Plagiarism: what would you do?
Posted by ycpmicro
I noticed an odd posting on a blog I frequently read, which was reposting a story originally on the forbes.com site. Craig Venter is a very clever scientist who was the leader of the team to initially sequence the human genome. A decade before that, Venter was the leader of the team that first obtained the complete DNA sequence of a bacterium. One of the authors on that manuscript was actually my college roommate, who worked with a Nobel Laureate after finishing graduate school. Brian tells me that Nobel Laureates put their pants on one leg at a time, just like the rest of us.
Craig Venter was in the news about a year ago, reporting the construction an artificial bacterium, which he called Mycoplasma mycoides. In order to differentiate the DNA of their artificial microorganism from other organisms, they encoded molecular tags into its genome. One tag contained a quote from the physicist Richard Feynman “What I cannot build, I cannot understand,” which actually turns out to be a mis-quotation of the physicist. Another tag contained a quote from the Irish author James Joyce, “To live, to err, to fall, to triumph, to recreate life out of life.”1 At this point the story takes a turn to the weird, as Venter received a cease and desist letter from the estate of Joyce, who claimed that Venter used the quote without permission.
I’m not sure what else to say about this, other than I hope that the Joyce estate doesn’t come after YCP-Micro now for copyright infringement. Just make sure you all are properly attributing your sources in your lab reports!
BONUS: My spouse and I were discussing this article today, and she asked the question, “DNA only has 4 letters; how did they spell anything using that?” We both know the answer, but what do you think?