Jane Goodall’s New Book Is a Little Bit Plagiarized


Jane Goodall, the woman all budding biologists probably want to be when they grow up until they realize how thoroughly gross and terrifying it would be to actually live with apes, is releasing a new book next month about plants. Before you get too excited and stake out camping spot in front of your favorite failing bookstore, though, you should know that at least a dozen passages in Goodall’s new plant manifesto have been “borrowed” from the internets without any attribution or footnotes.

The Washington Post reports that the borrowed bits in Seeds of Hope: Wisdom and Wonder from the World of Plants range “from phrases to an entire paragraph from Web sites such as Wikipedia and others that focus on astrology, tobacco, beer, nature and organic tea.” Goodall co-authored the book with Gail Hudson, who has collaborated on two previous projects with the 78-year-old chimp whisperer. In a statement, Goodall seemed to be just as surprised as the guileless public that her book had been so busy plundering Wikipedia:

This was a long and well researched book, and I am distressed to discover that some of the excellent and valuable sources were not properly cited, and I want to express my sincere apologies. I hope it is obvious that my only objective was to learn as much as I could so that I could provide straightforward factual information distilled from a wide range of reliable sources.

So, somehow, Goodall’s book managed not to cite its own sources. The nerve! This is precisely why print media is dying — no one can trust books anymore. They’re all liars and cheats, trying to sully Jane Goodall’s good name.

Goodall said that she plans to discuss the citation issues on her blog on the Jane Goodall Institute site, though Seeds of Hope contributor Hudson had no comment. Publisher Grand Central was just as shocked about the citation issues as Jane Goodall, because apparently this book was created in an alternate universe where the Internet has not yet been invented.

The Post report points to specific instances of passage-lifting, some of which seem to go beyond mere licentiousness. For instance, Goodall takes time to tell readers all about the benefits of sustainable farming, fretting over the dismal working conditions of tea harvesters:

According to Oxfam, a British nonprofit agency working to put an end to poverty worldwide, the spraying of pesticides on tea estates is often done by untrained casual daily-wage workers, sometimes even by children and adolescents.

The Post identifies that paragraph as belonging, originally, to the Choice Organic Teas site. That company, which is dedicated to “ethical labor practices,” has an eyebrow-raising connection with Jane Goodall:

Choice Organic Teas was selected in 2010 to carry the Jane Goodall “Good for All” brand on a new line of products, and it donates a slice of its profits to the Jane Goodall Institute.

Ugh, it’s too early in the day for so much disillusionment. All we need now is to find out that the stuffed monkey Jane Goodall is holding in this picture wasn’t stuffed with fur from a sustainable alpaca farm.

Jane Goodall’s ‘Seeds of Hope’ book contains borrowed passages without attribution [WaPo]

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