Stealing Science

We have all been taught throughout our extensive schooling that cheating is bad, horrible, unacceptable, possibly the worst act you could commit as a student. The penalty for cheating would be the most severe. Turning in the worst paper in the class would yield you more points than the person who got caught cheating. Cheaters would be called out, singled out, made an example of. You DIDN’T want to get caught cheating, you didn’t even want to think about taking the risk with a penalty that severe. Cheating could be a penalty that could possibly bring your educational endeavors to a sudden end.

Plagiarism: the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own (Google, 2016)

How does plagiarism play into cheating? I have always been taught that is synonymous with cheating. The origins of the word come from Latin word plagiarius, meaning kidnapper. This means that plagiarizing work is the same as kidnapping it, and we all know that kidnapping is a crime that also has the severest of punishments when caught. The value of one’s work or ideas has always been regarded to the level in which people value their own children. Work and ideas is what everything is built on, without the ability to protect these invaluable things, there would be no way to secure one’s future. What value would work and ideas have if there was no way to secure its ownership.

Plagiarism in science is not always as black and white as it might sound. If a scientist is working on an idea and runs into problems, is it wrong for another scientist to take over, introducing their own ideas? At what point does one person’s work become the work of another? To what degree do scientists need to cite previous work done by others? At what point does a scientist have the right to step in and claim plagiarism? What proves that an idea was the original work of a particular scientist? Would progress in science ever be made if people were not able to pull from other’s work? See, not so black and white.

History has many examples of instance of plagiarism that have had influences on the answers to the questions I’ve asked above. I’m curious how the idea of power and control influence the perception of plagiarism. At the end of World War 2, all the members of the Allied powers kidnapped as much of the research and development that the Germans had done in their advancement of their tools of war. Designs, prototypes, fully functional weapons, and even the scientists themselves were taken. Were these examples of plagiarism? Were the originators of these ideas given full credit for their work? Or did the perception of power influence peoples’ judgement of right and wrong?

Hitler himself coined the term assault rifle when he was shown the prototype of what was to become the world’s first intermediate caliber automatic rifle named the Sturmgewehr (German for storm rifle, as in, storm or assault the castle). A weapon designer Mikhail Kalashnikov took inspiration from captured German Sturmgewehrs when he designed his rifle that began trials in 1947, becoming the infamous AK-47, the Avtomat Kalashnikova, or automatic Kalasnikov, bearing his name and the year of introduction. Over 75 million AK-47s, and variants, have been produced and have seen, and will continue to see service across the globe in hundreds of countries. Even the flag of Mozambique has the outline of an AK47 on it. There are arguments out there that claim that the AK47 was an instance of plagiarism.

There are many more examples of technologies stolen from the Germans that have had huge impacts on the world. Things like the jet engine, moon landings, and nuclear weapons and energy might not have been possible without the possible plagiarizing of Nazi Germany.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *