fren

Cases of intervention

With regard to action with victims, every week IRAFPA receives requests for mediation. In order to appreciate the mediation work that these complaints call for, here are – in their entirety – four letters received at the beginning of the year 2020.

Click on the title to access the letter

  • Cas 2020-01 Medecine
    The decision to mediate is taken immediately. The usual excesses in terms of: a) morality (threats), b) ethics (the addition of guest authors), c) ethics (the cover-up of plagiarism), d) responsibility (the non-response of university authorities). And one finds there the actors of our world: Doctoral school, referents Integrity, publications?
  • Cas 2020-02 Mathematics
    A mediation is not possible, because the situation is made too complex and the governing bodies of the institution are not sensitive to the problems of integrity violations. Moreover, the author of the letter is now ill and it would be risky to put him in a threatening situation to intervene. We can only demonstrate our empathy and concern
  • Cas 2020-03 Information Sciences
    A mediation would not have been possible, as suggested by the author of the letter, because the situation is one of deontology and internal organizational arrangements. Here we could only suggest to the author individual steps to encourage his hierarchy to set up these systems. Alas, the “whistleblower” is the victim of reprisals.
  • Cas 2020-04 Anthropology
    A mediation action was undertaken, as there was no response to the requests made by the Integrity referent. The file (131 pages) was therefore compiled by the victim. A file (131 pages) was compiled by the victim of serious plagiarism through translation. Our letter setting out the facts and asking for compensation in order to pacify the situation was sent to the stakeholders (10 people) in France and Italy. The Rector of the University of B. (Italy) replied to us in less than two days that he was investigating the case.
  • Cas 2020-01 – Medecine

The decision to mediate is taken immediately. The usual excesses in terms of: a) morality (threats), b) ethics (the addition of guest authors), c) ethics (the cover-up of plagiarism), d) responsibility (the non-response of university authorities). And one finds there the actors of our world: Doctoral school, referents Integrity, publications?

 

Dear Mrs. Bergadaà,

I am writing to you because I was very recently the victim of plagiarism of parts of my doctoral thesis.

While reading on the internet, I read with assiduity your site and your recommendations.

So I will quickly summarize my situation.

I did a thesis in medical physics at the university Paris xxx/Paris xxx in a laboratory of the XXX  between 2014 and 2017.

During this period I worked on several projects. One in particular led me to train and supervise a new PhD student, for almost 2 years, whose project was the exclusive thesis subject.

My thesis went very well, I defended in October 201x and my thesis was published on the national digital databases in early 201x.

I then went to study medicine in the provinces and I am pursuing a punctual academic research activity with another lab.

I have always remained on very good terms with the researchers in my thesis lab.

The PhD student I trained recently published an article with his results. The results were obtained in large part thanks to my technical developments in my thesis. Without them he would not have had any results, because what I did allowed him to acquire the data and to perform the preliminary processing for the analysis.

The paper was reviewed and required some corrections before acceptance for publication.

At the time of its acceptance the thesis director who was my supervisor asked all the co-authors to be able to add 3 people to the paper.

People I did not know about in the project or the contribution and that he did not explain. My position on the paper was 3rd author.

At the time of this situation, I wondered about the fact of adding like that a little at the last minute people on the paper. In the same way, I wondered about the part of my work in relation to my position.

Indeed, without my technical work to acquire the data and reconstruct them, there would never have been any results and therefore no paper.

So I asked the thesis supervisor if it was possible for me to be a co-author, which is common in many scientific communities and would have helped me in my career.

He refused with his arguments, which were orthogonal to mine. However, I tried to discuss it by e-mail without success.

That’s when I wanted to check a technical point in the recently defended thesis of the doctoral student I had trained and who was writing the paper.

After reading his manuscript, I first noticed that many illustrations came from my manuscript. Some of them I had made by drawing inspiration from literature, others, totally exclusive, and finally some of the results of my work.

These images had no link or reference to my thesis manuscript or any mention of my work to obtain them.

The text also appeared somewhat familiar to me, so I undertook a thorough reading which showed me that about 300 lines of 2 of the chapters of his thesis were copy-pasted to the nearest word of my manuscript.

Similarly, I noticed that more than 150 references in his bibliography came from mine, were not related to his thesis topic, but to mine, and were at no time cited in the body of his manuscript.

