Failure to cite a study on the same topic in a Master’s thesis was not a RCR violation (TENK 2021:4)

A suspected that B’s technical master’s thesis included plagiarism of A’s master’s thesis, which was published in 2007. According to A, the title of B’s thesis, the main research topic and some of the contents were very similar to those of A’s thesis. A considered that A themselves should be mentioned as the second author of the work. The university carried out a preliminary inquiry of the matter and concluded that there was no plagiarism in the thesis.

When assessing whether a violation of responsible conduct of research has occurred, the RCR guidelines in force at the time must be applied in the assessment. According to A, the alleged plagiarism under review took place in 2011. TENK’s RCR guidelines for 2002 were therefore applied to this case.

According to the guidelines, plagiarism refers to the most serious form of RCR violations: fraud in science [now referred to as research misconduct]. It means presenting someone else’s research plan, manuscript, article or text, or parts thereof, as one’s own.

In order for the RCR process to establish that plagiarism has occurred, the deed must fulfil the characteristics of plagiarism or unacknowledged borrowing, as well as being intentional and deliberately misleading the scientific community.

According to the RCR guidelines, denigrating the role of other researchers in publications can also be regarded as disregard for the responsible conduct of research. In order to establish an RCR violation in such a case, the actions of the researcher alleged of a violation should constitute, in addition to disregard for the responsible conduct of research, gross negligence and irresponsibility at the various stages of research.

In the view of TENK, failure to refer to an individual study on the same topic does not, according to the RCR guidelines, indicate such misconduct or disregard for RCR norms that the criteria for an RCR violation would be met. Moreover, there was no mention of such gross negligence or carelessness in B’s activities that there would have been reason to investigate the matter as an RCR violation. As a result, TENK agreed with the conclusion of the preliminary inquiry

view that no RCR violation had taken place.