53

Prior to transferring to another university, I attended a college in a different state with a renown reputation for integrity and academic rigor. The year before I left, I enrolled in a course that was taught by this new professor. It was the only 8:30 a.m. course that I eagerly woke up for- the professor would literally jump around the room, making the lessons lively and hilarious. He'd even devote the last 3-4 minutes of class to discussing some of the most insane industries around the world. I didn't enjoy my time at that college, but his classes were downright memorable.

Outside of class, he was much calmer, but always with a warm smile and approach. People only spoke good things about him, and his respective department decided to hire him full-time, on a tenure-track position.

The autumn after, I left that college and even switched majors. I kept in touch with a few individuals from that college, and one day, they told me to check out my old college's website. This professor was discovered to have plagiarized multiple papers. I won't get into the details, but the extent would make a slam-dunk case for blatancy. He no longer teaches.

If you Google the professor's name, the first page or two will only show a massive plagiarism scandal.

I tried reaching out to my former professor via email or Facebook, because for whatever reason, I feel bad for people going through rough times, even if they're severely at fault (contingent upon remorse, etc). There was (and still is) no contact information available, and after much time scouring the internet, I can't seem to locate any social media profile. It only then occurred to me how screwed up this person's future must be: never mind having a portion of your grad school wasted (although one could argue it was wasted when he plagiarized anyway), any background check on him will yield really unfavorable results.

My question is: what does a person like that do from this point forward? Is academia pretty much a "no-go"? Does he count on connections in the industry? Does one change his or her name? I thought I'd ask here since several users here have had experience with plagiarism in one way or the other.

TL;DR A professor that I used to like got busted for plagiarism, and his name's all over the internet. Does someone like that have a second shot at academia? How would he go about getting into the workforce? ...etc

  • 6
    Diederik Stapel wrote best-selling books such as derailment and The Fiction Factory. A Liberating Epistolary Novel... another appropriate way out could be... to write actual fiction. Clearly those researchers have sufficient creativity...? – gerrit Nov 7 '14 at 17:28
  • 1
    Let us continue this discussion in chat. – daOnlyBG Jul 17 '15 at 16:26
57

Past a certain point in their career and education, I think it's hard for somebody to ever clean off the stain of serious, prolonged, and deliberate misbehavior. The more that a person has built up authority and trust on a false foundation, the harder it is to ever trust them with regards to that subject again.

When a young student engages in academic misbehavior, we treat it as a teaching moment. When an undergraduate does it, we try to put fear into them and rehabilitate them. When a graduate student does it, we try to figure out whether it is worth salvaging. When a professor does it, it pretty much destroys their academic career.

And to my mind, I think that's OK. We're talking about serious and deliberate professional malpractice that undermines the basis of the whole endeavor. That can waste millions of dollars or leave people injured or killed. Would you ever again trust a doctor who deliberately injured their patients, or an engineer who deliberately mis-designed a bridge so that it might collapse? I think that it is the same for an academic who engages in massive and systematic fraud.

  • 7
    I think a more apt comparison might be an engineer who uses someone else's bridge design, or a doctor who uses another's treatment protocol, not realizing that they are dangerously inappropriate in the instant case. – Bob Brown Nov 7 '14 at 3:58
  • 3
    @jakebeal: On that we can agree! (Actually, "Welcome to Wal-Mart" is preferable to never working again; I don't want to support them, either.) – Bob Brown Nov 7 '14 at 13:24
  • 29
    At this point I think the analogy, much like the hypothetical bridge, is breaking down. – Lilienthal Nov 7 '14 at 13:25
  • 4
    This comparison is completely out of place. A professor teaches, and as long as his students actually learn the subject, he has done his work. Absolutely ZERO relationship with the examples cited, no harm caused. Sure, his plagiarism is a very bad thing and he was rightly fired, but that's beside the my point here. – o0'. Nov 7 '14 at 20:06
  • 18
    " A professor teaches, and as long as his students actually learn the subject, he has done his work." No. A large part of the job of many/most professors is research. If they are plagiarizing their research, they are definitely not doing their job and it does cause harm. – reirab Nov 8 '14 at 8:33
30

First of all, I find nice of you caring about a person who you consider to have impact on your education, whatever happened.

