Tainted Texts: Plagiarism and Self-exploitation in the novels Solar and Perlmann’s Silence

Last modified: May 23, 2017

Plagiarism is probably the most thoroughly analyzed and discussed form of scientific misconduct of all times. Online you can find thousands and thousands of reports, guidelines, empirical studies, conceptual analyses and editorials, all addressing the problem of plagiarism in one way or another. But if you look closely, by which I mean very closely, you might also find an article with a somewhat different outlook; here the author, professor Hub Zwart (Radboud University), discusses plagiarism from the perspective of two ’science novels’, namely Solar by Ian McEwan and Perlmann’s Silence by Pascal Mercier.

So what are science novels? Zwart uses the term for ’novels about contemporary scientists and contemporary research practices’. The protagonists in Solar and Perlmann’s Silence are academics in their second half of life who, once briljant, ambitious and dedicated young scientists, now seem to have lost contact with their research and profession. Both men very deeply wish to restore their academic integrity but feel powerless to do so. In the end they come to see only one way out; plagiarism for them becomes an act committed out of pure desperation.

According to Zwart there is much to learn from science novels like these because they help us to look at research integrity in different ways. Zwart argues that fiction can provide us with insights and inspiration which enable us to explore concepts such as plagiarism and academic authorship in a more creative way. Not by condoning it, neither by denouncing it, but by challenging our basic assumptions about these concepts. A real treat for everyone with an interest in books, philosophy and the relationship between rules, regulations and (fictional) reality.

Publication

Title: Tainted Texts: Plagiarism and Self-exploitation in Solar and Perlmann’s Silence
Author: Zwart H.
doi: 10.2143/EP.23.4.3188783 (2016)

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