Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Turkish Education Minister under Plagiarism Charges

The Nature blog reports that the new Turkish Minister of Education, Ömer Dinçer, lost his title of professor in 2005 on the basis of plagiarism in a textbook published in his name. Turkish Council of Higher Education took back his professorship title, and Dinçer lost his legal appeals case.

But on July 8, 2011, the Turkish Council of Higher Education cleared him, and on July 13 he was appointed Minister of Education. Nature spoke with the council, which confirmed that they had withdrawn the charge of plagiarism, but refused to elaborate.

Since this is a publicly available textbook, I would hope that Turkish academics can quickly set up a wiki and document the extent of the alleged plagiarism, in order to let the public judge for themselves how extensive the copying is.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Psychiatrist accuses colleagues of plagiarism

A reader sends along this link: Penn Psychiatrist Accuses Five Colleagues of Plagiarism
by Jocelyn Kaiser on 13 July 2011

It seems to be a case of ghostwriters and "honorary" authors. Quite troubling in the pharmaceutical research community, I feel. 

The Twelve Commandments

The Law Faculty of the University of Hamburg has issued rules for dealing with scientific honesty. They are stated so clearly and explained well, that there is no room for doubt. Here is my attempt at translation:
  1. Without exception, the works, ideas and thoughts of others is to be shown the necessary respect by use of appropriate forms of textual layout.
  2. Every word-for-word use must be set between quotation marks.
  3. Even for paraphrase or summary instead of word-for-word use, appropriate denotation is to be given.
  4. In paraphrase or summary, care must be taken not to attribute to the authors something they did not state.
  5. Translations of texts in foreign languages are to be denoted with reference to the original source. If the translation is not word for word, it must be marked as such. If someone else's translation is used, this too is to be noted.
  6. General knowledge need not be cited.
  7. Self-plagiarism is not scientific misconduct per se, but every effort should be taken to give the source and note the extent of the use.
  8. It is a clear case of scientific misconduct to use a ghostwriter. This is also the case, even if you have permission to use the text.
  9. Authorship is not just a right, but also carries a responsibility. Substantial portions of work denote authorship. On the other hand, no one can claim authorship who has not done a substantial part of the work. Honorary authorship, hierarchical authorship, leadership authorship or authorship on the basis of obtaining resources are clear cases of scientific misconduct.
  10. The assessment of dissertations will be done by the mentors will take these rules into consideration and will make sure that they are followed.
  11. The assessments of dissertations must state whether and how it was made sure that these rules were followed. 
  12. It is obligatory to determine if the texts delivered for assessment follow the rules. The assessors must note what measures they have taken to ensure this.
 Any questions?  

German party suggests removing the "Dr" from ID cards

Very good. The Green Party in Germany has submitted legislation calling for the doctoral title to no longer be able to be included as part of the name on official ID cards:

Good luck with that, this is one step in the right direction! If you read German, the blog de plagio has a thorough discussion of the use of titles in IDs in Germany. The author does not see this as useful, as people will continue to use it on their business cards. The author insists that people who lose their titles must automatically lose any public office. I'm definitely in on that one!

Medical doctorate rescinded

The German University of Münster announced on July 14, 2011 that they have rescinded a doctorate from the medical faculty.

A Wikipedia editor reports on a strange occurrence while researching an article about growth factors in prostate cancer in the Wikipedia Kurier from May 28, 2011. The editor was using a dissertation from 2006 as the basis for the Wikipedia article. Dissertations - the non-plagiarized ones - are very useful for this task, as they offer a succinct overview of the literature on the topic.

The editor stumbled over the term Xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxx something s/he had not heard before. It was references from a book from 1996. Instead of running to the library to get the book, the editor first asked the "all-knowing garbage heap" if there was anything on this term around.

