I am a PhD student. A few years ago, I won the best paper award at a conference. However, they didn't post the list of winners on the conference website. But when I google the name of the conference, the very first search results include someone who already graduated and claims on his personal webpage and LinkedIn profile that he won that award. The only proofs that I have are the award itself and a congratulation email from the committee.

Currently he works at a company so I don't know how to handle this case especially after his graduation he may no longer care about consequences.

What can I do in this situation?

  • 1
    If the old conference website is still online: write an e-mail to the organizers of the conference, kindly asking them to update the website to include the best paper award winners. You can attach the old confirmation email. May 26, 2016 at 20:13
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    I suppose this depends on the conference, but at least at some conferences there are many more than 1 best paper award. CHI 2015 gave out 21, for instance: chi2015.acm.org/program/best-of-chi So are you certain there was only one such award?
    – BrianH
    May 26, 2016 at 20:14
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    This is messed up, and should have consequences. After ideally getting outside proof as suggested by @lighthouse, and assuming the other person is at a reputable school, their adviser should know as someone like this shouldn't turn academic lifer. I'd let the adviser know, per email, keeping it short but pointing to supportive evidence you have and are happy to share. If that leads nowhere (adviser doesn't care), I'd go up the ladder. If it's a school with doubtful reputation, just shrug: they won't care, and you shouldn't either. May 26, 2016 at 20:27
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    Is this a case where he could possibly have the year wrong? For example, perhaps he won at the 2015 conference but listed 2016 by mistake? Sometimes with deadlines and such in one year (e.g. Nov 2015), but the conference in the subsequent year (e.g. June 2016) it's not too hard to switch them up by mistake. If the conference doesn't list winners, do you know for sure this is not the case?
    – marcman
    May 26, 2016 at 22:15
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    @user2987: Beware the slippery slope fallacy. As you said, it's a small community in that field. If he tries to continue too deeply, someone will probably look to check and figure him out. Or, he'll falsify something else and getting caught will lead to a further inquiry into what else is false. It's rare that someone who habitually lies and cheats makes it far in science and research in today's world
    – marcman
    May 26, 2016 at 22:38

2 Answers 2


Send him a message

Even if you think you know the only truth, maybe there is something you don't know about this award. If there is no response in.. let's say 48 hours, let's go to phase 2

EDIT : concerning the timing, @O.R.Mapper is right, if he is on a vacation... bad luck.

Send a message to the committee

They gave the award, so explain the situation, and ask them to put on their website the name of the winner for each year. Explain why you want this.

If the commitee is reacting (if not, will be hard :/)

Send a (still) polite mail to the cuprit and tell him he MUST remove what he puts online. No response ? let's go to the last part

Write to his university

Even if you think they might not care, it's still a graduate student, it's bad for the reputation of the university to have graduate student with a bad behaviors.

EDIT : as said by @CaptainEmacs , do NOT to accuse someone, even if you're sure it is the truth. Tell politely that you think he might have mistaken, that is all.

I think that's the proper way to do it.

  • 6
    Take care: be very careful in checking your facts: if you made a mistake in assumption and that year saw two best paper prizes (I have seen scaled up to three - which may make sense if there are several outstanding papers); or even if the committee made a mistake and told him he got a prize; and if you then accuse him of cheating, he will be very upset (you would be!) and it is hard to predict what may actually transpire from this. May 27, 2016 at 0:24
  • There was a ceremony of awards attribution and announcement that all participants attended and everybody knows in the conference that there were only two awards: Best Paper Award and Best Student Paper Award. There was another prize which was for the the runner-up that's all.. I am more than sure about my words and as I mentioned in one of my previous comments we work in a very small community and we all know each other.
    – user2987
    May 27, 2016 at 3:40
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    Then if you're entirely sure, you MUST anyway contact him. Just in order to be sure he didn't mistake with another things etc...
    – Gautier C
    May 27, 2016 at 6:11
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    In your place, I would never let go even if he is in industry. He might have get his current post because of this, and it's not ethical.
    – Gautier C
    May 27, 2016 at 6:17
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    Even if this is some actual misconduct, making any assumptions based on an ultimatum of 2 days for someone who might well be on a vacation of several weeks seems ... questionable. May 27, 2016 at 7:52

Firstly, there is a chance there is a misunderstanding -- they have mis-written the year for example (I did exactly this on my website at some point. I won an award for best Phd Thesis at a conference, but wrote the wrong year). It is extremely difficult to politely ask someone if they are lying, and my advice is not to directly approach the person in question. If they are lying, I imagine they still won't change anything, and what could you do in that situation?

If you are concerned about someone thinking you cheated, asking the conference to put up a list of previous winners is a good idea, as that then gives you a reference point.

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