Denigration of the share of other researchers in a Doctoral dissertation is not plagiarism

Postdoctoral researcher X requested the Advisory Board to take a position on whether university A acted accordingly in handling the allegations of plagiarism and fabrication he/she directed towards a doctoral dissertation in the field of technology by researcher Y of research institute B. Both postdoctoral researcher X and researcher Y had worked in an international research project coordinated by research institute B. Researcher Y’s dissertation presented to university A was largely based on his/her summary report on the aforementioned research project. When postdoctoral researcher X pointed out deficiencies in researcher Y’s dissertation during its 10-day time on the notice board, researcher Y corrected them in the dissertation defence with errata. Postdoctoral researcher X was dissatisfied with the RCR investigation process, which had been supplemented at the request of TENK, conducted on the matter by the university. No RCR violation had been verified.

TENK noted in its statement that repeated reference is inadequately made to earlier research results in researcher Y’s dissertation. Similarly, by completely omitting the names of the other researchers in the same project both in the text and even in the references, researcher Y denigrates their contribution in a manner which cannot be considered to be in accordance with responsible conduct of research. Although the researcher him/herself is liable for the quality of his/her work, TENK however highlighted that with appropriate guidance for the dissertation and with the activities of those carrying out its pre-examination, the aforementioned problems could have possibly been avoided.

The decision of university A’s rector in the RCR investigation directed towards researcher Y’s dissertation was correct in the respect that no fraud was proven to have taken place. However, TENK considered it to be correct that researcher Y’s dissertation shows disregard for responsible conduct of research. As a consequence of this, the contribution of other researchers behind the research results was not properly presented. Furthermore, there were inadequacies in the manner in which university A heard postdoctoral researcher X in the various stages of the investigation.

TENK examined this case primarily from a research integrity perspective, not in terms of the acceptability of the dissertation. Consequently, TENK did not take a position on the quality of the thesis in question in its decision nor on the use of errata. These issues are not a part of TENK’s authority. Instead, in this case, they belong to the sphere of university A’s autonomy.