Welcome back to Our Lands Speak blog. My wishes for us all, a promising and healthy new year. That said, these times we’re living in still feel full of upheaval and uncertainty. More now than ever it is important to remind ourselves of what matters most to us, our families, and our livelihoods. Then we must stay the course of what is true and worthy of our attention. With this in mind, we continue the conversation we began in early December on some of the less than noble practices affecting archaeology today.
As some of you may know, I was compelled into early retirement from my job as Executive Director of the London Museum of Archaeology in 2001. In my opinion this represented an aggressive takeover of the museum by a coterie of individuals who, in part, wanted the space, endowed funds, and other facilities of the museum for their own yet undefined purposes. In retrospect, I now believe there was also an ulterior motive to deprive me of a salary, research space, equipment, and research funds which would have otherwise allowed me to continue my research in the Crawford Lake area and elsewhere, thus further detracting from the accomplishments of one of the members in this clique.
However, as the saying goes, “when one door closes, another one opens.” For me this provided the unparalleled opportunity to take the lessons learned from the museum’s program of cultural resource management to create my own archaeological consulting firm. After more than 12 years of focused effort, my company has been established as a successful integrity-based archaeological consulting company with a great staff complement. By 2017 I was able to devote some of my work hours to archaeological research for the first time in more than a decade and a half. Ultimately this resulted in the publication of my 2020 landmark study, The Draper Site, an Ontario Woodland Tradition Frontier Coalescent Village in Southern Ontario, Canada: Looking Back, Moving Forward.
In doing the research for my Draper book, I became aware of a significant increase in the amount of plagiarism, something that was not apparent when I was doing the research for my 1998 4-volume study of 76 sites in the Crawford Lake area entitled Iroquoian Peoples of the Land of Rocks and Water A.D. 1000 to 1650: A Study in Settlement Archaeology. In an earlier blog I detailed the presentation of a photoshopped and plagiarized image of the Draper site; here, I present a few other examples.
Plagiarism is, of course, a significant violation of conduct of any academic research or other endeavour and, in many cases, has resulted in the firing of individuals caught plagiarizing and has even on occasion resulted in the revocation of graduate degrees. One of the memorable recent cases involved a former Director of the Toronto District School Board who was fired for plagiarism and subsequently had his Ph.D. degree revoked.
In my research on the Draper book, I found numerous instances, many of which involved use of data compiled:
- By myself or those who worked for me in preparing the various reports on different classes and categories of data from Draper
- From the test excavations of Iroquoian sites on the Pickering Airport Lands or
- By consulting firms undertaking archaeological studies for government agencies or private sector developers
Below, I cite three examples but will not mention the offending practitioners. Some of these are noted in my 2020 book and are referenced there in a low-key, professional manner.
- In one paper, data on the pottery types for a sample of 2,384 rimsherds from the Draper site are used in making comparisons with other Ontario Woodland Tradition sites. These data are plagiarized from an unpublished report on the Draper site rimsherds prepared by Mr. Rob Pihl and submitted to me in January 1984 after he had left the employ of the museum. What is even more troubling is that Pihl’s report is a hand-written one that was submitted to me and judged not worthy of word processing and publication. This report should not have been circulated and certainly not used as a source of data.
- In another publication, data are presented on the size in hectares for each of the segments of the Draper site. These are detailed as Core:19 ha, Expansion 1: 0.12 ha, Expansion 2: 0.76 ha, Expansion 3: 0.77 ha, Expansion 4: 0.18 ha, and Expansion 5: 0.39 ha. These data are, with one exception, copied from my 1985 settlement pattern study on the Draper site. The data are presented on pages 422, 423, 427, 429, and 430 of this study. The exception is 0.76 ha for Expansion 2 which is an error in the plagiarism. The correct number for Expansion 2 is 0.77. In this case, the data are not properly plagiarized. We now have the situation where the wrong data are being circulated incorrectly and will no doubt be cited by those who prefer to use secondary sources rather than primary ones.
- As a final example, another publication presents data on the rimsherd types recovered from the Wilson Park site, an Ontario Woodland Tradition site located south of Draper on Duffin Creek. These data are copied from a licence report filed by Dana Poulton of D. R. Poulton Associates Inc. with the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries (2006:20). Once again, no evidence is presented that these data were collected and presented by Poulton. Again, even more disconcerting is the fact that this sample of rimsherds is attributed to a surface collection by Archaeological Services Inc. It is true that A.S.I. worked on the site in 2011 and 2012 and detailed in a report dated 2015. This work resulted in the collection of an additional nine rimsherds, the findings of which were not added to the sample collected by Poulton. Here again, original data collected by a consulting firm are not only plagiarized but the source of these data have been misrepresented and will no doubt be cited in the future by others who, as noted above, prefer the use of secondary published data rather that taking the time to obtain the original source.
These are only three examples of plagiarism and, secondarily, shoddy research. There are others I believe that denote a serious deterioration in quality academic research which is completely unacceptable. My own attempts to correct these situations have unfortunately been unsuccessful. In one instance the practitioner, a serial plagiarizer, resigned from an organization with a code of ethics, rather than address my complaint.
From my perspective, one of the most significant problems of the above mentioned including the misrepresentation of sources of data is that these habits are being passed on to graduate students who will represent the next generation of practitioners with yet a further decline in professional practice.
I can only hope that as we move forward as an industry and as a society that we can become more inclusive and respectful of each other’s contributions, requesting permission and/or crediting original sources as appropriate. Working together will always win out. To that end, I will continue, to the best of my abilities, to present the public with meaningful, quality publications that will serve Ontario’s rich history.
William D. Finlayson, Ph.D.
Ontario’s Leading and Senior-Most Archaeologist and Author
Feature image: Location of Realignment Substage Sites on Duffin Creek
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