It's almost that time of year again. The leaves have fallen in central BC and we are starting to sit down to write up mineral assessments for the 2019 field season. Whether you are just beginning to write your assessment reports, or you had the background ready to go since the start of the season, there is a common writing style that appears to be infiltrating assessment reports filed in British Columbia and the Yukon Territory: plagiarism, excessive quoting and, to a lesser extent, ghostwriting.
While some see assessment reports as a necessary and unpleasant task to keep claims in good-standing, it is important to keep in mind that they are reviewed by government geologists as well as by next-year's crew, they are typically a go-to for investors and they encapsulate anywhere between a few hundred dollars and upwards of millions of dollars of work. In other words, they are an official document that represents your work as well as your company or client and encapsulates their project.
Plagiarism is copying original work without mentioning the source whereas ghostwriting is the production of original work for transfer of exclusive use, by mutual consent, to another. Excessive quoting, as a general rule, is typically when greater than 20 % of the body of a report is quoted material. Why are these writing styles becoming more prevalent? It could be due to the rise in academic misconduct within universities and the difficulty policing these activities in the digital age. Other reasons, could include ignorance that their writing style is inappropriate or harming others. Another reason could be that the author is succumbing to the pressure of a looming deadline. Unfortunately, since a lot of contracts have a "work product" provision, the final product (such as a report) becomes the sole property of the company and there is nothing that can really be done about someone plagiarizing your work for the next year's report.
How does plagiarism, ghostwriting and excessive quoting harm others?
While it is flattering that your work is copied, it doesn't help to advance your career when you aren't given credit for the work. A lot of people working in mineral exploration live by seasonal contracts so if they can't get their name out there, they can't find work. There is also an expectation that due diligence was done when submitting a report or quoting another author. Often, mistakes can be proliferated through the years as each successive author neglects to back-check the previous author's work. Lastly, there is an expectation that the author has reviewed all the information and is giving their recommendations based on previous and current work completed. Quotes of another author's recommendations don't really belong in the Conclusions and Recommendations section since the previous author didn't have access to the current year's results. In the end, your client or company isn't getting their money's worth and they haven't advanced the knowledge of their project.
Not sure how to properly reference?
There are a lot of sources on when, how and where to cite information. The most relevant rule when writing mineral assessment reports is to cite when you are summarizing or paraphrasing another's work such as describing the regional geology or outlining the previous work done in the area. It is not sufficient to copy another's references then copy their paragraphs, words or statements as your own. Even if you are given permission from the original author to copy a section (i.e., ghostwriting), it is ideal that credit is given in the Qualifications Section if they aren't a co-author (n.b., this is not suitable for a NI 43-101 technical report):
I authored the assessment report with the assistance of Jane Doe.
Jane Doe authored the Sample Preparation, Analysis and Security paragraphs.
Take the three-pronged approach (which is not appropriate for academic work!):
Step 1 - State in the Introduction which sections were extracted from the previous report and cite it.
The following sections were extracted from Smith, et al. (2018): Location, Access, Property Geology, Property Description and History, as well as the Work Program-Survey Methodology.
Step 2 - Under Qualifications state which sections were solely authored by you (e.g. Introduction, Current Results, as well as the Conclusions and Recommendations).
I am responsible for the following sections in the 2019 Report titled, "2019 Geological Field Program on a Really-Good Gold Property": Introduction, 2019 Work Program-Results as well as the Conclusions and Recommendations sections. The remainder of the report was compiled from Smith, et al. (2018).
Step 3 - Add the previous report to the References.
Smith, S. and Doe, J. (2018). 2018 Geochemical Report for the Really-Good Gold Property. Really-Good Ore Resources Ltd. Assessment Report 00000, Yukon Geological Survey; Department of Energy, Mines and Resources.
Quoting too much?
Refer to the above Looming Deadline or work on your summarizing skills. Summarizing is an important skill to have as it allows for condensed versions of previous work, it shows your understanding of the topic and it gives the opportunity to simplify important concepts or ideas for people with different backgrounds to easily understand.
About the Author:
Dr. Benz has over 20 years of experience working in the mineral exploration industry searching for diamonds and metals in a range of roles: from heavy minerals lab technician to till sampler, rig geologist, project manager and business owner. She has a Bachelor of Science in General Biology, a Master of Science degree in Earth Sciences researching diamond indicator mineral geochemistry and a Ph.D. in Natural Resources and Environmental Studies researching geochemical multivariate statistical analysis techniques for use in interpreting biogeochemical data for mineral exploration. Diana has conducted field work in Canada (BC, NWT, YT and ON) as well as in Greenland. She has also been involved, remotely through a BC-based office, on mineral exploration projects located in South America, Africa, Eurasia, and the Middle East. Currently, Diana is the owner of Takom Exploration Ltd., a small geological and environmental consulting firm focused on metal exploration in BC and the Yukon.