I want to check if the following case is considered plagiarism or at least unethical.

Four years ago, I wrote a personal grant proposal for a PhD scholarship. It was written entirely by me in my own personal time. I sent it to a professor, who read it and gave some minor remarks. He agreed to become my promoter if I receive the grant. I got the grant and carried out the research under the guidance of said professor.

It now came to my attention that our research unit has recently received a grant for similar research. I read the proposal, and about half of it is verbatim copied out of my original proposal. No permission was asked from me.

To me, this feels very wrong. What are your opinions?

1 Answer 1


This is unethical and unfortunately not uncommon. Many group leaders automatically consider all research ideas, proposals and papers generated within their group as a commodity that belongs to the group and that they can manage without discussing it with original author first. In their mind everything that benefits the group automatically benefits all participants, which is of course a comfortable point of view for the group leader (who is in control of how the benefits are distributed), and not so comfortable for early career staff on precarious contracts, who have no job security and often find themselves without a solid ground to make demands and argue for a better recognition.

You are right to feel wronged. Depending on the culture in your Department, you may or may not have many good options, except graduating and leaving this place for good. When you feel safe, consider sharing this story with more details to inform new potential members of the group about how the group is managed and what they can expect.

  • 4
    Great answer. I think I would emphasise even more that the problem is not asking permission. In my group, we often share materials and ideas, event parts of grant proposals, but it is always discussed and permission is sought. This works if there are clear rules in the group. Also, I think @user44136 should have been a co-applicant.
    – Aolon
    Aug 18, 2022 at 12:26

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