Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cottbus refuses to rescind doctorate

The German technical university BTU Cottbus has decided not to rescind the doctorate of Prof. Dr. Detlev Dähnert, the general manager of the energy company Vattenfall located in this part of Germany.
Dähnert's dissertation, submitted in 1999 (Bewältigung technischer und sozialer Probleme bei der Konzeption von Umsiedlungen) is about moving entire villages in order to mine coal using an opencut method. The village Horno was one of the most well-know of the villages that were moved and then demolished in German.

Dähnert was then named honorary professor at the local engineering college HS Lausitz in 2005.

In the summer of 2011 someone set up a web site, Vattenplag, that accused the dissertation of containing plagiarism. They posted a link on the VroniPlag Wiki site with the name and a link to the page. Journalists reported that VroniPlag Wiki was investigating the case, which was pointed out as not true. Just because the name was on the page didn't mean anything. The entry was deleted from VroniPlag Wiki's public pages, the page Vattenplag disappeared, and everything was quiet.

In September a page appeared on the Internet pages of an environmental group detailing the plagiarism. VroniPlag Wiki began investigating and discovered that there were indeed large amounts of plagiarism. The case was made public in November 2011.
Dähnert's dissertation on VroniPlag Wiki

44 % of the pages have been found to be plagiarsms. The red ones above are more than 50 % of a page. There is a German-language list of interesting pages, and here are some of my favorite pages: 28 (some text changed in the middle of the page) - 35 (reference to Horno removed) - 48 (commas inserted) - 103 (wrote out a number).

The BTU Cottbus has now declared that the thesis just has technical weaknesses. The committee and an external member from the German research council DFG looked for conscious manipulation of data,  unacceptable co-authorship without personal contribution, or other deceptive practices. They found no evidence of the above, so there is no case, they found.

The local paper has gone all ballistic about this. They quoted me from last year, when I had stated that the case was not a VroniPlag Wiki case. Sure: it wasn't then, it is now. And now they have an editorial that blows your shoes off: improper German; the university says everything okay, so it must be so; these anonymous people with their denunciations; the poor man, hung out on the stalks. They even pick up on my current demand for publication of the reasoning behind the committee's decision and deride it. VroniPlag Wiki is anonymous, how can they be demanding that the secret report be published? Easy: the committee members may remain anonymous. But I need to be able to explain to my students why this kind of simple plagiarism is okay in a dissertation in Cottbus, but will get them a failing mark in any of my classes. The current joke is that zu Guttenberg should have gone to Cottbus to get his degree, seems they have different standards there.

I hope that a lot of protest is raised about this case —anyone who can read can see the plagiarisms. But the comments in the paper are full of hateful comments directed at VroniPlag Wiki and not at the author of this document accepted as a doctoral thesis.

One should perhaps note that Vattenfall gives lots of research money to the BTU Cottbus and to the HS Lausitz, and they put a lot of ads in the local paper.


  1. Hi Dr WW,

    there was no self-controllig mechanisms at all.

    Moreover, and similiar to that prominent "Guttenberg case" in Germany, tghe last year, "sponsoring" was a relevant factor.

    Finally, it´s a matter of fact that not only the or the other, the one détail or another one, is of scholarly, and political, interest, for the system itself generating such "Doctors", and "Professors", is a basically corrupt one,


    Brian Jones
    PhD. (LSEPS)

    1. No offense, but this English is so absurdly incomprehensible, sounds more like a Google Translate fail...”PhD.”, lol ;-)

    2. Now, now - let's not bite at each other. Focus on the case - that's bad enough.