At a ( very small, international humanities) conference recently, I was in the audience at a panel on my research interests, and I was aghast to hear the panel organizer deliver a paper that appeared to be directly lifted from a journal article I published nearly two years ago. The author of the paper mentioned my book, but never referenced the article I wrote on the very same highly specific topic with the same highly specific argument that she presented in the first half of her conference paper. (And yes, I’m pretty sure she saw me sitting there in the audience!) The second part of her paper brought in another case study that I haven’t written about, but she again used the same argument to frame that evidence.
I wasn’t sure what the appropriate response would have been, so I remained silent. Did I do the right thing? How does one respond when one’s work is being plagiarized in real time before one’s eyes? What does your vast and learned audience think I should have done in this case?
I should add, the person who “borrowed” my work was in correspondence with me about this very subject three years ago and knew I was working on it, although my work was published before anything of hers was, and in a prominent journal. Furthermore, my article won a prize. She is basically a peer, although she is not tenured at her institution and she is not hugely influential in her field. We both have published books, and I am tenured.
I am considering writing her an e-mail to let her know that I recognized my work in her paper without being necessarily confrontational. What can I do at this point?
Gentle readers, has this ever happened to you? How did you handle the situation? (Please tell me that cheaters never prosper!) I guess my main question is, given that both of the above scholars have encountered each other before at this same very small, international conference in a very specific field in the humanities, what kind of idiot would try to steal Wendy’s research in public like that? Even if Wendy didn’t attend the conference this year, other scholars in their very small field would probably have noticed this scholarly faux pas too. What should Wendy do now?
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