Integrity, credibility and plagiarism

Image by TilerX on Flickr
I was in the audience at a recent conference when a keynote speaker (who will remain nameless) presented several of my images and ideas in his slideshow. The first was credited to me, and it was nice that he mentioned me as he was talking about the slide.

The following half a dozen or so slides were also from one of my presentations, but I was annoyed to see that my name and the Creative Commons licence I always apply to my slides had been removed.

The slide that annoyed me the most was a diagram that I had devised based on the ideas of another researcher. Not only had my name been removed, but so had my acknowledgement of the original researcher. Somehow, I managed to keep quiet during the presentation, but I later approached the speaker at the end of the session, and pointed out to him that he had used several of my slides without acknowledging me, and that the Creative Commons (CC) licence had also been removed. I was more annoyed when he didn't seem too perturbed and was unapologetic. He simply smiled and promised he would include my name in future presentations where he used my slides. I'll see if he does. 

Now, to be clear, I am very happy with other people using my slides and ideas. That's why I publish most of my content with a CC licence, to encourage sharing. But I'm not happy when people ride roughshod over the rules of CC licensing and do whatever they wish. Creative Commons licences require those using the content to acknowledge the source, and to also use those materials under the same version of the licence. This speaker broke both those rules, and I am aware of others on the circuit who continue to do the same.

Source: Donald H Taylor's Twitter stream
This kind of experience leaves a sour taste. It is plagiarism of the worst kind, because essentially, the speaker is taking the credit for the ideas and hard work of others, and doing it publicly. It deceives the audience and damages the credibility of the conference once it comes to light. I was therefore very pleased yesterday when Donald H Taylor tweeted about the forthcoming London conference. Don is chair of the Learning and Skills Group and also chairs the Learning Technology conferences.

I respect his integrity and value his leadership. His clear message to all was that he aims to maintain credibility of his events by ensuring that all speakers provide citations for the data and quotes they use in their presentations.  I would go a little further and argue that speakers also need to acknowledge sources of images and photographs too. These are just as easily misappropriated. 

It would be great if other conference organisers followed Don's lead. 

Creative Commons License
Integrity, credibility and plagiarism by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Ajay said…
I empathize and fully agree with your article, Steve. It has happened to me by someone supposedly respected by many in our field, and a Ph.d. The challenge is that it becomes my word against his and accused of being petty.

Recently, a close colleague that I thought was a trusted friend used much of my works without attribution.

I appreciate Don Taylor's effort to ensuring attribution to one's work.

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