Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Academic ethics again

One of the important things about doing post-docs is not to be too invested in the work you are doing for other people. Work hard at it and do it to the highest possible standard during work hours: and then hand it over and don't consider it yours any more. It's really a sort of surrogacy service for other people's projects. This is a policy that I came up with when I started my first post-doc, not because I thought that post-docs shouldn't own what they do, but because the example of the last person who worked on that project showed me the pitfalls of being too attached to what you do in that sort of position. Essentially the work you do is for someone else's project, and if you care too much about it you're probably going to feel hurt at some point. You don't have any control over what will happen to the work, and very probably your name will not appear on it. Neither of my post-docs has resulted in anything published in my name, and I don't have a problem with that. I've managed to publish quite a bit of my own work, although it's been a struggle time-wise, and that's the stuff I care about. I prefer it that way -- I prefer only to have my name on things I have some control over.

The freelance work I'm doing at the moment will not be published under my name, and this raises an interesting ethical issue. I am writing about some manuscripts about which I also wrote for my last post-doc. My thoughts on, say, Corpus MS 153 pre-date my work on either of these projects, but have of course informed my work on both. How much do I need to be careful, in the second project, not to look like I'm plagiarising the first project, given that neither are published with my name? It's complicated by the fact that the first project is a website, and the second is not the sort of project that cites websites.

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