I work for a UK start-up company. It has come to my knowledge that a member of senior management is attempting to pass off my own work as his own, as part of his PhD thesis. The individual in question is above me in the organisational hierarchy. I believe that the individual's PhD supervisors are complicit in this attempt at academic fraud. The viva has yet to take place.

I come from an academic background myself and I am concerned for my own career. In the short term, I am also concerned about my own reputation in the company, as I manage a small team and the attempt at academic fraud has become an open secret in the team.

What should my course of action be?

  • 1
    Has the work that he's passing off as his own been published anywhere previously, even if internally? – berry120 Oct 10 '19 at 22:07
  • My work has not been published either internally or externally. However, a further individual has admitted to me for being responsible for carrying out work on the thesis, including incorporating my own work. – Porcupine99 Oct 10 '19 at 22:38

What should my course of action be?

Determine the University at which this individual is seeking a PhD.

Contact their ombudsman or ethics office. Discuss what you believe is happening and why.

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    Right, leave your employer out of it. They can say that what this person does in their studies has nothing to do with them. – Kate Gregory Oct 10 '19 at 22:11

Observe, record, and possibly report.

A few words of caution here:

  • if you decide to file a complaint with the university, you must be prepared to defend the fact that this work is yours. If you don’t have that, and more importantly, this person can give a good, in-depth explanation of the work and its concepts, I guarantee you that your workplace will find out about this. Judging from what you’ve said about the management there, you’re gonna be in hot water.

  • it’s not academic fraud until it’s presented or published. Drafts and works in progress aren’t submitted work.

  • your stuff might get cited as interpersonal communication and written in such a way that it’s still not fraud. So, now you’re gonna go off guns blazing on something that was attributed to you, and then had original research built off it.

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