Friday, November 30, 2012

French Academics Circulate Petition

French academics have started a petition against plagiarism in research. The petition is available online at This is a translation by Google Translate prettied up by me:

Refuse to condone plagiarism in research
A few days before the conclusion of the Audience on Higher Education and Research, the undersigned scholars and researchers consider it their duty to remind that the university must ensure the legitimacy of the degrees it issues.
In particular, it must ensure that plagiarism in dissertations, theses, and scientific publications can not discredit the quality of training offered and the French research.As such, the scientific and academic communities must work together against all forms of plagiarism. They must not only work to prevent plagiarism but also in each case see to it that appropriate penalties are meted out. The responsibility of universities or research organizations must be engaged when plagiarism, fraud and attempted fraud are not certified subject such sanctions. The obligation to sanction weighs on all higher education institutions and research organizations.A number of cases analyzed by our colleague Jean-Noel Darts (Lecturer in Information Science and Communication at the University Paris 8 Saint-Denis) are documented in the Archaeology Blog Copy and Paste and point to the failure of ethics in  serious academic research and in issuing diplomas has been committed by the university, as well as doctoral students and by faculty members, without the measures required having been taken to date. A commission of inquiry with all guarantees of impartiality should verify the authenticity of the documents presented on this blog. The articles which are posted online appear to establish a particularly overwhelming picture.The University of Paris 8 is not the only one concerned by the phenomenon of plagiarism, far from it. Such situations require special attention, at the risk of letting it corrupt part of the academic and scientific research. If confirmed, this university or elsewhere, that plagiarism has occurred, and knowingly in violation of academic ethics, only the imposition of appropriate sanctions would end these intolerable practices that hinder the smooth functioning research, both from the point of view of its actors evaluation of the scientific quality of university productions.Safeguarding the freedom of research and academic freedom depends on the quality of degrees, publications and productions. Leave these records state could aggravate a situation that tends to suggest that the French University in persistent ignorance of the extent of the plagiarism, waived defend a level of excellence necessary to take its place in the European and international levels.

If you subscribe to this text and want to make your signature, specify your email address and your qualities bottom of that page, under the heading comment.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Romanian Education Minister Found to have Plagiarized

The second Romanian politician to be found having plagiarized is Ecaterina Andronescu, the Minster of -- yup -- Education. A Romanian documentation site,, has published a documentation in English about a conference paper that Andronescu co-authored with Aurelia Cristina Nechifor in 2003. Andronescu lists the paper in her official CV.

The paper is said to plagiarize three other works and to falsify data. It was published while Andronescu was Minster of Research and Dean of the Faculty of Industrial Chemistry at the Polytechnic University in Bucharest.

Andronescu had declared earlier this week that the plagiarism found in the dissertation of the head of state, Victor Ponta, did not lead to her rescinding his doctorate because at the time that he wrote the dissertation -- also 2003 -- it was okay to write like that, according to the German daily newspaper FAZ.  Romanian intellectuals are loudly protesting this, stating correctly that proper citation techniques was not invented in 2003 but has been around for quite some time.

The platform is run by an anonymous group of intellectuals in Romania and documents plagiarism and scientific misconduct. It is not run like the VroniPlag Wiki in Germany, but is a closed system documenting the cases and then including the opinions of foreign researchers from the field on each individual case. This case is the sixth case that they have published.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

UK academic resigned Belgian post in 2010

I happened upon an article from 2010 in the Times Higher Education supplement about a UK academic who resigned his post at the Belgian Catholic University at Leuven after charges of plagiarism surfaced. A Finnish member of parliament for the Social Democrats, Ilkka Kantola, found tens of pages of his dissertation in a paper published by Martin Stone, a professor of philosophy, according to the THE.

The Voice, an international student's newspaper, requested that the university break through the silence that has surrounded the issue and the resignation of Stone. They want to discuss what happened openly, since there appear to be many more papers by Stone that were plagiarized.

I have heard rumors that Leuven is currently considering a sort of amnesty for academics at the school found to have participated in academic misconduct. This article (in Flemish) seems to confirm this.
"Zolang in wetenschappelijke middens de onvoorwaardelijke belangstelling voor wat waar en relevant is, ondergeschikt blijkt aan de huidige prestatiecriteria, zal gelijk welke andere regelgeving de geest niet in de fles doen."
(in etwa: das bedingungslose Interesse für was wahr und relevant ist, darf den heutigen Leistungskritierien nicht untergeordnet werden)

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Hungarian Plagiarism

Hungary has had a spate of plagiarism reports, it appears. Here's the link in Hungarian and in the Google translation.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

National Public Radio

I'm pleased that National Public Radio in the US has picked up the story on plagiarism in Germany. One of my new readers posted a link on the Heidelberg page with a link to a song that he composed about someone plagiarizing from him.

