Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Next up: Chatzi

The next German politician to be found with a large amount of plagiarism in his dissertation is Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, a member of the European parliament for the German FDP.

Last week someone noticed that he had a similar CV to Ms. Koch-Mehrin, and found his dissertation online. Within 2 days people had found plagiarism on over 10% of the pages (the current amount is 37% of the pages). Chatzimarkakis responded with this gem on his homepage (boldface from me):
"Die jüngsten Debatten über die Doktorarbeiten deutscher Politiker haben auch mich für das Thema sensibilisiert. In der von mir 2000 verteidigten und auch online publizierten Promotion habe ich nach aktueller Prüfung folgende Zitierweisen verwendet:

* Zitate (teilweise) kursiv eingerückt und mit Anführungszeichen, ausgewiesen durch Fußnote;
* Zitate nicht kursiv, eingerückt und mit Anführungszeichen, ausgewiesen durch Fußnote;
* Zitate im Fließtext, nicht eingerückt und ohne Anführungszeichen, ausgewiesen durch Fußnote.

Dies schafft Raum für Spekulationen. Ich habe deshalb die Universität Bonn auf die von mir angewandte Zitationsweise explizit hingewiesen."

(The recent debates about the doctoral theses of German politicians have made me sensitive to the topic. In the thesis I defended in 2000 and which I published online I have reviewed and found the following types of quotes:

* Quotes (partially) in italics, indented and with quotation marks, with a footnote;
* Quotes not in italics, indented and with quotation marks, with a footnote;
* Quotes in the text, not indented and not with quotation marks, with a footnote.

This provides room for speculation. I have written to the University of Bonn and explained my quotation style to them.)

Quotes not marked? Stefan Weber blogs about this - after recovering his composure - and calls it "Freestyle" quoting. Here's a nice example of this "Freestyle" quoting.... and the apparent inability to use a spelling checker.

Chatzimarkakis defends himself in a German talk show in the evening, saying that this is the "normal" way to do quotes in science. There are no professors in the talk show to explain that this is not normal (I could have gone, but I was giving a talk in the library sciences department at the Humboldt University this evening). Chatzimarkakis complains of being put on the stocks, of being accused of something like Strauß-Kahn (although the cases are quite different - only CSK and the woman know, what really happened; we have documented plagiarism in Chatzimarkakis' thesis, anyone can check it). He talks and talks and changes the subject and then the talk show goes on with how men don't understand women and vice versa....

Far too many people see the work which we call "collaborative plagiarism documentation" as personal vendettas against politicians of a particular variety. But these are doctoral theses, they are published - and the sources are openly available. The documentation puts them in parallel, attempts to classify it, and asks the question: is this okay? It is open to the scrutiny - and commentary - of all. You don't have to have a title to participate, the main thing in the content and the work and not the person doing the work.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Grimme Nomination for GuttenPlag

The GuttenPlag group is honored to have been nominated for the Grimme Preis, a German Online-Journalism prize. However, we would find it better if there was not advertising for two ghostwriting companies on the page for voting for GuttenPlag:

P.S., you can vote by clicking on "Stimme abgeben", the blue button on the lower right.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The Hunt

My goodness. The press has grown bored with all these plagiarisms by politicians. One of the Axel-Springer press organs, Hamburger Abendblatt, decided to go after the messengers this morning.

I had given an interview to a journalist yesterday, and today I find an article that puts lots of words in my mouth that I did not say. The article also uses the word "hunt" or "hunting" or "hunters" eight  (8) times in just one article. The picture looks terrible, me pressed in between the other two. And since that was not enough, they started a "debate" entitled "Die Besserwisser sind so schlimm wie die Betrüger" (The know-it-alls are just as bad as the cheaters).

