7

I have completed M.tech and submitted my thesis. A year later I realized my thesis was used to publish an article which was a replica of a section of the thesis. Even the values were the same. I was shocked and contacted my supervisor/Guide and the other author to which they responded that it was not a preplanned act. I requested a correction as it was my work. Still, they were unwilling and told me that they won't. I contacted the editor and requested for addition and provided proof(thesis). The journal editors withdrew the article.

I then published a book based on my thesis. Again after a year, I found out that they had published two more articles merely taken from my thesis as such! All this while they didn't even bother to add me as the author.

I feel this is highly unethical and despite the fact that it was my work they didn't add my name at all! One of the journals replied that they agree that the article was taken from my thesis and there was significant overlap, they can provide a correction in the author list or retract the article.

I am confused should I accept the correction as suggested or go for retraction? If I go for correction will they continue this? Should I retract? will it affect them badly?

SORRY for making it lengthy, please forgive and thanks for reading guys. Please advise.

edit: If I chose to retract but still want to publish papers (from the thesis with reference to the pre-published book) will this retraction affect my publication?

edit2: These papers were published by a pHD student(1st author) & my supervisor/guide as the second author. Thanks for the replies, As of now the article is not yet retracted. The Journal editors suggest to either opt for correction or retraction. They told will inform Institute if I chose to retract.

edit3: Thank you all for the answers the paper had been retracted but unfortunately, another paper had been published by the same authors with the same issue. Hoping I could get the strength to continue this fight, which is going on like forever!! requested for plagiarism check of new one

| improve this question | | | | |
  • 6
    If I correctly understand the question, these people published papers that were entirely plagiarized from your thesis. I don't see any reasonable correction of that; the papers should be retracted. – Andreas Blass Feb 4 at 3:24
  • 1
    Hmmm. Was this actually your advisor who did this? Or is the title now incorrect? If it was your advisor, I might need to re-think my answer. – Buffy Feb 4 at 13:58
  • 1
    @Buffy What's the difference between an advisor plagiarising and someone else? – user2768 Feb 4 at 14:19
  • 2
    @user2768, ethically, nothing, but advisors have some power over you that adds considerations of personal/career safety. Accusing an advisor of misconduct can be a career killer. – Buffy Feb 4 at 14:34
  • 2
    @Buffy To me it seems unambiguous, since the only subject to whom the word "other" could refer to seems to be the advisor. – lighthouse keeper Feb 4 at 14:39
5

In addition to the advice being offered to retract (rather than correct) the journal article, I suggest that you contact the officials at the university where you did the thesis. I imagine that the legal office at the university will be especially interested to learn about violations of copyright by their faculty. Should such information become "public knowledge", the faculty, department, and perhaps even the university may be put on record officially or by unofficial word of mouth that they should be held ineligible for external funding. Indeed, when your thesis was supported by a national funding agency in the US, I believe such violations of copyright could even lead to requests for a return of the sponsor's funds.

Your first contact with the legal offices should be to summarize your case and ask for insights on how they would handle it going forward.

| improve this answer | | | | |
  • 1
    And even if the officials don't care so much about the copyright part, they should definitely care about staff members/PhD students blatantly plagiarizing a thesis and publishing. In the end this reflects badly on the university and they will most likely want to act on this. – pgunnink Feb 4 at 19:56
  • Unless it hits the media, the university is likely to do nothing at all. I recommend contacting retraction watch (retractionwatch.com). They are very vocal and can place significant pressure on the publisher and the university. – Mo Hossny Feb 5 at 12:52
  • 3
    @MoHossny Whether we agree or not on the likely outcome, prejudging what the university offices are or are not likely to do should not be part of the factors weighing in a decision to contact them. Retraction watch is a good reference point. – Jeffrey J Weimer Feb 5 at 13:41
  • @JeffreyJWeimer Good point. – Mo Hossny Feb 5 at 16:18
5

See note and caveat at the end.

I suggest that you have a retraction done. You didn't participate directly in the preparation of the offending paper, so adding you as an author is a bit fishy. Moreover, adding you would connect you to people who seem to have no ethical boundaries. I'd guess that you don't want that association.

If the retraction is issued, especially with an explanation, it will be a warning to the others not to continue to abuse you and your work.

Once retracted, you should be free to use your own work in any (legal) way you choose. Especially since any copyright assignment by the others would be cancelled as well, since they had no right to issue it.


