Public protector investigating UCT professor’s alleged plagiarism

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane File picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane File picture: Oupa Mokoena/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Nov 27, 2020


Cape Town – A former UCT PhD student is demanding to be compensated for reputational damage after she alleged the institution failed to fairly investigate a plagiarism complaint against a professor.

Pumeza Gogwana claims she has been battling with the university for three years to correctly address injustices by chemistry Professor Allen Rodgers.

She has now approached Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s officer and lodged a fraud complaint.

Mkhwebane’s spokesperson, Oupa Segalwe, said “an investigation has commenced”.

Gogwana said she wrote her paper titled “Determination of thermodynamic parameters for complexation of calcium and magnesium with chondroitin sulfate isomers using isothermal titration calorimetry: Implications for calcium kidney-stone research” which was based on the findings of her thesis.

“I sent the paper to Professor Rodgers under my authorship, who submitted it to an academic journal and it came back with corrections and recommendations. Late in 2017 I made all of the corrections suggested by the journal and gave the copy of the final paper to Rodgers to be submitted.

“I discovered in 2018 that he ended up writing another paper using the data I had used in my paper and published it in the Journal of Crystal Growth Vol 463 where I am not featured as a co-author.

’’This was not submitted as agreed and no explanations were provided. I found out that the title he used for his paper is the one that I used for my paper.

’’The original manuscript shows what he actually wrote and what came from the paper that I wrote,” said Gogwana.

Gogwana said since she wrote the first paper and the work was never published, she considered that to be stealing her personal property and passing it off as his own.

“This was the subject of my complaint on plagiarism. He published another paper from my thesis. I was not a co-author there as well,” she said.

Gogwana’s legal representative said corrections were made but they were written in a way that does not address the substance of the recommendations and still failed to acknowledge Gogwana’s authorship.

“Furthermore, they entirely failed to deal with the recommendation that there is a need to answer the question why Dr Gogwana’s contribution was not acknowledged in the publication that has the same title as the one she drafted,” her lawyer said.

In the letter to UCT, Gogwana’s representative claimed “a result of these failures to correct manifest injustices”.

UCT spokesperson Elijah Moholola said Gogwana instructed attorneys in the matter and the university was engaging her attorneys on the allegations.

“It would not be appropriate for the university to make any public comment at this stage,”said Moholola.

Rogers said “the response from the university stands”.

Cape Times