The editor was amazed to find a dissertation from 2009 on the same topic from the same university. The university puts all of its dissertations online, so only a click was necessary to download it. A short read was, as Yogi Berri would have put it, "déjà vu all over again". The editor thought this might just be a typo on the downloads page and that s/he now had two copies of the same dissertation. But no, each was by a different author.

Since zu Guttenberg had just recently resigned and VroniPlag was under full steam investigating other dissertations, the editor began a side-by-side comparison. Except for minor (and sometime error-inducing) changes, the general introduction to the topic was identical, down to the the line breaks. Then it got worse: there were even identical results, discussions, and the dedication - except the names were changed. The CVs were, however, different.

The editor was not sure what to do, consulted with some scientists. The unanimous opinion was: this must be reported to the authorities. So it happened, and the doctorate has been rightly rescinded from a practicing medical doctor in Westphalia.

I have often stated, as here in the Deutsche Ärzteblatt, that we need two kinds of doctorates for medicine: M.D. for the practicing doctors and Dr. med. for the researchers.

I'm glad the University of Münster was so quick in reacting.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chatzimarkakis loses his Dr.

The University of Bonn decided today to rescind the doctorate it had granted to Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, German representative to the EU and (alternate) member of the Research Policy Board of the EU.

I am relieved that the decision was so clear - and a bit proud that they note the work that VroniPlag did in uncovering the plagiarism. But it was clear to me that there was no other decision possible. Despite Chatzimarkakis' attempts to declare his "method" of citing sources as the Harvard method, or the Oxford method, the university made it very clear that this is not acceptable. Full stop.

Chatzimarkakis has announced that he'll just do another doctorate. I think not - I can't believe that any professor would be willing to accept him as a doctoral student.

The Spiegel Online has a nice commentary on VroniPlag and anonymity - they interviewed me Monday about that. I think the author, Oliver Trenkamp, did a great job is pulling together all the arguments about why most of the VroniPlag people prefer to remain anonymous: It's not about us, it's about the thesis. And there are too many words of others in the thesis that are not clearly marked.

There are many blog comments and newspaper articles, I'll try to link to some: de plagio - Sprengsatz - Saarbrücker Zeitung bedauert der arme GC - focus

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Doctoral Plagiarism Elsewhere

Plagiarized doctoral theses are not only to be found in Germany. Janet Stemwedel reports on Adventures in Ethics and Science on the case of chemist Bengü Sezen. She links to Chemical & Engineering News with a report on the dissertation and three other papers. She quotes:
The documents—an investigative report from Columbia and HHS’s subsequent oversight findings—show a massive and sustained effort by Sezen over the course of more than a decade to dope experiments, manipulate and falsify NMR and elemental analysis research data, and create fictitious people and organizations to vouch for the reproducibility of her results. ...
A notice in the Nov. 29, 2010, Federal Register states that Sezen falsified, fabricated, and plagiarized research data in three papers and in her doctoral thesis. Some six papers that Sezen had coauthored with Columbia chemistry professor Dalibor Sames have been withdrawn by Sames because Sezen’s results could not be replicated. ...
By the time Sezen received a Ph.D. degree in chemistry in 2005, under the supervision of Sames, her fraudulent activity had reached a crescendo, according to the reports. Specifically, the reports detail how Sezen logged into NMR spectrometry equipment under the name of at least one former Sames group member, then merged NMR data and used correction fluid to create fake spectra showing her desired reaction products.
Correction fluid? I thought that state-of-the-art fakes used Photoshop these days.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

El Naschie Watch

Just stumbled over this blog, El Naschie Watch:

"Dr. Mohamed El Naschie is pseudoscientist crackpot who makes grandiose claims about being a "paradigm-shifting" high-energy physicist. He also claims that he deserves the Nobel Prize several times over, and has been nominated for it, but that it has been denied him because he's Egyptian, Muslim, and named Mohamed. He does not tolerate criticism and has earned a reputation as a legal bully.


