No misconduct by professor who used student’s work in paper

Panel finds no case to answer as student did not own copyright to her dissertation. Melanie Newman writes

March 8, 2010

The Health Professions Council (HPC) has ruled that a professor who used sections of his student’s dissertation in a research paper was not guilty of misconduct.

Remco Polman, a professor at the University of Central Lancashire’s Centre for Applied Sport and Exercise Sciences, appeared before a conduct panel on 5 March charged with having “reproduced substantial sections” from Jeannette Cohen’s dissertation without her permission. He was also accused of signing a copyright agreement with the journal’s publisher, Taylor and Francis, without her consent.

The HPC’s own lawyer told the hearing that Ms Cohen did not own the copyright to her dissertation, and the case was dismissed.

The allegation related to a paper published in the Journal of Sports Sciences in 2007, when Professor Polman was based at the University of Hull.

The paper listed Ms Cohen as third author.

The professor had supervised Ms Cohen’s MSc dissertation when they were both at Leeds Metropolitan University.

Ms Cohen argued that the research in the paper was essentially hers and that Professor Polman had no right to sign the copyright agreement.

She complained to the British Psychological Society in 2008, which referred the case to a conduct committee. The HPC took over the case after it became responsible for monitoring the professional conduct of psychologists.

At the hearing in London last week, the HPC took two minutes to find that there was no case to answer.

The lawyer for the HPC, Chris Whalley, said he had reviewed the Leeds Met regulations on students’ intellectual property rights and the assignment of those rights.

“Having considered these regulations in detail, Mr Whalley further advised the panel that Jeannette Cohen was not the legal owner of the material which was the subject of the allegations,” the HPC tribunal report says.

“In those circumstances, he offered no evidence on behalf of the HPC in relation to all allegations set out in the HPC bundle.”

The conduct panel concluded that because the HPC had not demonstrated that there was any breach of copyright, there was no misconduct case against Professor Polman to answer.

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