Jane Goodall blames 'chaotic note taking' for plagiarism controversy

Scientist revises her book Seeds of Hope after allegations 12 sections were lifted from other websites

Leading primatologist Jane Goodall has blamed a "hectic work schedule" and her "chaotic method of note taking" for a plagarism controversy surrounding her reissued book.

Speaking ahead of the publication of a revised edition of Seeds of Hope, first published in August 2013, Goodall, said she had learned lessons following reports in the Washington Post last year that at least 12 sections of the book were lifted from other websites including Wikipedia.

"I am not methodical enough, I guess," she said in an interview with online magazine Mosaic. "In some cases, you look at my notebooks, there's no way you can tell whether this is from talking to somebody or whether it was something I read on the internet."

Last year an expert asked by the Washington Post to review Seeds of Hope spotted that some passages in the book echoed various other sources. The paper then published a report that claimed that at least 12 sections in the book were lifted from other websites, and which included an admission from Goodall of her failure correctly to cite her sources.

Examples cited by the paper included a sentence on organic farming that also appears on the website Choice Organic Teas, word for word.

Wikipedia also appears to have been used for a source: talking about the American botanist John Bartram, who lived during the 1700s and shipped seeds to Europe, Goodall informs her readers that "'Bartram's Boxes,' as they came to be known, were regularly sent to Peter Collinson for distribution to a wide list of European clients." The Wikipedia entry on Bartram contains a virtually identical sentence.

British primatologist and conservationist Jane Goodall
Jane Goodall interacts with chimpanzees at Taronga Zoo, Sydney, Australia. Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA Photograph: Dean Lewins/EPA

Speaking in detail about the row for the first time Goodall told Mosaic that she had been naive.

"I have learned. In the future, I shall be more organised even if I don't have time. I shall certainly make sure I know who said something or what I read or where I read it."

The scientist who came to prominence researching the behaviour of chimpanzees insisted she had not intentionally tried to pass off anyone else's words as her own. "I don't think anybody who knows me would accuse me of deliberate plagiarism," she added.

In the revised edition of Seeds of Hope, to be published this month [April], Goodall said she had made minor changes to the text to address the book's critics and added a lengthy notes section. "I don't think a book has ever been more researched than this one. The notes at the end are about as long as the book."

And she claimed the controversy had turned out to be a "godsend."

"I am really happy for the sake of the plants that we've got it right now. I feel this is a book we can really be proud of now."

Contributor

Matthew Taylor

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Global warming: Rate of tree deaths in western US rising due to climate change, study warns

Trees in the western United States are dying twice as quickly as they did three decades ago and scientists think global warming is to blame

Alok Jha, green technology correspondent

22, Jan, 2009 @7:05 PM

Article image
Jane Goodall book held back after accusations of plagiarism

Seeds of Hope, the primatologist's new book, has publication delayed after newspaper finds uncredited sources

Alison Flood

25, Mar, 2013 @11:29 AM

Another view: Ecologist Sue Hartley on The Happening

Ecologist Sue Hartley on The Happening

Sue Hartley

23, Jun, 2008 @11:01 PM

Article image
Purring monkey and vegetarian piranha among 400 new Amazon species

Four years of scientific expeditions have found previously unknown animals and plants in world's largest tropical rainforest

Jessica Aldred

23, Oct, 2013 @5:00 AM

Article image
David Attenborough and Jane Goodall join the fight to create a new national park in Victoria
Supporters of the proposed Great Forest national park say the entire central highlands’ ecosystem, the fate of the emblematic Leadbeater’s possum and the economic future of struggling towns are at stake as the state election approaches

Oliver Milman

10, Nov, 2014 @9:47 PM

Article image
Jane Goodall honoured at Observer Ethical Awards 2012
Primatologist receives lifetime achievement award, and says she would like to be known for her work with youth movement too

John Vidal

30, May, 2012 @7:00 PM

Article image
World's giant trees are dying off rapidly, studies show
Ecological 'kings of the jungle' being toppled by forest fragmentation, severe drought and new pests and diseases

John Vidal, environment editor

26, Jan, 2012 @7:00 AM

Article image
Secrets of a tree whisperer: ‘They get along, they listen – they’re attuned’
The woman who discovered the woodwide web shares the wisdom of a life spent listening to the forest in her new book

Kate Kellaway

24, Apr, 2021 @4:00 PM

Article image
Things That Are: Encounters with Plants, Stars and Animals by Amy Leach – review

Mad, mystical and acutely perceptive about nature, these are essays to bring us back to Earth, says Olivia Laing

Olivia Laing

09, Jun, 2013 @9:00 AM

Article image
Jane Goodall admits to using web material without citation in new book
Seeds of Hope, written by renowned primatologist, uses passages from various websites without attribution

Adam Vaughan and Leo Hickman

20, Mar, 2013 @10:47 AM