Sixth grader's internet-famous science project may have been plagiarized



Someone will offer the kid tenure by the end of the week. Or maybe not, because they still need to pilfer a grant and sleep with a graduate student for the trifecta.


OK. I’m a little confused. I thought the point of most grade school science projects was to do science experiments. Not necessarily anything NEW - just do experiments, map the data, and report your findings. You know, science!

So even if her dad said something like, “You know, I know a guy who found lion fish in a fresh water estuary. I think they can live in fresher water than most people think. Why don’t we do an experiment where we alter the salinity of the water and track the results?”

Then then the kid gets a lion fish, repeatedly lowers the salinity, and reports the results. How is that any different than any other experiment?

It seems to me the problem is the “media” found the story and was like, “OMG, that is so smart. Why didn’t anyone think of this before? Hey everyone! Look at what this kid did that no one thought of.” with out doing any research to see if she indeed was the first to come up with, vs just repeating a past experiment.

Or is this more convoluted, where she and/or her dad are claiming originators to the idea? Sort of how like someone takes an old song no one really heard of and it hits big. There is a big difference between others rocketing it to fame, and the band claiming they were the original creator of the song.


She and her dad seem to be claiming discovery.


Well then that’s uncool. You don’t have to make stuff up to get people to like you. Just be yourself.


I found this bit on Layman’s page from last March:

He cites Jud’s paper and certainly doesn’t seem to be stealing any thunder a few months back.

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Stage father I guess.


I realize that there is a certain pressure to treat children with kid gloves, but I am a bit worried about all this talk about not putting her off science.

I do not know to what extent she realized what she did, but she has to be taught in no uncertain terms what she did and that there is no place in science for people like her. Yes, given the amount of publicity they created that will likely be traumatizing, but I think it would be unethical to let it slide.

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Did she even do anything? Like, literally, is any part of her story not Dad? I guess I’m sensitive because I actually know what it is like to have a narcissist for a parent. If I were her I’d stay out of science forever just so that she can do something her parent can’t figure out. Like, change your name, and try your hand at something like accounting.


Is it impossible it’s just parallel discoveries? I’m not sure what the kid “discovered” aside from catching a fish in a place the fish wasn’t supposed to be. It was also more or less her own neighborhood.

It’s possible her father said, “I know of some amazing research you can steal! Your teacher will be none the wiser!” But it’s also possible he said, “I hear there’s some oddball fish in that stream - why not check it out?” Crying plagiarism on a middle school kid without any investigation at all is kind of not cool.

As a teacher and a parent science fair veteran, this is one of those projects that reads to me as “the parent did 99% of this.” I used to live in Pasadena, CA. One of my daughter’s classmates had two parents who worked at CalTech. Her fourth grade project was “Extracting DNA from Plants using Common Household Items”, I kid you not.


From TFP:

Acknowledgement This project was made possible by a close partnership with the Loxahatchee River District. Lauren Arrington (King’s Academy, West Palm Beach, FL) conducted preliminary laboratory experiments that helped give rise to our experimental design.
Jud acknowledges the kid's contribution in his paper...

Yes, that’s a good point. It could be something as simple as how fast water drains through hoses of different lengths and diameters. It might not win a prize, but I’d respect that sort of project if it used good methods.

That’s the follow-up paper, not the original from 2011. It seems the father, who was well aware of the original research as a colleage and (non-technical) co-author of the original paper, is the one who has been hyping his daughter’s work and obscuring the original.

There’s some speculation and overview in this comment from yesterday.


Where did you get that quote from? The acknowledgements in Jud and Layman 2012 don’t mention her:

We would like to thank J. Lee for assistance in thefield and D. Sabinfor creating maps of the study sites. Additionally, we appreciate thecontinued support and cooperation of numerous homeowners alongthe Loxahatchee estuary as well as the Loxahatchee River District. Lion-fish were collected pursuant to Florida Fish and Wildlife ConservationCommission Permit # SAL-09-1118A-SR. Partial funding was providedby NSF OCE #0746164 and OCE #0940019

from @SteampunkBanana’s linked page:
Published Feb 2014.

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That’s only true if you’re actually likable in the first place. I think you need to check your privilege.

Was Lionfish Research Hijacked by 12-Year Old from Palm Beach Florida? | Central Florida Aquarium Society
This seems to have a better summary of the issue and how Jud has tried to engage the authors of some of the articles.

It links to this paper that still says that Jud was inspired by the kid’s research (even after the author was corrected).
Teen shows salty lionfish are getting fresh | Student Science

What privilege? No one likes me.


I think Weatherman means it as in “Who cares if people like you?”

Except life really is easier and better if people like you. So I can totally see why some people would do just about anything to be liked. Oddly enough, people also dislike this behavior though.

People… see, this is why I work with machines.