Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The German Pseudodoctors

No, I'm not talking about the current situation, although it is getting bizarrer by the day. Nature published an anonymous editorial today, decrying the anonymous, mud-slinging plagiarism-accusers. Say what? Okay, I put in a comment, don't know that that will help.

I got the year wrong, though. I've got to learn to look up years and not trust my brain. I had the German historian Theodor Mommsen's letters in my head as 1867, but they were in 1876, as Ulrich Rasche noted in "Mommsen, Marx und May" earlier this year. It was also pointed out to me that the law about publishing the dissertation took a few more years.

In 1878 Max Oberbreyer put together a lovely collection of the letters and articles in Eisenach that had been published on the subject: Die Reform der Doctorpromtion - Statistische Beiträge von Dr. Max Oberbreyer. Google has scanned a copy and it makes fascinating reading. One of the articles by Mommsen is also available at Wikisource, Die Deutschen Pseudodoctoren. Plagiarism, as far as the eye can see. And since the end of the 19th century German academia has been discussing what to do.

Interestingly, the DFG published a second press release about the whistleblowing recommendation today. The press release emphasizes that the recommendation was ONLY about the ombud process, NOT about any other kind of scientific discussion:
Der Vorwurf, die DFG wolle über die Regelung zur Vertraulichkeit des Ombudsverfahrens Hinweise auf den Verdacht wissenschaftlichen Fehlverhaltens erschweren oder gar die Wissenschaftsfreiheit einschränken, entbehrt jeder Grundlage. (The accusation that the DFG wants to make it more difficult for whistleblowers to report suspicions of academic misconduct by regulating the confidentiality of the ombud process, or that they want to restrict scientific freedom, is completely unfounded. -- Translation by the author)
The lady doth protest too much, methinks. In the modern sense, not the Shakespearean.

1 comment:

  1. Oberbreyer's work is a true gem. At the same time, it is really depressing to see that we seem to repeat a discussion that is 130 years old. The numerous excerpts from newspapers of the time is particularly instructive. Some are downright investigative, others ridicule the academic debate or seek to belittle efforts to preserve academic integrity. It is somewhat depressing to see that even in the Golden age of the German Bildungsbürger it was apparently very difficult to communicate our values to the broader public.

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