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In the summer of 2010, I was elated to see the review of a book on Beauty Bias in the New York Times Sunday Book Review. I thought, "The New York Times has reviewed my book! Three years late, but still…!" Then I noticed that the titles are slightly different (my book title is Beauty Bias: Discrimination and Social Power whereas the 2010 book title is The Beauty Bias: The Injustice of Life and Law) and that the author’s name is not mine. I read the review and was stunned to discover that the topics discussed, the legal cases examined, and the conclusions reached were exactly the same as the ones of which I had written in my 2007 book,
My first thought and my remaining hope is that it must be a coincidence. After all, two writers, working on the same topic, are likely to be acquainted with the same literature, apply the same legal cases, and arrive at the same conclusions.
Sociologica, the European review journal, asked me to review the 2010 book because, they said, they noticed that the titles are so similar. They sent a copy, which I read and reviewed. Suffice it to say that the 2010 book covered 64 of the same topics that I had covered in my 2007 book, a number of the same legal cases were used, and about 50 of the same citations were cited. (Many of the citations are sociological, some new, some vintage; the other author is not a sociologist.) The conclusions and recommendations for the future are the same. There was nothing new in this 2010 edition that would differentiate it from mine.
I have not referred to the 2010 book, which so closely resembles mine, as a plagiarized work. There is no instance in which the wording is identical even though the coverage, the citations, the legal cases, and conclusions are the same. And the author of the 2010 book does cite my work in the chapter notes even though my work does not appear in the index or the body of the text. However, I remain puzzled as to how it happens that, authors working independently, with the later-publishing author knowing of the first-publishing author’s work, can publish an almost-identical work as though the later-published work is original.
It would be helpful to all scientific disciplines to have this phenomenon better understood and information about it disseminated to academic audiences. To that end, I am asking the ASA membership to send me similar stories of their same-book/different-author experience. I hope to collect these stories, analyze them, and publish the findings in an academic outlet. (I am also making this same request of the American Society of Criminology membership.)
Please contact me with your experiences in this regard. Please share what happened, what you did about it, what the outcomes were, and, if you did nothing about it, why you chose not to pursue the matter.
Bonnie Berry, Director of the Social Problems Research Group, firstname.lastname@example.orgBack to Top of Page