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Obstacle course — If a student from the Faculty of Science or the Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences publishes his or her bachelor or master's thesis with their supervisor in a scientific journal, it is considered self-plagiarism. Instead of putting out obstacles, UCPH should support and encourage students to conduct research and to publish.
The University of Copenhagen (UCPH) is a historical institution that has spawned world-class thinkers and explored some of the deepest mysteries of the universe and mankind. We can actually be proud of this.
Instead unidentified administrators at the university have devised a meaningless rule that shoves the talented researchers of the future to the back of the queue. It is relatively simple: If you, as a student together with your supervisor, are able to publish parts of your bachelor’s or master’s thesis in a scientific journal, it is considered plagiarism of your own research.
The rule presumably is well-intentioned. Students’ work needs to clearly be their own, and publication in collaboration with others should therefore be checked carefully. The administration, unfortunately, has forgotten the nuanced differences between crediting yourself with other people’s established work, and sharing your own research with the world for the first time.
Here are five good reasons to remove the rule:
The rest of the world does not understand the logic of this, and similar rules are not found at Oxford, Harvard, Caltech, MIT or any other university in Denmark or abroad. This means that alumni from UCPH cannot compete on an equal footing when they have to wait to publish, while everyone else can freely improve their CV with scientific articles.
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The rule means that the general public and the scientific community are not given access to exciting and groundbreaking research articles. Because when graduates are finally released from the rigid control of UCPH post graduation, most of them are busy with full-time work and other new responsibilities, and therefore never publish their findings.
For the tenacious and stubborn student who is able to publish after graduation, the research will be delayed by months or years. In the modern information age, it is more important than ever that free scientific discourse takes place at the pace of the research itself.
The rule only applies to bachelor’s and master’s degree students, while PhD students are free to publish their research results before submitting their theses. This also implies that people completing an integrated Master’s and PhD are left within a bureaucratic loophole. They are considered neither student nor researcher, as they must both satisfy the expectation of producing research publications from the scientific community, while UCPH provides the limitation that their research may not be public until after receiving a Masters-diploma.
The students who do not know the rule before it is too late are severely punished. UCPH sends its students through a Kafkaesque process of jurisprudence, with, in the worst cases, UCPH depriving them of their thesis, delaying their careers, and forcing them to write a new thesis project from scratch. All this for not doing anything else than sharing your science with the world.
Instead of putting out obstacles, UCPH should be supporting and encouraging students to do research and to publish. We should, fundamentally, be paying tribute to this research, because it benefits both the individual students and society when the scientific process is open to everyone.
I have discussed the issue with several professors and employees. They all criticise the rule and the imposed penalties from the administration. As the former president of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences and Letters, Professor Mogens Høgh Jensen, says:
»UCPH students may do research, but they are not allowed to publish together with anyone. This is very strange.«
Or as Denmark’s most recent Nobel Prize winner, Professor Morten Meldal, says:
»They should change this right away … We need to put on our ‘yes hats’ here.«
So dear UCPH: Drop the pointless rules and let UCPH students compete on an equal footing, so they can enrich us all with exciting and groundbreaking research articles.