Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Medical dissertations in Germany

A reader pointed out to me that in 2004 the Wissenschaftsrat, an advisory board on science in Germany, already reported on the desolate state of medical dissertations:  (pp. 74-78, in German)
Medical dissertations and habilitations, with the exception of the occasional exceptional work, often do not reach the scientific standards of other disciplines [...] as a result the study [meant is M. Weihrauch, J. Strate und R. Papst: Die Medizinische Dissertation - kein Auslaufmodell. Ergeb-nisse einer Befragung von Promovierenden stehen im Widerspruch zu oft geäußerten Meinungen, in: Deutsche Medizinische Wochenschrift 128, 2003, 2583-2587] demonstrates that medical dissertations are more similar to diploma theses in the natural sciences than the dissertations done in these fields, when one looks at the data for amount of effort invested and publication success. [translation dww]
It is nothing new that the theses that are original are often very thin. The shortest dissertation I have seen to date in medicine is four pages. VroniPlag has been demonstrating that excessive text recycling takes place in some research groups. What are the consequences? If there has been no reaction to the report of the Wissenschaftsrat in 2004, it is doubtful that any reaction is forthcoming in the near future. Germany just stumbles on, business as usual.


  1. Well, I really doubt that "... medical dissertations are more similar to diploma theses in the natural sciences than the dissertation done in these fields, ..." since in comparison, the average diploma theses in natural sciences is the much more comprehensive one. The average German medical dissertation reminds me more of those brochures like, "How to protect yourself against caries".

  2. Which is why I like the Austrian model for the medicine curriculum: although you graduate with a "Dr. med. univ.", this is actually considered a diploma (not a doctorate) and what you write is a diploma thesis, not a doctoral dissertation.

    Of course, this doesn't mean that those diploma theses are stellar, but at least the pretence of being "PhD level work" is removed.