Postgrad LIVE! Study Fairs

Birmingham | Edinburgh | Liverpool | Sheffield | Southampton | Bristol

University of East Anglia Featured PhD Programmes
University of Oxford Featured PhD Programmes
Swansea University Featured PhD Programmes
University of Hong Kong Featured PhD Programmes
University of Nottingham Featured PhD Programmes

PhD Discussion Forum

The following thread is brought to you by our sister Web site PostgraduateForum.com. If you wish to reply or post your own thread, you will be redirected to this site.

This Category:   PostgraduateForum.com > PhD Advice / Support


Message

Someone has stolen my project :-(


User: birdie - 06 September 2009 02:42

Dear Everyone,
I am a second year PhD student and I wanted to ask if anyone has experienced someone else stealing your ideas? Basically, I wrote a grant proposal 9 months ago and emailed it to someone who said they might be able to help me. A few weeks later I emailed to ask if I hadbeen successful and I had a one sentance email to say that 'sorry, I do not have the funds'. I have just found out, by chance, they the same study is now being carried out by this person, who is not academic, but has recruited several academics to do analysis etc. It is the same work I was going to do (and have started) and would comprise 2 chapters of my thesis. The people that are involved with his study and the funds he has for equipment means that it is impossible for me to compete and get a paper out before his.

Has anyone else experienced this? If so, is there anything I can do? I am coming to the end of my second year now :-(

User: rick - 06 September 2009 07:20

Hi Birdie,

this must an aweful experience and probably everyone's nightmare.

I am afraid the issue is mainly about intellectual ownership. To own the proposal you need to have some sort of proof that it really yours, that is it must have been published with your name attached / copy right granted / the orginal needs to be with a sollicitor etc. All things which I think are probably not the case. Also, as you E mailed the proposal to the other person, he has received it from you, and it will be difficult therefore to say that he cannot use it.

Obviously this is all very unfair, yet in a court of law I do not think you would have a very strong case.
However at uni level, perhaps, you could get information regarding these issues and even get some (legal) advice.

User: magictime - 06 September 2009 08:41

I'd get legal advice - I don't know if and how copyright attaches to research proposals, but as I understand it, in the case of (say) a piece of creative writing, pretty much all you have to do to show copyright has been infringed is to prove that work was originally yours - the old trick is to post a copy to yourself and leave it in a sealed, date-stamped envelope. So if there's an electronic paper-trail here - emails sent to and from this person, or old copies of the proposal on your computer - I would have thought it should be easy enough to demonstrate that he's pinched your ideas.

But of course the question is whether copyright applies here, or whether it's some other sort of intellectual property law, or whatever; and what you can do about it! Looking at it from the other guy's point of view, he must surely be looking over his shoulder - you can *prove* he's stolen your ideas. Maybe you could be demanding a co-authorship or something... like I say, legal advice I think (or at least, advice from some experienced academic).

User: rubyw - 06 September 2009 11:15

That sounds a horrible situation to be in, a PhD student's worst nightmare (or one of them). I think you should speak to your supervisor about it first of all, as it obviously affects your PhD work, what you've planned to do and what you can do next. Depending on what he/she says, you might find the students union useful if there are IP/plagiarism issues and you do need legal advice about this or avoiding future problems - they know the uni procedures and have your interests at heart. They might have experience of similar issues, I know of one where the SU acted on behalf of a student in a staff plagiarism case.

I was wondering though, did your sup know about you doing that grant proposal, and that you were sending it that person, or was it your own initiative? You definitely need to talk to your sup very soon if the other person is doing the same work as your proposed thesis chapters, then you can decide between you what to do about it.

User: betard - 07 September 2009 17:30

Sounds like a scumbag.

You may not be able to take legal action, but you could and probably should do your best to let everyone know he (or she) stealing your work (as long as you have proof). Obviously let him know that you know he's been a bad boy first. If his response doesn't satisfy you, notify the people in your department, all of his co-workers, etc. Basically let him know that if he's going to steal your work you're gonna drag his name through the mud.

User: birdie - 07 September 2009 22:33

Dear Everyone... thank you for your replies. I feel slightly calmer now and it can only make me stronger! I am not covered by anything it seems. Apparently the next step is to get my name out there asap! Does anyone have any tips on protecting ones work for others?

User: rjb203 - 08 September 2009 01:56

I get the impression this sort of thing happens a lot more commonly than you might think, but in most cases it is more subtle.

