On Campus

Self-plagiarism debate continues at Queen's

University urged to reopen investigation into alleged 'scientific misconduct'

A Queen’s medical professor wants the university to reopen a case involving allegations of self-plagiarism. Reginald Smith, professor emeritus of mechanical and materials engineering, had been found to have recycled research from articles published earlier in his career.

The case drew international attention after details were made public by Postmedia as a result of a lenthy investigation that involved the retrieval of documents from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) through freedom of information requests. Two of Smith’s colleagues who had discovered the “self-plagiarism” in several articles filed complaints both with Queen’s and NSERC.

An internal investigation by the university concluded that Smith’s actions did not constitute scientific misconduct but concluded that Smith “has recognized the seriousness of the findings regarding the reuse of materials and has implemented policies in his research group to prevent further issues arising with new work.” The university considers the matter closed.

However, Steve Iscoe, who teaches medicine at Queen’s, says a “double standard” is being used. “How can I penalize a student for plagiarism if the university has not penalized Prof. Smith?” he said. Mort Shirkhanzadeh, one of the professors who filed the initial complaint, recently made a similar argument in a letter to the dean of engineering. “How can one have confidence in the results of the university research if records are not corrected and abuses of this scale are swept under the carpet?” he wrote.

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