Not much, would be a short reply - and a true one. The obituary, far from what it initially appeared to be, is in fact a farrago of unacknowledged borrowing disguised as a piece of scholarship.
In this week's articles I have concentrated almost entirely on the issue of quotations. Simply from these alone, it is evident that at least four different sources appear to have been copied from without the slightest acknowledgement. These are:
- Edward Winter's online article Chess Prodigies
- The 1983 Pergamon book British Chess
- Golombek's 1977 Encyclopedia of Chess
- Sarah Hurst's article on Elaine in CHESS of October 1997.
From these sources, quotations have been copied wholesale, sometimes at length. They have also been altered without indication and stitched together with the stitching hidden from view.
Some - if only some - of the faults in the piece could be written off as minor transgressions, if they were considered in isolation. To my mind transgressions nevertheless, but not fatal ones. The trouble is first, that this is not true of other faults: second, that the obituary is a whole parade of transgressions.
As I say, the copying of quotations from those sources is wholesale and unacknowleged. Whether any of the other material is drawn unacknowledged from these sources, I leave the reader to judge. But one effect of omitting to mention original sources for quotations is that the reader who is unaware of these sources will not find themselves comparing them with the obituary. Readers of this week's pieces will, however, be able to see the sources, compare for themselves, and come to their own conclusions.
Of course the standard of citation required in a newspaper piece is not the same as that required in an academic paper. But that doesn't mean that there are no standards at all. Nobody would expect every single short phrase or every secondary source to be cited: but here the borrowing has been wholescale - huge chunks of text - and systematic. The same can be said of the failure to acknowledge sources.
There is no question that copying has taken place here: the only question is whether (or how far) it is acceptable. Personally I am not persuaded that the rampant borrowing of long quotations from other people's work (or their disguised alteration, which is also rife in the piece) is acceptable ethical and journalistic practice.
Then again, it doesn't matter what I think. But it matters what they think at the Times.
[Comments are welcomed, but please be cautious in what you write and remember that the piece under discussion is unsigned.]