|A Pompeian Beauty, Blogging, after Raffaele Giannetti (Photo credit: Mike Licht, NotionsCapital.com)|
by Lucy Williams, The Guardian Higher Education Network: http://www.theguardian.com/higher-education-network/blog/2013/dec/04/academic-blogging-newspaper-research-plagiarism
Lucy Williams is studying for a PhD in history at the University of Liverpool - follow her on Twitter @Lucy_E_Williams
After her blog was republished without credit, PhD student Lucy Williams says we must confront this 'shameless exploitation'.
I began writing a blog based on my doctoral research, about the lives of female offenders in Victorian England, in April 2012.
In part, I created WaywardWomen so that I had a forum in which I could explore the themes and ideas of my thesis. It was my hope that writing a blog would help me become a better researcher, a better writer and a more thorough thinker.
Even more important than that, I hoped it would act as a space where I could share and discuss my research with others, be they fellow students, academics, or those with a more general interest in my topic.
After all, in the face of a changing academy, university staff and students alike are acknowledging the necessity of raising awareness of their research, and promoting its merits, outside higher education.
My posts would typically examine a case study of one of the women I research, or explore a particular kind of crime that women were involved in.
To my delight, in the year and a half of me posting, my blog did well, sharing my research with far more people than I could have ever hoped to reach in person, and allowing me to discuss and debate my ideas with people around the world.
In June this year I was sent a link to an article on a tabloid newspaper website titled Edwardian Rogues Gallery, by a friend and former lecturer, suggesting I might find it of interest.
When I opened the article, I was surprised and horrified, to find a post I had published on my blog just weeks earlier staring back at me, with somebody else's name placed at the top. Worse still, I found the same post reproduced on other sites, under the name of more authors.
At first, my overriding emotion was that of disbelief. Although I knew that some news organisations were far from scrupulous in their reporting, I had always assumed this would stop short of reproducing others work without permission or acknowledgement.
But after taking to Twitter to get some more opinions, I was saddened to hear that, yes, this can happen, and yes, it happens all the time.
Indignant, I resolved to contact those responsible. I emailed both the news agency that originally circulated the post and the two national newspapers, one regional title and global website that took it. I also tried several times to contact the individuals who had put their names above my work.
These attempts were, of course, all in vain. Wherever I turned, I was met with a frustrating wall of silence.
I soon realised the overwhelming likelihood that I would never get a response from anyone involved or be given any acknowledgement for my work. That is when I took the decision to partially shut down my blog.
I didn't want to. For over a year I had invested time into producing something I was proud of, and into promoting it at every opportunity.
I couldn't bear the thought of removing it all, so I left a few posts, including the one in question, and a cautionary tale to other bloggers, on the site. I've not been back since.
Blogging provides a vital method of communication and networking for PhD students and early career researchers. Blogs can raise awareness of a researcher and their work in the early stages of a career, before they have a long list of publications, or grant applications behind them.
But with an environment existing in which your research can be taken and used by others - for profit - without your permission, and without accreditation, is it a risk worth taking?
Unfortunately, there are few effective steps you can take to prevent similar plagiarism of your work. Having dwelt on it for some time, I don't think the reason my blog was reproduced without my consent was because I hadn't made it clear enough that I objected.
Those responsible for exploiting academic blogs are professional and well practiced at their trade. Sadly, in the current climate, the best way to protect your ideas and your research would seem to be not explicitly sharing them with an unknown audience.
Although I restricted access to large parts of my blog, I didn't remove it. I have resolved, in time, to use it again - the opportunities and benefits blogging offered are just too good to good to pass up permanently.
However, I have yet to work out what format my blogs might take, and what the content of my posts might be. Until something is done to confront the shameless exploitation of the work of early career academics, it can't be anything I mind losing.