Books News & Features
3:43 pm
Wed March 20, 2013

Jane Goodall Apologizes For Lifted Passages In Her Upcoming Book

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

Today, Jane Goodall, the eminent expert on chimpanzees, has apologized for using other people's work in her new book without giving them credit. This all came to light after The Washington Post published a story about the book, which hasn't yet been released, saying it contains borrowed passages without attribution.

NPR's Christopher Joyce tells us more.

CHRISTOPHER JOYCE, BYLINE: For people who care about conservation of wildlife, Jane Goodall is somewhere up there with Mother Theresa. In her 78 years, the anthropologist has published many scientific papers about chimpanzees and other primates, and she's considered the world's expert on chimp behavior.

But her latest book isn't about chimps. It's called "Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants." Here's Goodall reading from the still-unreleased book, published by Grand Central Publishing.

JANE GOODALL: (Reading) There would be no chimpanzees without plants, nor human beings either, for that matter. And the chimpanzee might never have materialized for me had I not been obsessed as a child with stories of the wilderness areas of the planet, and most especially the forests of Africa.

JOYCE: The Washington Post did not go so far as to call this a case of plagiarism. The details still aren't clear. The passages described by The Post as, quote, "unattributed borrowing" range from a few phrases to a whole paragraph. One came from Wikipedia, others from websites.

Goodall has released a written statement. In part it reads, quote, "This was a long and well researched book, and I am distressed to discover that some of the excellent and valuable sources were not properly cited, and I want to express my sincere apologies," unquote.

Goodall wrote the book with a co-author, writer Gail Hudson, who has not commented on the incident.

Mark Frankel is an expert on ethics, law and science at the American Association for the Advancement of Science. He says in scientific research, a lead author is expected to vet all the data and facts.

MARK FRANKEL: I don't want to accuse anybody of anything because I just don't know enough. But clearly this was something that I don't think she took sufficient responsibility for. As the lead author and as a distinguished scientist, she never should have let this go out.

JOYCE: Frankel says there's been an uptick in cases of scientific plagiarism in journals and in proposals for research grants. There's more competition and thus, pressure to publish more and faster.

FRANKEL: It's within science that they're, you know, trying to get the recognition that they need and where the pressures are.

JOYCE: That pressure wouldn't apply here, he notes, since this book was written for the lay public, not for scientific peers and prestige.

In her statement, Goodall says she will correct the missing citations on her website at the Jane Goodall Institute.

Christopher Joyce, NPR News.

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BLOCK: This is NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.