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PhD students say advisors take credit for their work

Published torsdag 8 december 2016 kl 16.51
"They take advantage of the fact that the doctoral candidate is dependent on them"
(3:14 min)
Thirty two percent of PhD students in technical subjects say their work has been used by supervisors without credit. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT
Thirty-two percent of PhD students in technical subjects say their work has been used by supervisors without credit. Credit: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

More than a quarter of doctoral students in Sweden say that their work has been used without credit, according to a survey by the Swedish Higher Education Authority.

The survey polled almost half of the 10,000 postgraduate students in the country. Though the average number of students reporting this misconduct was 25 percent, some subject areas fared even worse. In technical subjects such as math and science, 32 percent of the respondents reported there had been wrongful use of their research by superiors. 

Charlotta Tjärdahl, Vice Chair of the Swedish National Union of Students, told Radio Sweden that the structure of postgraduate studies, where the main focus is not on education, is a large part of the problem.

“Since research is valued so much more than education, PhD students get in between and to be honest they can be used in the system that we have today,” she said.

Anna Ilar of the Swedish Association of University Teachers and Researchers said that this problem stems from the power that senior supervisors have over PhD students. 

"They take advantage of the fact that the doctoral candidate is really dependent on them and then the students do not dare to report it because of the consequences it could lead to," she told Radio Sweden.

Ilar offered a number of solutions to put a stop to the issue.

"Swedish universities have to make clear that this type of behavior is unacceptable and that the researchers must be aware of the consequences," she said. 

Tjärdahl emphasized the value of PhD and postgraduate studies to society.

“We all have this huge responsibility to actually make sure that they have proper terms to work on and to make sure that the future knowledge society we are so striving for gets their credit,” she told Radio Sweden.

Our journalism is based on credibility and impartiality. Swedish Radio is independent and not affiliated to any political, religious, financial, public or private interests.
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