Should I tell my supervisor about someone else's plagiarism?

posted
29-Sep-13, 18:53
edited about 13 seconds later
by lewis89
Avatar for lewis89
posted about 6 years ago
Hello All!

I have found out that a colleague whom I share a supervisor with has appropriated someone else's work, delivered it at a conference as his own, and not given any reference to the actual researchers. In addition to this, I have been pre-warned by two colleagues that he will either try and manipulate and piggyback on your work / or will try and make moves on you (which has happened) - The latter part I can deal with, but I am concerned for my supervisor who is really out there working at an international level with some amazing research connections, should I talk to him about how this person has treated other academics or should I just sit back? I know that plagiarism is a no no, but I do not know how it impacts on the big picture - i.e., will it even be a concern for my supervisor??

Thanks for your help, 'ppreciate your time.
Lewis,
posted
29-Sep-13, 20:35
edited about 4 seconds later
Avatar for happyclappy
posted about 6 years ago
Personally, I'd avoid getting involved. It's your supervisor's problem, sadly, which sounds very cold hearted, but supervisor/student relations can sour so quickly it's really not worth getting involved. It's not going to be rocket science for other people, possibly the supervisor, to notice the similarity between an internationally-renowned supervisor, and his student. Without being disparaging, it's probably easy to work out which one is cheating!
posted
29-Sep-13, 21:29
Avatar for bewildered
posted about 6 years ago
Lewis, can I clarify something? Was the concrete example of plagiarism published anywhere e.g. in a paper database or proceedings? And is/was the person they stole the work from a member of your department or from elsewhere? And when you say plagiarism do you mean a small portion of the work was cut and pasted or that most of / the entire paper was about research that your colleague had not carried out? Can you provide unimpeachable evidence or is this hearsay?
If for example you have a copy of the conference paper and the original paper and the overlap is substantial, then I'd be more inclined to pass it to your supervisor with as little comment as possible, as yes if a PhD student is engaging in public and obvious plagiarism it does not reflect well on the supervisor (even worse if it's included in the thesis). At the very least, s/he would want to double check anything they co-published with this person. If on the other hand, this is hearsay, I'd stay well clear.
posted
30-Sep-13, 06:22
edited about 3 minutes later
Avatar for MeaninginLife
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From lewis89:
In addition to this, I have been pre-warned by two colleagues that he will either try and manipulate and piggyback on your work / or will try and make moves on you (which has happened) - The latter part I can deal with, but I am concerned for my supervisor who is really out there working at an international level with some amazing research connections, should I talk to him about how this person has treated other academics or should I just sit back?


What if your two colleagues take revenge brutally? because you "destroy" their future... You should have kept quiet...

In this stage, you could suggest them to modify their work as much as possible so that it is not clearly plagiarism... or even suggest them how to modify... let them feel that you care for their future... because you are all on the same boat...
posted
30-Sep-13, 10:55
edited a moment later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 6 years ago
I'm tempted to say stay out of this, as I've found out the hard way that if your face doesn't fit or you upset the status quo you're just as likely to be frozen or edged out as the guilty party. To carry through a complaint, you need solid, irrefutable proof of what is happening. If you don't, knowing Universities, you yourself can end up labelled a trouble maker.

However, there's the possibility he/she is going to claim someone else's findings as his / her own and damage this other person as well and that just isn't right.

Is there anyway of anonymously letting your or their supervisor know, or someone else in the department, this is happening?


Ian (Mackem_Beefy)
posted
30-Sep-13, 17:06
Avatar for Angelette
posted about 6 years ago
Hi Lewis

I would really keep quiet about this, and make sure that you do not get dragged into any of his/her antics.

Angelette
posted
30-Sep-13, 17:44
edited about 8 seconds later
by wowzers
Avatar for wowzers
posted about 6 years ago
Really tricky. If they have delivered this at conference then others might pick up that it's not their own work. I get that you are worried if your sup doesn't pick up on it and it comes to light it might reflect badly on the department but it should have no bearing on our PhD. I guess you might be worried about having your reputation damaged by association (plus you might like your sup and want to protect them) but I think it would be really remote that this would happen. Not the ethical thing to do I suppose but I would probably distance myself from this. Whilstelblowing can still cause more damage to the whistelblowers reputation than the reputation of the unethical party! Unfortunately :(
posted
02-Oct-13, 12:02
edited about 29 minutes later
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From wowzers:
Really tricky. If they have delivered this at conference then others might pick up that it's not their own work. I get that you are worried if your sup doesn't pick up on it and it comes to light it might reflect badly on the department but it should have no bearing on our PhD. I guess you might be worried about having your reputation damaged by association (plus you might like your sup and want to protect them) but I think it would be really remote that this would happen. Not the ethical thing to do I suppose but I would probably distance myself from this. Whilstelblowing can still cause more damage to the whistelblowers reputation than the reputation of the unethical party! Unfortunately :(


Yup, my own supervisor openly said to another person after I finished (I happened to be in the room doing something else) that Universities tended to close ranks against whistleblowers. I've seen freeze out tactics used not just for whistleblowers, but for people that were considered surplus to requirements or "in the way of other's plans".

There was a beauty of a story from a German University about the treatment of a whistle blower there. A student was faking data and a senior academic realised this after the student was awarded his PhD. As the University decided to award the student for an outstanding contribution to his field, the academic questioned the student's results. The academic twice fell ill and although it could not be proven beyond doubt, it was suspected a substance had been put in the academic's coffee by the spiteful student. In order to cover up the incident, the student was allowed to keep his PhD and awards. The academic was 'moved on' and in his own words is trying to live a 'quiet' existence in another German University (i.e. not rock the boat or draw attention to his past).

I'll try to look for the link to the article.

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)
posted
05-Oct-13, 09:39
edited about 15 seconds later
Avatar for metabanalysis
posted about 6 years ago
First make sure first that the material being presented wasn't the product of some kind of collaboration that the presenter was legitimately involved in, or that he had permission from the researchers to present the material. You could probably only find out this from the researchers whose work you say the presenter plagiarised. If it's a provable case of the researchers' material being plagiarised then the researchers will probably want to be the people to make the decision on what action to take.
posted
05-Oct-13, 10:58
Avatar for Mackem_Beefy
posted about 6 years ago
Quote From metabanalysis:
First make sure first that the material being presented wasn't the product of some kind of collaboration that the presenter was legitimately involved in, or that he had permission from the researchers to present the material. You could probably only find out this from the researchers whose work you say the presenter plagiarised. If it's a provable case of the researchers' material being plagiarised then the researchers will probably want to be the people to make the decision on what action to take.


Additionally, if the researchers who were being plagerised were to 'get together' to complain, then the University would see it was a real problem and not a 'trouble maker' complaining about someone else over an isolated incident or 'one-on-one' problem. 'Moving on' multiple complainants at the same time as dealing with a wrong doer just isn't feasible.

Sorry about sounding so cynical about University politics. :-/

Ian (Mackem_Beefy)

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