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Culpable negligence in writing PhD-thesis

Published: 26th March 2020 Last updated: 27th March 2020

The Executive Board has adopted the advice of the external Scientific Integrity Committee (CWI) headed by the University of Utrecht professor Dr. Ton Hol that was set up to examine the content and the preparation process of the PhD thesis of Dr. Jonathan Malagón González. The thesis entitled Four essays on central banking in Latin America under balance of payments dominance, was defended by Dr. J. Malagón González on December 1, 2017.

In its meeting of March 23, 2020, the Executive Board has judged, based on the SIC’s advice, that the person concerned acted with culpable negligence. The CWI finds the actions of the person concerned culpable negligent in light of the principles of honesty and scrupulousness laid down in the The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice 2014. By not informing his Supervisors that his students had obtained his permission to write a Master’s thesis on part of the PhD thesis topic and not (explicitly) mentioning either to his Supervisors or in his PhD thesis that he had worked together intensively with students in preparing his PhD thesis he acted culpable negligent. The person concerned also acknowledged that he should have mentioned more explicitly that his students had written Master’s theses under his supervision that were based on his PhD thesis. 

The CWI also investigated the suspicion of plagiarism and misunderstanding of the (co-)authorship of others. The CWI observes that there is an overlap between the PhD thesis of the person concerned and the master’s theses of the students involved in the investigation by the CWI. Various text paragraphs, tables and graphs/diagrams are the same. However, the CWI has not been able to establish who wrote which text, who made which tables and graphs and who had what part in this. As a result plagiarism cannot be demonstrated. The CWI also states in this regard that there is insufficient evidence of failure to acknowledge the authorship of the former students or others. In accordance with the advice of the CWI, the Executive Board concludes that, with respect to the PhD Thesis of the person concerned, plagiarism cannot be demonstrated and that there is insufficient evidence of failure to acknowledge the authorship of the former students or others. In this context, the Executive Board takes into consideration that the advice of the CWI is for a large part based on statements by the person concerned and the students involved. The Executive Board must rely on the truthfulness of those statements.

Measures

The Executive Board ordered the person concerned to add an appendix to his PhD thesis containing an explicit reference to the SIC’s advisory report of January 15, 2020, as well as a statement per chapter of the names of the students who were involved in the substantive preparation of (that part of) the PhD thesis.

The Executive Board received several questions about when plagiarism does or does not occur. The Executive Board is aware of this ongoing international and national debate and is – in general - as always willing to actively engage in this debate. The Board intends to form a committee to address these questions.

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