One of the other persons interviewed in Germany is a retired German professor who states:
[...] that people without position and little money are using such plagiarism claims to become famous.
Um, let's run that through the logic analyzer,  shall we? The activists are pseudonymous. That means that most are not known by their civil name (although two of us are, and strangely enough, we are both professors). So you just don't know if the rest have a position or not. And their bank accounts are not (yet) available for perusal on Facebook. I'm also puzzled by the consequent -- how does one become famous if one is pseudonymous?

For those who read German: have a look around the Schavanplag site. "Robert Schmidt" has been doing some cleaning up. And s/he's not doing it to get famous. Really. And the VroniPlag Wiki site is up to 34 cases and still going strong.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Talk in Cottbus

I've been horribly busy and have a backlog of things I want to blog about, but I've just had a letter from someone wanting to know about how the talk in Cottbus went, so here goes.

The BTU Cottbus is the university that granted a doctorate to a Vattenfall manager, Detlev Dähnert, on the basis of a dissertation that has large blocks of text parallels on 44 % of the pages, as has been documented by VroniPlag Wiki, and for which at least some of the research was done by the company Infratest, as a former worker for the company has stated (third portion).

The university deliberated and announced that they were not rescinding the doctorate, as there were only "technical weaknesses" in the thesis. I, and others, have been calling on the university to publish the expertise about the thesis. One would suppose that this expertise would list the 125 fragments of text parallel that VroniPlag Wiki documents and explain for each one what exactly the weakness is and why this is not to be considered plagiarism. I, for one, would fail a student on pretty much just one such fragment.

One fresh graduate of the university, who was not planning a career in academia, gave a talk in July in which he concluded that there was extensive plagiarism in the dissertation and called on the university to re-think its position. He is now no longer with the university (his contract ran out, as is normal for graduate student contracts in Germany), but a group of students contacted me and asked that I continue the discussion in the winter term.

There appeared to have been a bit of a scuffle between the university and the students on permission to use a room, but I was allowed to speak. There were only 18 persons there, including one member of the commission. I spoke on many cases of plagiarism in dissertations, including many historic cases and some VroniPlag Wiki cases  (slides, 16 MB, the slide numbers 32-35 include excerpts from Dähnerts dissertation).

The discussion was excellent -- there were many issues raised on how to go about determining plagiarism, why the need to demonstrate intent should be necessary, remarks that the intent is clear if you actually look at the text parallels, comments that one of the persons plagiarized didn't feel cheated so it must be alright, and a general criticism of the numerical fixation at VroniPlag Wiki and the barcode representation that overly abridges the issues involved.

We didn't solve any problems -- and it is not clear if the university is indeed looking into the case again, or if they are focusing solely on the reorganization that is being imposed on them from by the state. But I have the feeling that the discussion is indeed continuing, at least amongst the students, especially in the face of the fact that Vattenfall provides about a third of the external funding for the university.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Medical Triple Header

It was a busy Friday afternoon on the VroniPlag Wiki site. Even though there are still fragments still awaiting a second opinion, three German medical dissertations were named on the home page:
  • #31:, clocking in with just 60 pages, already has 53 % of those pages documented with text parallels. Eleven of those pages contain more than 75 %. The thesis was submitted to the medical department of the University of Freiburg/Breisgau in 2009, defended in 2010, and published in 2011. 
  • #32:, is a veterinary thesis submitted to the  Tiermedizinische Hochschule Hannover in 2007, "only" has text parallels on 28 % of the pages, but there are some complete pages that are copied (Page 13 and Page 33) as well as extensive copying from the Wikipedia and a number of other dissertations submitted in veterinary medicine both at the Hannover school as well as other schools.   
  • #33:, is a medical thesis submitted to the University of Tübingen in 2001. There are text parallels on  21 % of the pages, and it seems that this thesis was also the basis of some of the plagiarism in Case #32. Most of the text parallels found to date in this thesis are from older dissertations published in the year 2000.
Should we bother documenting plagiarism in medical theses? The discussion rages on behind the scenes. A medical doctorate is just not the same level of work as a doctorate in other fields. I think the German universities need to switch to a more honest M.D. degree that they award (so they can still call themselves "Doktor"), but to quit the pretense of doing research. It appears that fragments of text, much like DNA or RNA, splits apart and recombines with other texts, with a few different numbers thrown in here or there. 

I've written to the universities in question, but I'm not holding my breath. There is a lot of feet-dragging going on in investigating the accusations of plagiarism.