As someone who has never been tempted to plagiarize anything, I have always been surprised by the prevalence of plagiarism in academia. It seems that students do it, academics do it, and now even media doctors do it. The BBC has reported that Raj Persaud, of This Morning fame, has admitted plagiarizing for a book and articles published under his name. Whilst plagiarism has always struck me as stupid, it seems particularly stupid for someone in the public eye and whose profession is based so much on trust.
If public recognition is going to continue being the primary reward of public science, then academia needs to be seen to punish plagiarism:Students should be thrown out, staff should be sacked, and qualifications revoked. Unfortunately public flogging is seen as old fashioned these days, and I can’t imagine masses of students being thrown out for cheating. The alternative, however, is far more radical: a move towards the wikification of science, and the loss of public recognition for the individual. Personally I am not convinced that academics would do half as much work if you took vanity out of the equation.