thoughts or concepts that are pulled from the scientific cloud to which many scientists contribute. Steal an idea or phrasing from someone, get it into print before s/he does and you are not plagiarizing. Scooping, maybe. But not plagiarizing. Write an identical idea* or exact phrasing which one of your colleagues has already published without citing the original source and you are plagiarizing.
So what if you blog pseudonymously on topics that are very close to your academic interests. Suppose sometime down the road you are writing a review article, research proposal or even a Discussion section and you inadvertently write down a near copy of something you've written on the blog? I mean, you do just have the one brain in there, right? It seems likely to happen.
What if someone notices? And says, "Hey, I read this exact same stuff on HopperBlog a year ago!" This clown is plagiarizing a blogger!!!!!!
*yes, very hazy concept here. Some "ideas" are too general to run afoul of any sort of complaint