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I am PhD student. My PhD advisor wrote a research paper literally copy pasting several paragraphs from a already published paper, which was written by me as main author and he is just second author. Copy-pasted paragraphs where without any citation to this paper written by me.

QUESTION: 1) Is the accuse of plagiarism still standing, when the main author of a paper copy-pastes from a paper where he/she was only second author?

2) What is your opinion about addressing the issue directly to the funding scheme which has financed the project and of course the scientific output?

3) Furthermore he copy-pasted a full methodology from a un-published document written by me, of course without citing. Unfortunatly this document has no specified authorship although through email traffic I can proof that I am the main developer of this document. Do you consider that also plagiarism?

thanks for answer provided. Alfred

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    Are you over with your PhD or still in it? (This is crucial missing information). – 299792458 May 14 '15 at 15:14
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    Also, here's a related question – 299792458 May 14 '15 at 15:16
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    Will you ever need a recommendation letter from this person? Will you ever have to collaborate with them again? Also, you can even plagiarize yourself, so any text that is copied without citation is plagiarism. – Bill Barth May 14 '15 at 15:17
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    "Unfortunately I cannot take action while I am in my PhD" How do you expect to get a PHD if your supervisor steals your work and publishes it without you as a co-author? – Alexandros May 14 '15 at 18:02
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    The question seems to be missing the part about where you discussed this with your supervisor and what the resolution was. To contemplate "addressing the issue directly to the funding scheme which has financed the project and of course the scientific output?" is so much more extreme than that that it looks like an overreaction without this missing information. Even continuing to do a PhD with someone whom you plan on reporting to the authorities for academic misconduct against you seems very strange to me. – Pete L. Clark May 14 '15 at 20:18
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Re-using text from a previous paper on which one was an author is known as self plagiarism. Opinions vary on the gravity of this sin, but it is pretty clearly not best practice. In my opinion, re-use should be allowed for descriptions of methods or presentations of proofs, provided that they are adequately flagged as such with citation to the original paper. "Following our previous analysis (Smith et al 2013), our methods are as follows..." If no citation is provided, this seems to me to be a transgression.

Authorship order is not relevant. Self-plagiarizing from a second author paper is no better or worse than doing so from a first author paper. Overall, you seem to have a misunderstanding of how collaboration works. Once two people collaborate on a paper, the output belongs to them jointly. One author does not have greater ownership over a particular paragraph what for having written the initial text of that paragraph.

I would hope you would directly discuss this with the PI before going to a funding body.

Depending on the circumstances, using your text may or may not be plagiarism. If I am paying an RA to work on a paper but she does not rise to the level of authorship, I see no obvious reason why I cannot ask the RA to help draft portions of the text. Similarly, PIs routinely ask graduate students and postdocs to help prepare grant proposals on which the PI is the sole author. I've never heard this considered to be plagiarism.

  • Thanks Corvus. I would like to stress that the copy pasted parts are not flagged with any citation. – Alfred May 14 '15 at 15:48
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    +1"Overall, you seem to have a misunderstanding of how collaboration works. Once two people collaborate on a paper, the output belongs to them jointly." – user-2147482637 May 15 '15 at 5:17
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Ethically, it is unwise to use large portions of a document written by a subordinate in one's group without giving appropriate credit (which in this case would be co-authorship). However, it is not the same as saying that the PI has plagiarized the earlier document, as it has not been entered anywhere into the record.

Quoting a paper that has been published is a problem, as Corvus points out, because it's self-plagiarism. This is true for any author who quotes a paper in which she was an author, regardless of being the first, second, or n-th author on the quoted paper.

  • thanks aeismail. Regarding your first paragraph. The document has not been published, but is a project internal document which I developed as far as my adviser had no clue. In the paper he wrote, he copy pasted the methodology and by reading the paper it clearly looks like that he developed this methods, because there is no reference on anything. I developed several versions of this document and I presented the overall concept in a workshop of the project. – Alfred May 14 '15 at 19:56
  • The issue is that without a formal publication, you can't really allege plagiarism. There has to be something to refer to in a publication; right now, otherwise, it can only be cited as the dreaded "personal communication." – aeismail May 14 '15 at 20:20
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    I disagree with this. Plagiarism is "passing off someone else's work as your own." Whether that work is published or not is irrelevant. Even if the work is unpublished, there are ways to credit it appropriately (acknowledgements?). This idea of "you can't cite this because it isn't published, better just use it without citation" is really dangerous... – ff524 Aug 30 '15 at 17:08
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    The issue is that without a formal publication, you can't really allege plagiarismI strongly disagree. Writing belongs to its author, even if it is never published. – JeffE Aug 30 '15 at 18:45

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