Lecturer rejects 'copying' allegation

December 19, 1997

A SENIOR lecturer at Plymouth University has been accused of copying from other academics' work in his 1986 PhD thesis.

Plymouth vice chancellor John Bull has called on the University of the West of England, formerly Bristol Polytechnic, where the thesis was written, to investigate. UWE confirmed this week that it has initiated an investigation.

Roger Maull, senior lecturer at Plymouth's computing department, has been accused by the Council for Academic Freedom and Academic Standards of copying passages verbatim from published work.

But Christine Cheesman, assistant general secretary of the Association of University Teachers, which is representing Dr Maull, this week asked CAFAS to withdraw allegations of plagiarism.

Tony Pointon, former director of research at Portsmouth University, reviewed the evidence for the AUT. He said that Dr Maull had clearly "copied words out" from other academics' work, and that there were "whole paragraphs of other people's work", but that it did not constitute plagiarism.

"It may not be the best, or even good style," said Professor Pointon, "but he never passed the work off as his own. If he was going to pass it off, he would have at least have rephrased it."

Dr Maull said: "Acting on my behalf the Aut has sought an expert opinion on my PhD thesis. Neither I nor the AUT can understand how the thesis, which was awarded 11 years ago, was selected for this review. The expert is satisfied that there is no case of plagiarism to answer."

Colwyn Williamson of CAFAS said: "We have produced a textual comparison showing that a very substantial number of the words in the thesis are clearly copied from previously published works and we have left it to the responsible authorities to decide whether they consider this degree of copying acceptable."

Professor Bull said: "This is now a matter for the University of West of England. In his time with us, Dr Maull's conduct has been exemplary."

UWE assistant vice chancellor Rob Cuthbert said he would get a review of the material from independent experts.

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