Swarthmore Biologist Accused of Plagiarizing…his Own Work

Once upon a time, Colin Purrington, a former Professor of Biology at Swarthmore, created a handy, humorous guide on the perennially sexy topic of poster-making. For touting the virtues of visual learning, it gained popularity in various academic circles. One day recently, he discovered that a group called the Consortium for Plant Biotechnology Research, Inc. had cribbed his guide, basically word-for-word. Now here’s the weird part. When he emailed the group asking them to remove the guide, their lawyer shot him an angry cease-and-desist letter, accusing him of plagiarism. (They said it was their own chart, created in 2005. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that Purrington created it in 2001.)

It isn’t immediately apparent if the lifted guide is listed on the CPBR website, though Purrington has linked to the CPBR’s guide (see zip file) on one of his several recent blog posts on the affair (in the latest, he floated himself as a candidate for CEO of the Consortium). For all the trouble, he’s seeking damages of up to $150,000 from the group, which receives millions of dollars in funding each year from the federal government. [Chronicle of Higher Education]