WWYD - friend passing off someone else's work as hers

(206 Posts)
disappointedinfriend Tue 09-Jun-15 13:31:54

NC for this, but regular.

I am an academic editor. My friend is an academic. She is married to another academic. I have worked writing from both of them quite extensively.

She normally sends me her papers to look through. I have been reading one of them through several iterations and helping her with it.

The first iterations of this paper were worse than useless. However, she has sent me a new version of it and it is brilliant. So brilliant, in fact, that I immediately recognise that her DH has taken her paper and rewritten it completely for her. I know his quirks of style and I can hear his voice all the way though it. I love her to bits, but I know that she is incapable of writing something as good as this essay.

She has presented it to me as her own work, and will do so to the public too. She is looking for promotion at the end of the year.

I feel a bit sick that she would stoop to this. I would never expose her publicly, but I don't know how to react to her. Should I appear like I am taken in by it? WWYD?

PeppermintCrayon Tue 09-Jun-15 13:39:18

God that's tricky. Are you absolutely sure she hasn't just mimicked his voice?

I think if you are sure I would be inclined to ask her outright if she had help.

Purplepoodle Tue 09-Jun-15 13:40:44

If she's a friend I'd arrange to meet her for coffee and have a chat about it. Tell her that essay comes across very strongly as her husbands style and you are worried that this will cause her problems.

Is this a research paper and she is presenting her own research?

disappointedinfriend Tue 09-Jun-15 13:41:57

I am absolutely convinced.

I know my friend very well. I have edited her work for years. I know her voice very, very well.

Her DH is a major figure in the field. I worked on a couple of his books. I know his style too.

I don't mean this to sound as catty as it does, but she is simply not capable of writing an essay as good as this.

It is even in the one font he uses, with a few characteristic spellings that are his.

disappointedinfriend Tue 09-Jun-15 13:42:42

And yes, it's a research paper that she is presenting as her own. The field is a qualitative one, so it is all about the writing and conceptualisation.

PeppermintCrayon Tue 09-Jun-15 13:44:07

I think purples suggestion is excellent.

Cherryblossomsinspring Tue 09-Jun-15 13:45:02

I think you need to say to her that the work comes across as her hubbys and you feel other people in your field will think the same.

She can do with that what she wishes. It may shake her up enough to pull the paper or she may decide to go ahead with the risk.

Fleecyleesy Tue 09-Jun-15 13:45:50

Hard to say.

Firstly as the editor, where do you stand if she passes this off as her own work. Any consequences/liability/responsibility on your part?

Secondly as a piece of work, has your friend done the underlying work but her husband has just written it up? Or is the piece itself the underlying work but he has done it instead of her - in which case, could they both be put as authors?

HellKitty Tue 09-Jun-15 13:46:43

What Purple said.
It's tough though isn't it.

CornChips Tue 09-Jun-15 13:46:52

Could you say you feel her husband has had an influence on her style and you are worried that some other people might perceive it?

SorchaN Tue 09-Jun-15 13:47:09

Are she and her husband in the same field? If so, it's highly likely that anyone reading her published paper would recognise the husband's style. Any suspicion of plagiarism is more likely to lead to sacking than promotion. Is there a reason her performance isn't up to scratch - illness, bereavement etc.? Can you raise your suspicions gently? It's a serious accusation, whoever makes it, so I think you need to be quite careful - and especially careful about your assumption that her work couldn't possibly be so brilliant even if you're right!

HarrietVane99 Tue 09-Jun-15 13:48:19

I think you need to think about your own professional reputation and do whatever you need to do to protect it.

Quills Tue 09-Jun-15 13:48:27

Oh, that's incredibly tricky. I too am an editor (though in the fiction field) so I understand exactly what you mean about the voice. However, if you recognise it so easily, surely others will as well if their work is in the same field? Plus of course, if she gets a promotion on the back of this paper, she's going to struggle to produce work at the level expected of her.

Is there any way you can hint to her you have an idea of what's happened without saying it outright?

pluCaChange Tue 09-Jun-15 13:50:06

I would think less of the DH, as an academic, for this as well. Fair enough to go through your spouse's work to help un-knot it, and draw out ideas which are already there - I edited my DH's dissertation without the faintest background in what he does - but no-one should change style and substance so cardinally. Is he trying to get her into trouble? shock Or is he just the sort of person who has no common sense?

ProcrastinatorGeneral Tue 09-Jun-15 13:50:08

If she publishes there is a chance of wrecking not only her own career but that if her husband too. Can they afford that type of catastrophe?

Sounds harsh, but it's something they as a couple need to decide.

Sorry you're in the position you are.

BabyMurloc Tue 09-Jun-15 13:50:45

What purple said: If she's a friend I'd arrange to meet her for coffee and have a chat about it. Tell her that essay comes across very strongly as her husbands style and you are worried that this will cause her problems.

If her husband is well known and it reads in his style there will be other people who put two and two together. You don't need to be accusatory just tell her it reads like her husbands work and although you understand they will invariably "rub off on each other" you want to flag it as you think it may cause her some issues.

mugglingalong Tue 09-Jun-15 13:53:04

Would a co-authorship work for this piece of work? Maybe if he was a second author on it if the conceptualisation was hers but he helped with lots of the editing. It does sound as if something needs to be said, as Cherry says someone else might question the authorship.

CloserToFiftyThanTwenty Tue 09-Jun-15 13:55:39

Agree with purple and BabyM - you can't not say anything, can you?

OnlyLovers Tue 09-Jun-15 13:56:46

Does the buck stop with you ie are you the one who ultimately decides what's published? Or do you work for or on behalf of a publisher?

Momagain1 Tue 09-Jun-15 13:57:24

You have to tell her that you can tell he has given her a lot of advice, and maybe helped her edit her drafts. And if you can see it, others will too. She needs to go back and rewrite this draft and ignore him, that you cannot edit in it's current state. If she won't, then you should decline to edit for her at all.

My husband is an academic, he can recognize the writing of his peers in the field, as well as numbers of their current and former graduate students. He spotted a student he taught at undergraduate level 10 years ago in the US now writing a blog on a different subject in the UK.

Pumpeedo Tue 09-Jun-15 13:57:58

You could mention it to her but what if she took offence. Probably best to say nothing.

Tequilashotfor1 Tue 09-Jun-15 13:58:00

Tread carefully on this one ....

I had to do a written exam type thing for work that I could do at home and I passed at 92%

My line manager was convienced My work colleague had done it and refused to believe other wise. Luckily the promotion was down to him as I wouldn't have got it.....which he told me almost weekly till I left prick

Do you think he could have discussed and helped her in the right direction?

Tequilashotfor1 Tue 09-Jun-15 13:58:30

Convinced **blush

ExitPursuedByABear Tue 09-Jun-15 13:59:12

As someone else said, if she does gain promotion on the back of this she is hardly likely to step up to the challenge - unless she plans for her DH to help her all the time.

IssyStark Tue 09-Jun-15 13:59:24

I would definitely have a word over a coffee as purple suggests. Stuff about phrasing coming across as husband's, obv. she's talked things through with him but perhaps a re-write in order to sound less him and more her own voice again? I wouldn't accuse her of anything at all (because it isn't uncommon to pass papers around for suggestions, especially to the other half), but just, with your editor's hat on, you're worried some people might see it as less of her work and more her husband's because of the style.

Sorry you're in this position, OP.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now