Before I get into my course of thoughts and share some experiences, let me introduce the two terms as to how I see them here, to give my current perspective to you.
Collaboration refers to team work, may it be sharing the work and doing it or brainstorming on the whole problem set at hand and solving it. Whereas Plagiarism refers to the act of copying or producing someone else’s ideas under your name, intentionally or unintentionally and in any form as such. So, where the former is a more appreciated quality the latter is a heinous act rather a felony.
Does it sound the same as you think? Good in that case we have common perspective and so you should continue reading to explore more of me 😉 . And in case you didn’t knew this, a handful of information for you and there can be more below so stay tuned.
There is a very thin line which demarcates both of these acts and I wonder if I need a microscope to analyze. On a more serious note, these were the terms that pounded my mind time and again after first day of a week long graduate orientation program at Carnegie Mellon.
Having my roots dug deep in the Indian education system, one of the staggering differences that US education system exhibited to me was that of the intensity to which it values the notion of “Ideas being a private property”. Though its not a new concept or philosophy but unlike the Indian education system, its enforced here with stringent norms at all levels of education, from high school to grad school. Had almost a 2hr long presentation emphasizing the importance of it just on first day itself. Along with the presentation they ran a video clip wherein a number of professors and students featured in but again each one had varied set of ideas and obviously a different perspective of the same. What was Plagiarism for one, was Collaboration for the others and vice versa. It just left me muzzled and for the fact almost all the folks around me. There was a rigorous round of Q&A and I felt so lame not even knowing what to ask, hence decided to just shut up and listen.
And even before the information could sink in I was shocked to hear about self-plagiarism. What the hell ? One cannot produce his/her own ideas once they have been produced at some other instance. The lady addressing said with a smiling face, if you want to put it up again, its better you cite yourself. I was like what ??? 00
The impact on me is so pronounced that I have become skeptical about the idea of collaborating, at least for few initial days until I get a clear picture of tings here. As a learning I take back a couple of thumb rules to decide which side of the line I am in, they are –
* No assumptions, as guidelines vary from field to field and even one instance to other.
* Just Ask, Ask and Ask 🙂 Thats it !!!