In the wake of Peter O’Brien’s plagiarism ordeal, naturally many who have employed O’Brien’s works (myself included) with great benefit are now faced with a dilemma of sorts—is he so discredited that his works are no longer worthy of consultation and inclusion in our research or do we only omit those works that are in question?
I suppose the immediate answer is, no—one should not cite his works, at least those in the current discussion. Perhaps somewhere down the road, the full extent of O’Brien’s plagiarism will be disclosed and, then, perhaps his credibility could be rehabbed a bit. But what does that do to his other works? I suspect that his previous ventures will now be scrutinized for any instance of inappropriate use of others’ works and he will be forever suspect should he continue to produce articles/books/etc., assuming that he (1) continues to write and (2) any publisher/journal would accept his work.
Over the years I’ve tried to be VERY careful when it comes to attributing work to its original creator because plagiarism is one of those things that will quickly derail a career or, in my case, destroy any chance of having a meaningful career as a scholar. Also, if I didn’t come up with a paritcular idea or articulate something a certain way and someone else did, it’s only right to credit them—otherwise, it’s intellectual theft. When writing, the maxim by which I live is “When in doubt, put it in a footnote.”
It’s a real shame that this has happened, whether his deeds were intentional or simply careless, because O’Brien is a bright scholar with much to contribute to the field. Time will tell what will become of his reputation and career.
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