4. Responsibility to scholarship.

  • Linguists are collectively responsible for the reputation and progress of the discipline and should endeavor to maintain a high degree of professionalism in all aspects of their work.
  • Linguists are subject to the standards of conduct found in other disciplines and should practice honesty (e.g., by not plagiarizing or fabricating data).
  • Those conducting field research should do all they can to preserve opportunities for researchers who may follow them in the field.
  • Linguists should make all reasonable efforts to preserve their original documentary materials.
  • Linguists should strive to follow through on promises made in funded grant proposals and should acknowledge the support of sponsors.
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6 Responses to 4. Responsibility to scholarship.

  1. Linguists are subject to the standards of conduct found in other disciplines and should practice honesty (e.g., by not plagiarizing or fabricating data). SUGGESTED ADDITION:
    In particular, linguists should be scrupulously careful in citing the original source of ideas, descriptions and data.

  2. Jeff Good says:

    Regarding:

    “Linguists should make all reasonable efforts to preserve their original documentary materials.”

    There is an approved (but not yet posted officially) statement regarding preservation archiving here:

    “In recognition of the fact that many language resources, especially those documenting endangered languages, are irreplaceable, the LSA recommends that all irreplaceable language resources, whether physical or digital in nature, be deposited in an appropriate preservation archive; that is, an institution with a commitment to permanence.”

    (See: https://lsadc.org/info/lsa-exec-0508.cfm)

    The language of this statement deliberately says “irreplaceable” to exclude certain kinds of data collection (e.g., from psycholinguistic work) that are considered to be replaceable by virtue of being replicable.

    Maybe the modifier “irreplaceable” should be added above? Or maybe “documentary” implies irreplaceable?

  3. I disagree with Greville Corbett, or perhaps I think he’s painting a delicate area with a broad brush.

    Some — even many — ideas are incremental. People add pieces to the puzzle. Person X has a broad and vague idea. Person Y makes it concrete. Person Z implements it as a computational algorithm. Sometimes, Y might be the best choice in that he/she was where the idea became real.

    Or, here’s another example. W establishes an important result, but it turns out to be wrong. Should one reference him, even decades later?

    Or, V makes a guess, but she has no evidence for it. It’s a guess, a conjecture. Is it ethical to reference V before the person who actually proves it?

    While I’m all in favour of careful and correct reference, I don’t want to see language that would enforce too high a degree of ancestor worship in Linguistics.

  4. “Professionalism” is vague. The definition of honesty (in the sense of no plagarism or fabrication) is too darn weak. I should hope we can do better than that. Especially in Linguistics, which is a field dealing with complex, subjective data, we need to be even more careful than the hard scientists.

    For instance, fabrication is easy enough to define when one is reading a meter. You either write down the correct value or you don’t. It’s hard to fabricate that kind of data and not know that you are doing it.

    But, consider interpretations of intonation patterns, or semantic subtleties in a little-known language. Sometimes, one isn’t sure what the right interpretation is, or (indeed) if one’s own interpretation is the same as the interpretation of a native speaker.

    One can try to do the right thing, but there is no bright line to cross between honesty and fabrication. One’s interpretation of an utterance will certainly be coloured by one’s theoretical ideas, to a lesser or a greater extent. So, we need to bring up the idea of guarding against unintentional biases, even more than against blatant fabrication.

  5. Sonja Lanehart says:

    I agree that scholars should preserve their documentation and make clear their methods and methodologies for replication. However, some IRBs have become so draconian that they are not allowing scholars to preserve data. Some scholars are being told by IRBs to destroy their data after the study is complete so as better preserve confidentiality.

  6. Bjorn Jernudd says:

    Can we really assume in a statement of this kind that there are colleagues who do not ‘maintain… professionalism’? Delete this paragraph. I hold the same for the one on ‘honesty’.

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