PhD-student and thesis advisor in conflict over plagiarism

- in In English

On September 29, a PhD-student passed his thesis at Lund University, although he was accused of plagiarism by his former thesis advisor.

Since 2018, the PhD student has been admitted to a PhD program at Lund University. According to this professor, he had encountered difficulties in his work.

“Serious problems were discovered in the organization and progress of the work. To help him, I invited the student to join my sub-project and use my own notes as a basis for the thesis, and offered to fill in the details in calculations already sketched out”, he writes in an email.

According to him, as time passed, the student became nervous about the difficulty of the task and became aggressive. And, the PhD student accused the professor of not citing him in the results he presented at a seminar in Paris. 

“It was really ridiculous, as I was the one who sent these results to the student beforehand by email”, he writes.

Following these accusations, the professor resigned from his supervisory role. 

“It was the only solution left for me. I didn’t want to be linked to someone I consider unethical and potentially dangerous to the research society”, the professor says.

According to his statement, several charges of defamation and lying were filed against the professor, and all charges were dismissed. During the student’s thesis defense, questions were asked from the audience. When the professor asked a question, the student stopped him. Then, the professor was forbidden to go any further.

To this day, the professor indicates errors in the thesis defended by the doctoral student. 

“The opponent did an excellent job and pointed out even more errors than I discovered”, writes the professor.

The student, however, does not hold the same version. He denounced a series of lies by the professor: 

“In reality, I started a PhD with joint sub-projects with him and others I did on my own”, he writes.

In fact, he explains that he sent in a lot of work, each time expecting feedback from the professor, who didn’t get it. For him, it was the absence of “feedback on his writing” and the “lack of quality supervision” that escalated the tension between them. 

He claims that he only received feedback on his thesis at the end of his fourth year. His former supervisor, the professor, also suggested that he withdraw certain results from his thesis. 

“I wrote that ”I’m surprised he would want me to withdraw them, since he used them in his presentation in Paris and didn’t even quote me. After that, he left supervision”, the student says.

Following this first incident, the PhD was ready to defend his thesis in October 2022. 

“But, this accusation caused me to delay defending the thesis, it was dismissed after a few months. Then he again accused my published thesis and caused my defense to be delayed again”, he writes. 

“After that, my thesis was checked and it was decided that it contained no plagiarism. I could finally go ahead with the thesis defense”, the PhD student says.

Contrary to the professor’s position, the student admits to having been investigated by Lund University at a Disciplinary Board meeting. It was decided, on October 10, that the student was not guilty. Today, the student denounced the injustice of this delay for more than a year in defending his thesis. 

“It’s a clear imbalance of power between a professor and a doctoral student, which will always lead to the doctoral student suffering more consequences,” he concludes.