Scientists Admit Why They Steal

By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 8, 2009 7:41 PM CDT
"I know my careless mistake resulted in a severe ethical issue. I am really disappointed with myself as a researcher," said one scientist accused of plagiarism.   (Shutterstock)
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(Newser) – Scientists suspected of plagiarism have answered questionnaires explaining why they did it, USA Today reports. After researchers found that 1 in 200 papers is a rip-off, they contacted about 160 alleged thieves for explanations. "Over time, the responses just got crazier and crazier," said one researcher. "There's every excuse in the book, from 'my hard drive crashed' to 'the other guy did it.' "

Among 144 replies, 28% denied stealing, 35% were sorry, and 22% said that as co-authors they shared no blame. One accused plagiarist explained that "it was a joke, a bad game, an unconscious bet between friends..." Said one researcher: "That's my favorite." Scientists around the world were involved—including one at Harvard—but plagiarism was slightly more common in Japan and China, the study found.