When I wrote the above, my assumption was that the "other" authors here were not personally known to the OP. Clarification has made that assumption false.

So, let me add, primarily for others who might, in future, wind up in a similar situation that it can be extremely dangerous to one's career to accuse your advisor of wrongdoing. My normal advice in such situations is to try to work with the advisor long enough and politely enough so that you can get away and out from under any influence they might have over your career. The exceptions might be for the case in which the transgression is extremely blatant and for the case in which the person has already developed an independent career. The first case is still dangerous, of course, but necessity may require it. In that case, however, you need allies so that you don't become the focus of hate directed by a powerful person. Another way to say it is to take a long view about your career. Any given paper is only a small pert of your reputation. Optimize for the future, not necessarily for the present.

I think the OP here, however, is already in the second situation, having shown independence and development past the degree. I'll therefore leave my original answer in place.

Note that the ethics is the same, whether the transgressions are by people known to you or not. But self preservation is often necessary for a young researcher until that certain level of independence is achieved.

| improve this answer | | | | |
  • @JeffreyJWeimer, I don't think the OP is proposing to re-do the retracted articles. – Buffy Feb 4 at 17:03
  • @JeffreyJWeimer, I don't understand. I don't have any rights to grant. But the OP seems unencumbered by the improper actions of others. If someone else improperly tried to give up copyright, then no rights were yielded by the OP. The OP can't, of course, publish the work of the other author(s) whatever it is. But they have given up no rights to their own work. – Buffy Feb 4 at 17:35
  • Without editing your excellent synopsis, the gist of the closing statement as I would prefer would say: Regardless of whether the article is or is not retracted, you are always free to use your own work in any way that you choose within the conventions of any existing copyright that you own on it. – Jeffrey J Weimer Feb 4 at 18:57
  • I am not proposing to re-do the articles as its already published as a book. But some of the data and analysis(from the thesis) may be used for making a new paper. of course by giving citation to the book. – neha Feb 5 at 2:30
  • I did not participate in the writing of the last two papers. But the first paper they published was the one I submitted to my guide during Mtech, for which I requested them to add me as the first author (which they refused to add & replied that they may consider adding in future).I requested the phd fellow not to use the thesis without my consent through email, they published two more papers afterwards. I don't want to collaborate with them after all this. – neha Feb 5 at 2:46
0

These kind of situations are always critical. Ethics gives us rules of conduct that in same cases we realistically neglect. I have no idea about what the boss and the at that time PhD student can do and cast on your current career. But as you already correctly have interphered with their plot of publishing the work of others under their names, go ahead and prompt the retraction of all papers involved. There might be a good portion of their papers resulting as plagiarism, if this was they normal conduct. I would even check if the same has happened to other thesis as well.

Note that I would have been more cautious without the previous retraction.

| improve this answer | | | | |
  • As of now two of the publications, one was withdrawn and other was removed from the website. The current one is going on so can correct or retract – neha Feb 5 at 9:44
  • Be consistent and retract. But again, I don't know the situation in detail, namely the current supervisor conduct and their influence on your career, direct or indirect. – Alchimista Feb 5 at 9:46
0

If your own supervisor is plagiarizing your work, then that's a major ethics violation. Get the article retracted, and inform the Head of Department, or higher up, in writing of your concerns.

| improve this answer | | | | |
  • Head of the department was informed after the first case, but he said it was unfortunate but nothing can be done now as its published. so I never contacted again. – neha Feb 5 at 9:43
  • @neha As this has happened more than once, you have cause to revisit the subject with him. As said: put it in writing. If there's a record that you've flagged it, then he will have to act to cover his back. – benwiggy Feb 5 at 9:48
  • I have only contacted the HOD over the phone. But I have sent an email to my supervisor requesting not to allow such misuse of the thesis without my consent just after the first case. I sent him because I couldn't believe he could allow all this. – neha Feb 5 at 9:56
  • once I opt for retraction the journal editors informed they need to inform the Institute regarding the issue before retraction. Meanwhile, the author's admitted to the editors that my contribution was substantial. The editors agreed that there was significant overlap. – neha Feb 5 at 10:06
  • Get it done. Your work is all you have. If someone else is taking credit for it, that's appalling. That it's your own supervisor makes it shockingly unprofessional. – benwiggy Feb 5 at 12:45

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.