Illustrations are given in the attached letter, otherwise I have the files with my findings.

I therefore deduced that he had somehow had access to my sources of writing (text, images and bibliography) and had used them as he saw fit without any citation or reference.

As an additional problem, his thesis supervisor co-supervised mine and had proofread and corrected my manuscript. So he had both digital sources and a paper version and I think it unlikely that he ignored these facts.

So I immediately notified his thesis supervisor by copying my thesis frame and hoping to get his help. The context of the time meant that I had not yet accepted the addition of the 3 authors on the paper.

I found his reaction very violent, because : he did not recognize the plagiarism and just told me that he had warned the doctoral school and the university xxx and that he would meet them quickly to make “corrections”.

This behaviour seemed very serious to me, because he excluded me from the outset, even though I was the first one concerned, and he told me that he would meet with them quickly to make “corrections”.

This behaviour seemed very serious to me, because he excluded me from the outset, even though I was the first one concerned, and he announced that he was going to make “corrections” alone, which for me is akin to covering up the evidence of plagiarism.

It was on this occasion that he threatened to exclude me from the project if I did not accept the addition of the 3 other authors and confirmed that my position would not be changed.

Since this e-mail more than a month ago I have not been contacted by the doctoral school, by the universities concerned, or by him to keep me informed of the situation. This also worries me.

My thesis co-supervisor, whose help and support I was hoping to get, co-signs her email and hasn’t contacted me either.

I have therefore, following your recommendations and those of a university friend, contacted the Paris xxx office which deals with university ethics issues.

Again, it has been almost a month since I contacted them and I have had no answer.

Other academics I have contacted have urged me to go as far as filing a complaint in the face of this situation, which they find extremely serious.

I don’t necessarily want to go that far, but I feel that the situation compels me to do so.

Having never wished for this situation of course, I found myself caught off guard because I did not know what to do. Clearly what I want is for plagiarism to be recognised and mentioned other than by a small poster in a dark corridor.

The moral damage associated with all this is great, but not as great as the disappointment I feel about the situation.

I would like to thank you all for the recommendations you have published and which I have tried as far as possible to implement.

I am addressing my case to you, because it seems to me that you have a great interest in documenting these situations.

Please do not hesitate to contact me if you need any information.

AC, medical student and researcher, CHU de xxx, France

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  • Case 2020-02 – Mathematics

Amediation is not possible, because the situation is made too complex and the governing bodies of the institution are not sensitive to the problems of integrity violations. Moreover, the author of the letter is now ill and it would be risky to put him in a threatening situation to intervene. We can only demonstrate our empathy and concern.

Dear Prof. Bergadaa,

I had contacted you in 2017 about a complaint of plagiarism and scientific misconduct and the case had caught your attention.

I remind you of this link: https://link.springer.com/article/xxx – I give you another link: https://link.springer.com/article/yyy

My initial complaint to the various authorities involved included several documents from a member of my research laboratory: articles in peer-reviewed journals, pre-publications on the department’s website and laboratory. To date, it has not given rise to an investigation into the various productions concerned or those produced since then in the network.

An initial complaint to the editors-in-chief of the journal concerned by one of the articles involved in my complaint led to a response from the commercial publisher with retraction of the article in press by the authors. The retraction makes no mention of my two source articles used by these authors, one in a journal published by the same commercial publisher, the second by another commercial publisher with verbatim plagiarism in the article in press. No mention of these facts, nor of the person who is the victim: me in this case, has been made to date. At no time was I contacted by the commercial publisher.

I have also contacted the editors of a journal of the same commercial publisher for another article for scientific misconduct, non-citation in the body of the text, non-citation and errors in the bibliography. I then requested that one of the publishers who might be concerned by close links withdraw from all exchanges. My complaint resulted in a very slight correction in the bibliography. The version returned by the authors after the correction of the proofs would have been lost and was not communicated to me. I contested this decision and asked for the procedure followed by the commercial publisher. My request remained unanswered.

That is the situation. I am caught between several fires and I cannot manage all the files being already divided between a life in Paris, one in xxx without a substantive solution.

