Friday, February 18, 2011

The joke's on him

The Germans have now turned to one of their favorite ways of dealing with problems - the jokes. Since there was really no news today other than that Minister Guttenberg will not be using his title socially until this gets cleared up, people spent the day joking.

  • Why doesn't Ursula von der Leyen [German Minister for Work] want to sit next to the defense minister at cabinet meetings? Because he is always copying.
  • News flash - von Guttenberg copied his first names from the Wikipedia (a joke about the prank someone played on German journalists by adding an extraneous first name to his full name in the Wikipedia: Karl Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. The Bild-Zeitung even printed the wrong name on the cover.)
  • Guttenberg's stock appears to consist mostly of companies that produce copy machines.
  • "Wetten dass",  an extremely popular German quiz show that contains a crazy bet, has him betting that he can have all of the authors of his thesis  show up and salute in front of the Cologne cathedral.
  • Helene Hegemann (the young German author caught plagiarizing early last year) to be the next minister of defence.
  • We have people selling "ergonomic Guttenberg keyboards" on eBay with just the CTRL, A, C, and V (for "mark all", "copy", "paste")
  • Update: An intern in the Ministry of Defence asks "Where's the copier?" "Oh, he's in Afghanistan this week!"
Okay, they lose a lot in translation.

All these jokes didn't keep the media from constantly trying to interview me, although I was in a doctoral seminar all day. I fobbed off the interview service to my research assistent. She had not been interviewed before, but there has to be a first time for everyone, so I threw her into the cold water with instructions to only contact me if a national or local TV show wanted me. She almost drowned in all the interviews, and even ended up on the local news herself. Moi? I had a taxi pick me up and drive me to the next state for the 3 minute interview on the Brandenburg local news.

I hope that all of this media attention wakes schools and universities up and gets them serious about all aspects of scientific misconduct. That has been my goal since I started working in the area of plagiarism, to get Germany to start talking about it and not try and keep a lid on the bubbling swamp that is out there.


  1. I think you're right, this might actually turn out to be good for German academia, for the problem, long existing yet hidden in the shadows, finally has to be dealt with. I remember turning down a potential client whose LL. M. thesis obviously consisted of nothing but sentences taken from other people's publications (though referenced) – and when I criticised this, she said she had down all her previous work like this and nobody had ever even bothered to comment on this...

  2. Sascha "Netzgockel" Lobo hat einen schönen optischen Witz dazu: Den Screenshot des Tages


  3. Well one has to question the credibility of some Phds awarded here in Germany. I know of 2 people who received Magnas having written their Phd in English. However, neither of these 2 could pass a GSCE in English let alone write a Phd. In fact one could barely hold a conversation in English either. The defence of the latter was a rather interesting affair too. The question for foreigners looking at these "goings on" - is it fair to continue calling German Phds that and isn´t it about time their value was downgraded or they were called something else to reflect the seeming situation on the ground. I personally, think it about time a European-wide commission looked into the awarding and parity across the European states.


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