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Last year I worked on a novel dataset provided by my supervisor and I found interesting results which I presented in my BSc dissertation. A PhD candidate was working on the same dataset. Now the PhD candidate asked me via WhatsApp if he can use some of my figures in his PhD thesis. I asked the supervisor and she said it’s fine, as long as I get fully acknowledged for these figures. I did not send this student my dissertation, I did send it to the supervisor though. I feel like this is a bit shady. The student has the same raw data so they should be able to make these figures themselves. Any thoughts?

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    Why not? My advisor gave her figures to me and let me use them in my dissertation. Sep 21 at 21:38
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    We stand on the shoulders of giants. Everything you do is building on the work of those who came before you. If he finds value in your work, and properly credits you, then why are you concerned?
    – Faydey
    Sep 22 at 4:17
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    What exactly do you feel is „shady“ about this? The request itself (e.g. they want to benefit unduly from your work) or because they have access to your work even though it is not published or otherwise given to them by you explicitly? Sep 22 at 5:52
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    Most scholars spend their time trying to increase their number of citations. You seem to be trying to do the opposite! Doesn't seem like the best way to go!
    – user162924
    Sep 22 at 10:26
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    I'd be so proud. A PhD candidate can use my humble undergrad attempts at science! What I did was actually useful to somebody! Awesome. I'll show up in search results (sure, on page 23, but still). Also, when they become a teacher I may get my first assistant job from them. They may be my PhD supervisor. We'd advance science together. Build a better lab, build a better world. OK, I got carried away. Sep 23 at 8:45

5 Answers 5

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All of science is building on the work of others, provided proper credit is given. Is your BSc. dissertation in the university's library or has it been published? If so, you should expect people to learn from it and cite it. Even if your own work wasn't "published" in the traditional fashion, it is appropriate for others to build upon it.

As far as duplicating your work, why should someone do that? The only reason would be to validate your work.

Tell the Ph.D. student that it's OK to use the illustrations, always with proper credit.

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    If it was not published... YET... it will be published eventually and people will copy and give credit. Why delay it? Sep 22 at 11:32
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    @BsAxUbx5KoQDEpCAqSffwGy554PSah I don't think undergraduate theses are typically published in US colleges. There are too many of them, and they often don't represent significant research work. They're glorified term papers. My MIT thesis was totally unremarkable.
    – Barmar
    Sep 22 at 14:15
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    Even if it's not published it should be possible to cite it. Even "A. Kiwi, BSc thesis, University of Somewhere 2021" should let someone track the original down if they need to. Sep 22 at 18:44
  • You can put your thesis on a archive site such as figshare or zenodo. It acquires a DOI, which can be cited in addition to the standard citation for a thesis. As others said: being cited is a sign that your work is relevant to the field.
    – orbeckst
    Sep 23 at 18:00
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Yes, you should allow the proper use of your BSc thesis in other scientific work.
This is perfectly normal within a research group. In fact, you should see it as desirable.

Your BSc thesis is not just a "super exam" to complete your studies. It is a proper scientific work in its own right. As such, being used as a reference for other scientific publications is much of its point. Depending on the field, a BSc topic may even be purposely designed to support the broader research of other students or the group as a whole.
Having a BSc thesis used as reference for another thesis is normal and desirable.

Now, a BSc thesis is often not published like a MSc or even PhD thesis for various reasons. However the point of this is not to hide the scientific work but rather to help the author. For example, many theses clearly show that they are the authors' first real scientific work and lack polish and scrutiny.
Thus, it is common that a BSc thesis is just handed to the supervisor – it is then at the supervisor's discretion who else should get access. This usually involves people of the same research group working on related topics.
Having a BSc thesis accessed by other students of the same research group is normal and desirable.

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If they're using and citing your data, in most cases they'd need to use your presentation of it because that's all they'd have.

Here you say they have access to the raw data so could plot it themselves to match their other figures - but they'd still have to cite your work if you did the experiment. Using your figures helps make it very clear that they're not passing off your work as theirs; I tend towards a stronger acknowledgement than just a citation in this case (numeric superscript is normal in my field, but rather than Figure 1: Some data¹ I would use Figure 1: Some data. Figure and data courtesy of Kiwi¹ as my caption, where reference 1 is your undergrad thesis.

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Very definitely yes, you should allow them to use your figures, for the reasons others here already pointed out.

For the same reasons, you should also facilitate the reuse if it's easy for you. For example, send them the figure-building commands to software and/or higher-resolution image files, if you have them handy.

I think the proper credit should take the form of them citing your Undergraduate dissertation where the figures originally appeared, rather than "acknowledging" you. I'm not very sure of this, so talk to them and to your advisor but keep an open mind. Acknowledgment is almost as good though, the important thing is that they don't just let readers think it's their original work.

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It does not matter if they would be able to plot the same figure themself.

As seen in this comment, they are doing the right thing, as long as they cite you as "A. Kiwi, BSc thesis, University of Somewhere 2021", so you have proper citation of your work.

Regarding the shady part, a thesis is written to be read by others. Quite often they are available in the university library. It is your work, but it is accessible to others than your supervisor. It seems your supervisor shared your thesis with the PhD student (or the PhD student ghost-reviewed it in place of your professor ... it can happen).

Be happy that someone found your work relevant and wants to reuse some figure of yours. It probably means you did a good job (at the very minimum at least a good enough job, which is still great!).

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