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Jane is doing a PhD and is supervised by Professor Mary. Mary asked Jane to put together a review article for a book based on a draft chapter from Jane’s thesis with additional suggestions from Mary. The book article was submitted with the authors listed as Jane and Mary (corresponding author). I am unsure whether this has actually been published, though it was submitted well before the now-published review by Mary.

Sometime later, Mary submitted a broader review article online which used large chunks of text and figures from the book article which were directly written/generated by Jane. Whole paragraphs were copied verbatim from the first article to Mary’s article, and many more paragraphs were slightly rewritten but contained exactly the same references and phrases from the first article. Mary’s paper did not cite the book review. Mary was listed as the sole author. Jane was not informed this review was being written, and was not asked for permission to include her figures or content from the book article, which were originally written by her for her thesis.

  1. Did Jane ‘hand over’ the rights to her written material to Mary by agreeing to submit the book article under both of their names?

  2. Should Mary have credited Jane in the article as a second author because she used exact sentences from the book article which were written by Jane?

  3. Will Jane still be able to use these (her) phrases and figures in her thesis despite not being credited on Mary’s online article?

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    The first question we have to resolve is whether Mary plagiarized from the earlier joint paper. (a) Did Mary's paper cite the previous paper by Jane and Mary, and did it make clear that the relevant text and figures were extracted therefrom? (b) Were the text and figures of a sort that the standards of the field would normally expect to be original (i.e. not "boilerplate"?) – Nate Eldredge Jan 23 '18 at 3:13
  • A separate question is whether Mary has infringed the copyright of the previous paper. But I think that's not really on topic here - we can speak knowledgeably about the ethics but less so about the law. (There is Law.SE for the latter.) – Nate Eldredge Jan 23 '18 at 3:14
  • Original poster here - Mary's paper did not cite the book review (co-authored by Mary and Jane - unsure whether this has actually been published yet though it was submitted well before the now-published review by Mary). – Anonymous Jan 23 '18 at 3:20
  • Original poster again - I'm not quite sure what you mean by the text being 'standards of the field' but whole paragraphs were copied from the first article to Mary's article (not rewritten at all), and many more paragraphs which were slightly rewritten but contained exactly the same references and phrases from the first article. – Anonymous Jan 23 '18 at 3:23
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    unsure whether this has actually been published yet – A search for your article on the Internet should yield this information. – Wrzlprmft Jan 23 '18 at 19:37
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Here are the relevant facts:

Copyright

  • The copyright of everything you create belongs to you by default (in any reasonable legislation).

  • In some legislations, your copyright or parts thereof may automatically be transferred to your employer upon creation.

  • Apart from that, any sort of copyright transfer can usually only happen due to a contract you signed, e.g., with your university, supervisor, or a publisher. In the latter case, your co-authors (i.e., your supervisor) usually do not gain additional rights.

  • Publishing content to which you hold the copyright without your permission constitutes a copyright infringement.

  • The crucial question in case of a lawsuit will likely be what you can prove that you created.

Academic Ethics

  • If you creatively contributed to an article, which particularly includes conceptualising figures and writing paragraphs for a review articles, you have to be made a co-author according to academic authorship standards.

  • Even if Mary were the sole author of both articles involved, re-using material in the way you describe may constitute self-plagiarism. This mostly depends on the publisher’s requirements regarding the absence of prior publication and the status of book articles in your field.

  • Submitting any content you created for publication without citation or similar considers a breach of academic ethics even if you are listed as an author or do not hold the copyright.

What you should do

  • Secure all evidence of which content you created.
  • Check your contracts and what has been published.
  • Talk to your supervisor.

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