Now does anyone wonder why most of the activists over at GuttenPlag and VroniPlag use pseudonyms? I really don't get that it is okay for a cheater to be a minister, but that it is bad to point out that an "old" thesis is a plagiarism. May I deduce that the general public does not get it? My email is overflowing with letters like this denouncing me:
"Sie haben den Splitter in den Augen der Anderen gesucht und
gefunden und meinen nun das Recht zu haben, diese Menschen komplett
moralisch abqualifizieren zu können, ich wünsche Ihnen, dass man nicht
irgend wann einmal einen Balken in Ihrem Auge findet. Ach, erlauben Sie
mir eine Frage: Was haben Sie eigentlich in Ihrem 54jährigen Leben
bisher an qualitativ Hochwertigem für die Menschheit geleistet? Sie
haben viel kostbare Zeit für Ihre Hetzjagd vergeudet, stimmt's? Oder
haben Sie vielleicht nichts Besseres
zu tun?" (You have looked for and found the splinter in the eyes of the others and believe that you now have the right to morally disqualify them completely. I hope that someone does not find a log in your eye. Permit me to inquire what high-quality work you have done for you have done for mankind in the 54 years you have lived? You have wasted much valuable time on your chasing, haven't you? Or don't you have anything better to do?)
Madam, I managed a civil answer for you and then deleted your missive, moving on to more important work for mankind.

The saga continues

There were a lot of newsworthy happenings around the current plagiarism debate in Germany that I want to link for my English-language readers:
  • First off, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article about the goings-on today, interviewing yours truely.
  • The University of Bayreuth released its final report on zu Guttenberg's thesis. It is an extremely thorough and well-researched document, in that they have also contributed references to German court cases involving plagiarism. The appendix includes the documents that reasoned why he was given top grades for the thesis. The report comes to the conclusion that he did, indeed, plagiarize on purpose:
  • "Die Kommission vermag nicht nachzuvollziehen, dass jemand, der über Jahre Quellen für seine Dissertation bearbeitet, derart in einen Zustand der Dauervergesslichkeit gerät, dass ihm die allerorten in seiner Arbeit nachweisbaren Falschangaben vollständig aus dem Bewusstsein geraten."(The commission is not able to fathom that someone who has spent years collecting source material for his dissertation fell into a state of continuous forgetting that the demonstrable misrepresentations found throughout the thesis could be so completely removed from his awareness)

  • Veronika Saß has had her doctoral title rescinded by the university in Konstanz. Her nickname, Vroni, is the name given for the plagiarism wiki platform that has analyzed the plagiarism in both her thesis and in Koch-Mehrin's. VroniPlag found plagiarism on over 50% of the pages.
  • Sylvana Koch-Mehrin was asked by the University of Heidelberg to explain the plagiarisms and made-up footnotes in her thesis. Shortly thereafter she stepped down as vice president of the European parliament and from her offices within her party, the FDP. She has announced, however, that she intends to retain her mandate as a member of parliament. VroniPlag found plagarism on over 32% of the pages.
  • Matthias Pröfrock,  a state politician in Baden-Württemberg, has decided to stop using his doctorate while his university investigates. VroniPlag found plagiarism on almost 50% of the pages.
I will try and keep you posted on the developments.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

zu Guttenberg plagiarized on purpose

My bot logged over 100 newspaper articles on Friday on the press release from the University of Bayreuth giving the results of their examination of zu Guttenberg's dissertation (here are links to Süddeutsche - Spiegel - Stern - Berliner Zeitung). The bot also logged many links to services offering to write a plagiarism-free dissertation for a price...

In a nutshell: The university committee has found that zu Guttenberg did not plagiarize accidentally (and really, with 94% of the pages containing some plagiarism and over 60 % of the lines being plagiarized, there is really no other decision to be taken). They also found that there were no real grounds given for awarding a top grade for the thesis, as there was no particularly new, ground-breaking point in the thesis.

Now what does this mean?
  • His title has been revoked. I've asked a journalist, hungry for a story, to see if he can find out if zu Guttenberg applied for a new ID card. He'll have to have the Dr. taken out there. I wonder anyway how all his names fit on the standard German ID card.
  • The advisors are retired, no punishment beyond the current shaming going on is possible.
  • Since the university has determined that the plagiarism was on purpose, there may now be a case for some of the over 100 charges registered with the local police about this case.
Our results from testing some plagiarism detection systems with the thesis will appear in the June issue of iX. You'll just have to be patient. We will report here in English when the German article has appeared.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Plagiarism Bibliography

Just a short note in order to preserve a link - the researchers at the GuttenPlag Wiki are putting together a bibliography on plagiarism: http://de.guttenplag.wikia.com/wiki/Plagiarismus_und_Plagiarismus-Forschung_%28Bibliographie%29.
If you have any items to add to the list, please feel free to contribute!