Dr. Naseer is a chemical engineering professor at the University of Eastlands. Traditionally, various professors from diverse institutions would visit Eastlands to learn about research conducted by the University’s scholars as well as explore potential collaboration. Last month, Dr. Naseer discovered that his department would be hosting a famous chemical engineering professor, Dr. Alston.
During his three-month visit, Dr. Alston observed various group meetings presented by Dr. Naseer and his students. More importantly, he learned a great deal about the research that Dr. Naseer was doing in the field of reactor design. At the conclusion of his stay, Dr. Alston returned to his institution without mentioning any plans for collaboration.
A few months later, Dr. Naseer was ready to publish a paper he had written on his topic of research. However, through an online resource, he discovered Dr. Alston had published a recent paper that used identical theorems, background information, and results Dr. Naseer had written in his work. The paper did not make any acknowledgments to Dr. Naseer.
The Eastlands’ professor was angry and felt betrayed. During his visit, Dr. Alston did not mention that he was conducting research or about to publish on the same topic in reactor design.
Dr. Naseer’s colleagues expressed disappointment in Dr. Alston’s actions, and in the field of higher academia in general. They urged Dr. Naseer to take action, but, since it was not common practice, there had not been a non-disclosure agreement between the two parties in conflict.
What, if anything, should Dr. Naseer do?
Jocelyn Tan was a 2014-2015 Hackworth Fellow in Engineering Ethics at the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University.