Recently, Jane Goodall and her latest (yet to be released) book, Seeds of Hope, have become the subject of significant scandal. It all began when The Washington Post reported in a review that the book “contains at least a dozen passages borrowed without attribution, or footnotes, from a variety of Web sites” including Wikipedia.”[i] And, just to add further complication to the situation, Goodall had collaborated with writer, Gail Hudson, to write and research Seeds of Hope. Given this partnership, there is even less information regarding the extent of either author’s recognition of the plagiarism or which of them may hold the bulk of the responsibility regarding the thefts. This case serves as a prime example of how collaboration and digital resources may serve as both a blessing and a curse to academics and researchers, creating more opportunities to fumble even as it creates more opportunities to collaborate and expand research.
In non-digital scholarship, the art of ‘collaboration’ has often been viewed as a practice of little practicality and one that is rarely conducted equitably whereas, in the case of digital humanities scholarship, it is often a necessity. Of course, as digital humanist Willard McCarty points out, the very term “collaboration” “is a problematic, and should be contested, term” as it is often misused and misunderstood even amongst digital humanists.[ii]
Collaboration, he explains, “must occur on level ground” and is necessary in order to help digital and non-digital humanists alike reinvigorate their appreciation for “the social dimension of knowledge.”[iii]
In other words, collaboration is work that is “done together…in every sense.”[iv]
But, as even McCarty acknowledges, true collaboration is a rarity. And it is this lack of equality combined with collaboration’s inherent complications of where to award credit and blame that has often put it at odds with mainstream understandings of the authorship and ownership of creative and scholarly works.
How do you define collaboration? Have you ever collaborated with anyone before on a writing or research project? How’d it go?
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[i] Steven Levingston, “Jane Goodall’s ‘Seeds of Hope’ book contains borrowed passages without attribution,” The Washington Post, 19 Mar. 2013, Web.
[ii] Willard McCarty, “Collaborative Research in the Digital Humanities,” in McCarty and Marilyn Deegan’s Collaborative Research in the Digital Humanities, Surrey: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2012. 2.