I am not indecisive. I have an important health problem, under control for the moment. I have tried to bring into play the other institutional springs, the ministry concerned, the CNRS, my colleagues, a trade union. The bottom line is that no one wants to get involved in the substance of the issue of scientific misconduct, while recognizing for some the seriousness of the facts, the implications beyond the damage done to me, on science in general, the opaque financial gains related to this issue.

I have since been assigned at my request and with my medical follow-up in Paris. My employer remains the university of xxx.

The misconduct continues in my former laboratory and in connection with this laboratory, as the file was not properly handled with a prior procedure, verification of the presence of possible conflicts of interest or proximity, right of reply, etc. all that allows for a transparent investigation that preserves the different parties in the academic world.

On the contrary, the links of conflicts of interest or proximity have increased.

I have very numerous factual elements, linking a network initially set up within my former laboratory with plagiarism, false citations, attribution of results, ideas or methods of which I am the author to members of this network, autoplagiarism, sausaging of articles, false articles, co-supervised theses or juries or rapporteurs between members of this network abroad with scientific misconduct or plagiarism.

I had to insist with the President’s office and my (uninvolved) UFR in 2018 and 2019 to block the shutdown of a server on which prepublications with plagiarism are located and threaten to file a complaint.

Because the problem is upstream: institutional. My own university (xxx) covers the facts.

This is obviously not new in universities, but I didn’t think it was possible with such insistence and after putting my life in danger in 2016.

The establishment of “Integrity References”, at least in my university, has, on the contrary, allowed files to be treated with the utmost opacity and false science to spread.

Yours sincerely

xxx

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  • Case 2020-03 – Information Science

A mediation would not have been possible, as suggested by the author of the letter, because the situation is one of deontology and internal organizational arrangements. Here we could only suggest to the author individual steps to encourage his hierarchy to set up these systems. Alas, the “whistleblower” is the victim of reprisals.

Dear colleagues,

I am contacting you in a rather unusual situation for which I would like to benefit from your experience.

If I may make a suggestion, drawn from this painful experience. The management of the UFR thus put all its energy not into dealing with the problem I was denouncing, but into trying to sully my reputation, and threatened me: no follow-up, however.

In the same way, there was no follow-up to my request for disciplinary action against the student plagiarist: not even an acknowledgement of receipt of my e-mails). It seems to me that in view of these observations, it would be interesting for you (or your institute) to intervene with the institutions when you are informed of a case of plagiarism. Not to replace the regulatory framework (which does not exist or is not applied in my university in any case), but to indicate to the people concerned that an independent body has an eye on the case and that it will give it a public and international dimension. Otherwise, you feel very alone…

I have a master’s research student who wrote a thesis under my supervision. It is a thesis in information and communication sciences, in a master’s degree course “sciences and society” at the university xxxx where I teach. This dissertation is very bad scientifically (no problems, illogical argumentation, common sense remarks, false statements, etc.), but above all it includes a not insignificant series of plagiarism of my own work (a collective research report that I had indicated to the student by telling her that it could be used as a basis for her work). It’s surprising enough in itself that a student would copy the work of her own dissertation advisor without citing it, but you’ll see that this is not the most surprising thing.

It so happens that, as I always read the dissertations I supervise carefully, I had pointed out these problems to the student well in advance of the defence and asked her to solve them. A first round-trip of corrections did not satisfy my requests, so I ran a plagiarism detection software on the dissertation. I then discovered 2 theses and scientific articles also plagiarized, in addition to my own research report, as well as institutional websites: 26% of certain plagiarism.

I opened myself to the person in charge of my Master’s degree, to the director of my UFR, and to the director of the laboratory on which the Master’s course depends. I sent them the plagiarism report, telling them that my opinion was negative about the thesis being defended, not only because of plagiarism, but also because of the poor quality of the thesis.

We had several exchanges of e-mails, in which I indicated precisely all the plagiarized texts, I brought the material evidence of plagiarism, and I repeated my refusal to accept the defense of this dissertation, which is both plagiarized and does not meet any of the academic criteria of requirement.

Each of the people in charge replied that it was imperative for me to have this brief defended, regardless of my arguments. I confess that I still do not understand the reason for this obligation to defend the dissertation, as my past experience in other universities has led me to refuse several times to defend the dissertation without any problem.

I don’t think there is a political background. I am thinking more of an immense intellectual laziness and the clientelism of the formations where the question of integrity is not really on the agenda.