I have just finished up my MSc and as part of it we had to submit a rather large group proposal ( this was our group project). Each team had 5 members and everyone proposed an individual research track as part of the proposal. We were writing this proposal as if it were to be sent off to a research council for funding once finished.
One could say that this is just good preparation for a career in research which I suppose it is, but then again we can be a lot more cynical and say that this is just a great way for lecturers and post-docs to sponge ideas from their grad students. Granted that most of the proposals submitted wouldn't have been of the standard where they could be directly copied and sent of to the research council, there is every reason to believe that any of these proposals  could be used, if even partially, and submitted for funding applications to a research council without the author being acknowledged.

A classic example of this carry on is the following: a particular professor at my current uni supposedly passes on the dissertations from his students to students of another university in another country ( he has a chair there as well). I gather this is without the consent of his students and is done in order to exploit this research for financial gain

I am not exactly sure you have much of a case at this present point in time other than to request that you get some form of acknowledgment on any patents or papers. Unless its work you have already published or patented, I'm not sure you have much recourse for taking legal action. If its a case that they have copied your proposal word for word and submitted it for funding then this is blatant plagiarism and I'm sure there is something you can do about it as long as you can prove you are the original author. The email you sent would certainly help in this respect!! Im sure you can get hold of their funding application if their research ends up being funded by the MRC or EPSRC.... Usually a summary of funded projects for for each subject and principal investigator is listed on the research council website!!

I somehow doubt they would be that stupid though. Your best bet is to get your work published as soon as possible and don't deal with this person/people again!!! I know you must be really pissed off by this but you should take it as a valuable lesson learned.
Consider how easy it is for this kind of thing to happen. Not just written proposals though: You could be at a conference and discuss ideas and future work with another researcher. Whats to stop them from trying out your ideas without giving you credit?

People can also argue that an idea for a project is one thing but results are a different prospect altogether. The research they are undertaking probably might not work out as you have envisaged it in which case they take a different direction.

User: Ogriv - 13 September 2009 09:21

Going on from what RJB said, I'm halfway through an MSc and my main friend on the course appears to be nicking some of my ideas. I tend to have lots and lots of ideas (of wildly varying quality) whereas he has more scientific experience. But I've definitely noticed a recent trend of him pondering over potential dissertation topics that were originally ideas I brought up in conversation. This person is potentially a very talented researcher and is also extremely ambitious and confident. I think I'm good, but less experienced, less confident and less pushy.

To cut a long story short, I'll probably need to tell my 'friend' fewer of my ideas in future; crack on with following up my good ideas myself; and take a leaf out of his book in terms of pushiness I reckon.

At my level and stage of idea incubation, I don't think I can really claim plagiarism :p but this friend is a definite magpie and, alas, in this context a potential rival. What is academia doing to all of us?!?

User: Ergogirly - 13 September 2009 10:21

======= Date Modified 13 Sep 2009 10:24:20 =======
Ogriv



You and me both.  My ideas are continually stolen and any attempts to claim ownership have been met with "we had already thought of that" and I just can't prove otherwise. I've always been happy to share my ideas as long as I get recognised somewhere in the project. I never have been though. 



We should just 'shut up' more but I've always been interested in learning for the thrill of pushing back the boundaries of science so keeping quite when I spot something runs against my natural grain.



Perhaps we just need to be more assertive rather than pushy.

User: helebon - 04 September 2017 07:28

This had happened to me on a few occasions. My previous research idea I spoke to my supervisor about and that I decided on using a specific gallery as a location for recruiting my research participants. The supervisor said, "I've never heard of it" (the gallery). Fast forward a year when I intercalated due to being unwell and they are doing a project with the gallery! I changed research ideas and supervisor after that.

Then when I mentioned to an MPhil student my new research ideas and the next time I saw them they changed their research idea to similar to mine.

It is fairly rife peoples research ideas being stolen. It's so hard to know who to trust. I am enthusiastic about my research ideas but I need to stop discussing them with people. When people ask me what my research question is and methods I need to avoid answering.

Ogriv you mentioned people who are magpies and this seems very appropriate.

User: pm133 - 05 September 2017 18:31

Quote From helebon:
This had happened to me on a few occasions. My previous research idea I spoke to my supervisor about and that I decided on using a specific gallery as a location for recruiting my research participants. The supervisor said, "I've never heard of it" (the gallery). Fast forward a year when I intercalated due to being unwell and they are doing a project with the gallery! I changed research ideas and supervisor after that.

Then when I mentioned to an MPhil student my new research ideas and the next time I saw them they changed their research idea to similar to mine.

It is fairly rife peoples research ideas being stolen. It's so hard to know who to trust. I am enthusiastic about my research ideas but I need to stop discussing them with people. When people ask me what my research question is and methods I need to avoid answering.

Ogriv you mentioned people who are magpies and this seems very appropriate.

This is why I never liked to discuss or present any unpublished work at conference or to other academics. Nobody can or should be trusted.





FindAPhD. Copyright 2005-2018
All rights reserved.