El Naschie is the founder of a nonsense theory of "fractal Cantorian space-time" that he calls "E-Infinity theory". By founding the Elsevier journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals in 1991, and being its Editor-in-Chief, he managed to publish hundreds of numerological screeds disguised as real physics. As Editor-in-Chief, he was able to avoid peer review for himself, and to publish otherwise unpublishable papers for favored acolytes. In this way he attracted a dozen or so loyal followers, the "E-Infinity group" or "Brotherhood" as we call them on El Naschie Watch. The most famous, or infamous, member other than El Naschie himself is Prof. Ji-Huan He of Donghua University in Shanghai. Ji-Huan He has called El Naschie "The greatest scientist since Newton and Einstein". Another well-known member is Prof. Otto Rössler of the University of Tübingen, who made the news with warnings that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN might make a black hole that would swallow the Earth."

Next: Minister of Education

Just when you think that the plagiarism scandal in Germany might be calming down, the next one shows up. It seems that people are learning how to spot plagiarism, and are finding far too much in the dissertations of plagiarists.

The weekly newspaper Zeit reported on July 6, 2011 that unnamed researchers (not VroniPlag) had analyzed approximately half of the dissertation that Bernd Althusmann had submitted to the University of Potsdam in 2007. He is the minister of education in the German state of Lower Saxony and as such the current head of the Kultusministerkonferenz (State Conference on Media and Education). This is an organization that tries to coordinate education matters in the 16 federal states, that all have their own ideas of how to go about educating the general populace.

The Zeit has posted an excellent list of plagiarisms and an analysis of the same. Prof. Volker Rieble, author of the book Wissenschaftsplagiat, has called for his immediate resignation.

At least the University of Tübingen rescinded the doctorate of Matthias Pröfrock, state politician in Baden-Württemberg, yesterday.

Oxford quotation style

Jorgo Chatzimarkis, German representative in the EU for the FDP party, is currently being investigated for plagiarism in his dissertation. VroniPlag has him currently listed at 70%.

He was on a TV talk show on Sunday, for whatever reason, trying to defend himself by redefining the rules of what good scientific practice is, in order to "prove" that his thesis is okay. It was quite a bizarre show, as he evaded direct questions, the talkmaster Anne Will asked leading questions that presupposed the correct answer. There was a guy with a "von" in his name and a journalist/blogger, and then Anke Domscheidt-Berg, standing up for VroniPlag. She had joined the chat the night before, spent a few hours asking questions, and understood quite a lot of what the group does and why.

Chatzimarkakis defended himself with, among other things, the argument that the work was "intertextual" and that he was using "Oxford style" quotations, that he learned when he was at Oxford. The latter has so enraged German students in Oxford, that they are energetically defending their school. One blogger, at, noted that he seemed to have missed the chapter on "intertextuality" in the 1250 page regulations that were handed out to them the first weeks. He continues:
Das können sich die nächsten VroniPlag-Persönlichkeiten gleich aufnotieren: An jeder größeren Uni in jedem Land sind deutsche Studenten unterwegs, die es nicht lustig finden wenn man deren Uni schlechtredet. (The next ones up on the VroniPlag stage please note: There are German students at every larger university in every country, and they are not amused when people talk trash about their universities)
I just saw a tweet that Chatzimarkakis has now also resigned from the European research council - but I don't have verification on that yet.

Monday, July 4, 2011

De plagio

If you read German, there is a group blog called "de plagio" (a truely wonderful play on words, as you can read it as "Plagiarism in Germany" or "about plagiarism"). They liveblogged the appearance of Mr. Chatzimarkakis on a German talk show (Anne Will) this evening. He tried to defend himself on account of his "accusers" being anonymous.

Anke Domscheidt-Berg did a great job of trying to explain to him what good scientific practice is and why what VroniPlag is doing is not judging him but documenting grave similarities between his thesis and much referenced but unquoted material (currently at 70% of the pages in his thesis). The show should be online in the "ARD Mediathek" for a week or so.

The de plagio blog is well worth reading!