However, it has been suggested to me that I ask the student one last time to refer to the passages copied with quotation marks or footnotes before the defense. Under duress, I sent the software report to the student, requiring her to put all the plagiarized passages in quotation marks before the oral presentation, and to send us a final copy of her dissertation in PDF format, free of all plagiarism problems. I also set up a jury with a colleague from outside the course to ensure an independent evaluation.

With full knowledge of the facts (UFR, lab and training team notified), a plagiarism thesis for a Master 2 research master, which is moreover in the field of “science and society”, was defended .

However, there has been an interesting development in my UFR, following my plagiarism case, since the UFR council voted a text that includes all my recommendations regarding the direction of the brief and the refusal to allow plagiarism briefs to be defended. The master’s course in which I teach was also called to order, and it was asked to take this vote into account in its model.

That reassured me a little, but on a personal and human level, it doesn’t change anything for me, because after weeks of controversy, the damage has been done. I won’t set foot in the FRU or in my office (it’s a shared office), because I don’t want to have any more contact with my colleagues who, far from apologizing, have found other ways to be aggressive and mediocre (demanding the keys to my own office: you see the type…). I’m thinking of eventually leaving the profession, and will do everything I can to: too much disgust.

Xxxx

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  • Case 2020-04 – Anthropology

A mediation action was undertaken, as there was no response to the requests made by the Integrity referent. The file (131 pages) was therefore compiled by the victim. A file (131 pages) was compiled by the victim of serious plagiarism through translation. Our letter setting out the facts and asking for compensation in order to pacify the situation was sent to the stakeholders (10 people) in France and Italy. The Rector of the University of B. (Italy) replied to us in less than two days that he was investigating the case.

Dear Professor Michèle Bergadaa,

Happy New Year 2020 to you!

As a reminder, my thesis entitled “xxx”, defended at the university xxxl of xxx, in 2013, is an anthropological work.

I discovered that many passages have been used without quotation by a person named S.B., who defended his thesis entitled “xxx” at the department of arts of the university of xxx in Italy in 2016, then published it in 2019 by the publisher xxx.

S.B. had contacted me in 2013 to request my work through a mutual acquaintance. I would like to mention that I do not know her. In one of her first messages she asked me if I spoke Italian, and I understand today that the fact that I answered no was important for her in her decision to plagiarize me.

I am finally contacting you again to send you, as agreed in our previous communications, the current state of my work on the plagiarism of my thesis by S.B..Please let me know if these files still require additions and modifications.

In this “expert report” file (131 pages) in support of his request, I have done my best to comply with the IRAFPA method according to the sample file you sent me. Furthermore, I asked for and obtained the help of two trustworthy Italian-speaking persons who were kind enough to check the files, to whom I would like to express my sincere thanks. One of them suggests that the colours are not equally legible on all computers – please let me know if I need to change a colour tone to ensure better readability. I can also merge the files, or save them as a PDF if necessary.

In addition to the plagiarized passages, I have included a file containing excerpts from S.B.’s bibliography, because it appeared to me to be extremely voluminous in relation to the length of her thesis (44 pages of bibliography for a body of thesis of 160 pages) and because the majority of the works in it are not cited in her thesis (for example, she has taken 167 of my references, but so far I have only found 48 of them in the body of her thesis).

I compiled the file on the basis of S. B.’s doctoral thesis, whereas the same irregularities are found de facto in the publication of the latter by publisher xxx in 2019. Even the bibliography has the same irregularities.

In fact, M.C. – S.B.’s thesis director – is therefore co-directing this collection.

And this book by S.B. appears on the lists of literature to be read by students in 2018-2019 and in 2019-2020 for a course directed by M.C. himself. Yet I had informed M.C. of the plagiarism situation, and he recognized “unconscious plagiarism” and that it would be corrected.

Before addressing you, on the advice of a friend, I first contacted the scientific integrity referent of my institution, Ms. C.D. She informed me by email that she had contacted the University of Bologna in September 2019. I do not know anything about the modalities of the procedure. The only clue I have that this had any effect is an email from A.B. herself, sent from her own mailbox, in which she “apologizes” for “forgetting the quotation marks” in the copied passages of my thesis and states that I will receive an official communication from her university – but nothing.

With my thanks and very sincere greetings,

xxx

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