Categories: communication, Ethics, fairness, honesty, leadership, organizational culture, professonal conduct, research, respect, responsibility
“Hey Peter, here’s my submission. Apologies for the delay but had to do some research to get the algorithms working the right way”. Maya rushed into Peter’s cabin.
“Thanks. What took you so long?” Peter wanted to know.
“Oh! I needed time to check on the output. That took some time. The logic behind these algorithms was present on a website and I used that material” Maya continued.
Peter was a new project manager to the organization and had been recently deputed to a project related to Innovation in the information technology domain. He was a product of an elite business school and was chosen for this project for his innovative ideation and a drive to succeed.
Peter knew this work wasn’t Maya’s original work and it needed to be called out by providing an appropriate citation. However Peter also knew if she did that, his project would not be considered for Innovation and that he and his team would lose out on the award.
“Well we need to make the appropriate attributions to the original document that had the logic. That would be an appropriate next step” Maya wanted to check with Peter.
“I guess so but the process of deriving output is your work and so I don’t think we need to call an attribution separately. I have noted that the so called “original” works that are out there are actually ideas from other sources. I guess it is fine to be “inspired” by such ideas as there is always someone who would have said it before you do. I would focus on our part of the work and in this case our original work is in processing the output or the effort that has gone in deriving the research outcome. Your part of the activity is quite complex and important for the eventual objective of our project” – Peter.
“Well I don’t agree with you. After all the output is the function of the original algorithms and those are not my original scripts” Maya continued to debate.
“Well, I guess I differ with your thought. Also remember that if we do so we are likely to be disqualified and will probably be out of the Innovation contest. Do you really believe that all original work out there is truly "original"? Well we are inspired by someone's ideas and that fuels the creativity in us. Well, give it a thought and let me know what you think” – Peter seemed disappointed.
Given the easy availability of information on internet for most of the research papers today, these instances are not uncommon. This dilemma cuts across domains. It’s a belief that the scope for original thinking has reduced and that most of the works are a “copy-paste” or a derivation of someone’s original work. Blatant copying of original works and passing it off without an appropriate attribution is a common complaint. Resorting to these tricks is perceived as means for a quick success. The publishing community is quite aware of this and has set appropriate check points (created software applications for plagiarism check) to flag such instances.
What can be done in such situations? How do we drive inspiration to write original articles? How can project managers work towards an appropriate balance of creativity and derivation? Applying originality of thoughts with the right attributions builds on the credibility of the author and ensures their authenticity and appropriate processing of guidelines.
Your thoughts on this ethical dilemma are welcome….
Disclaimer: all characters, names and incidents in this story are fictional. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.