The January 7 issue of Inside Higher Ed has a report on a session at the recent meeting of the American Historical Association on how plagiarism is (not) being handled by history journals. Perhaps surprisingly, history journals typically have no set policies on how to handle plagiarism when it is discovered. According to the article:
A central problem, participants said, is that however much plagiarism may offend scholars and make professors look silly to the public when famous authors are exposed, the law takes a different approach. “From the point of view of the law, defamation of character is a very live issue, but plagiarism is really marginal,” said Alan Lessoff, professor of history at Illinois State University and editor of the Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era….
[The] threat of lawsuits is clearly a huge issue for journal editors…. While the journal editors all understood that fear, many in the audience spoke of other worries: of having their work copied or distorted and of having nowhere to turn. Some victims of plagiarism spoke of their frustrations over the lack of policing, and several suggested that a more aggressive approach is needed.
One solution suggested was that “in cases where plagiarism is charged, there should be a journal or Web site where someone can publish the allegation and documentation of what the two works said, so that the readers can decide whether a charge has merit.”