However, let's put this situation in a perspective:

In academia, all you have is credibility. Without making any attempt to figure out who you are talking about, from your description it is clear that the person committed serious misconducts for whatever reason, for years and years, deliberately, which hurt only not himself, but potentially can destroy the career many of his colleagues, recomendors and previous supervisor. Look at the (admittedly somewhat extreme) case of Haruko Obakata (STAP stem cell scandal): a single persons dishonesty was able to destroy a whole institute, trigger a suicide of a well respected colleague and make plenty of other damage.

Academia is a harsh place with harsh competition for job. Majority of people who do PhD never got tenure track job in the academia. Many of them hard working, even smart, but has a bad luck, personal reason etc. They lose their years, too. If you want to hire someone hard working, talented person, there are long lines waiting and willing to do the job. Why would you hire someone who has no reliable track record of ANY results, but has a solid track record of being dishonest, and potentially nuking you down to the ground?

18

I'll answer the question: Does he count on connections in the industry?

I am an industry retiree. The company I retired from treats employees' integrity very seriously. It's one of the most important items on annual performance review. When they interview job applicants, they filter out people with bad past records. I don't believe that professor would have any chance getting hired by this employer. And I do know that many employers do similar things. So, he will have less than normal chance to be hired by industry companies.

Of course, he still might get a job offer with some company. But, he'd better have his acts together after he is hired. Whoever hires him would worry that he might steal company intellectual properties or even money because of his past records. They will also worry that he would cheat on his work, such as falsifying time sheets, cheating test results, etc. He will be on his manager's ding list, for sure. In other words, he will have a miserable life wherever he goes.

12

Before I start, let me just say that I agree with the other answers that landing a job in academia will (and should) be neigh impossible, but let's get the more interesting stuff:

Thinking back to a couple of cases I have heard of (Netherlands, Netherlands/Canada, Germany, Italy, US from the top of my head, though for the life of me, I don't know their names and the one name I do remember I don't feel like sharing, because he seemed to enjoy the attention far too much...) where people were caught for fabricating data, faking past education and plagiarizing work at least four of them were able to get a job again soon after (though three of them didn't work in academia). For none of those people it was a good career event of course, but it wasn't as bad as you would expect with all the media attention they received and most did land jobs in the long term (all except the Italian guy outside the world of research). In certain cases I think this is 'fine' and makes sense (e.g. if you have proven that you're able to do your job incredibly well... how much of an issue is it for a company that you faked your academic credentials in the past), though in other cases I have been totally dumbfounded by this (e.g. the Italian guy was able to secure research funds privately for his work still).

To narrow it down to only those that plagiarized and I know of only leaves one person and as far as I know he's currently without a job and is writing a book about his experiences in the academic world (he got a lot of publicity when he was caught), however it must be noted that he didn't only plagiarize, he also fabricated data and didn't follow correct procedures to do certain experiments.

Now, the following is just hypothesis, but from what I have heard and seen I do believe that somebody that only plagiarized, but did not fabricate data or participate in similar endeavors, will be able to land a job relatively easily. The pay won't be great and the company will wish to keep quiet about employing him, but then again, even if he plagiarized, such a person does have a lot of skill and in a lot of fields (e.g. Computer Science: Yes, English: Nope) that's enough to outweigh the disadvantages.

  • 6
    Faking credentials is a serious offense, but it doesn't call into question one's work the same way that massive plagiarism does. Faked credentials call into question your honesty, but not necessarily your ability to do good work. – user24098 Nov 9 '14 at 6:52
2

Maybe a job in an office of responsible scientific conduct/research ethics?

He sounds like a nice guy, and if he is, then he probably feels bad about what he did. If he is sincerely remorseful and can convince others of that, an office of research ethics might hire him to give talks on what not to do and why.

He also may still have a shot at teaching-focused jobs, especially since it sounds like he was a good instructor.

But I doubt he'd have much of a chance at getting a research position ever again... maybe if he went the research ethics route for a few years first, to prove he had rehabilitated himself, but even then it seems unlikely.

1

There are enough of us without a plagiarism record who are deparately trying to get a permanent position in academia. As someone who has had my own work plagiarized, I am more sympathetic to his victims than someone who has plagiarized multiple times.

"Nice guys" aren't always so nice on the inside. Knowingly stealing someone else's work is not a nice thing to do. If that's what he has to do to succeed then maybe he's not cut out for a career in academia anyway.

protected by Alexandros Dec 1 '18 at 7:42

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

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