Tuesday, January 22, 2013

TU Berlin happy with 32% text parallel

The TU Berlin announced on Jan 18, 2013 that it is not rescinding the doctorate of Jürgen Goldschmidt, FDP mayor of the town of Forst. VroniPlag Wiki documented this dissertation as case #9 and publicized it on July 30, 2011.  Since then there has been little public discussion about the case.

Wikipedia definitionscopy & paste pages, minor changes with reference on the next page, blocks of text from a publication of one of the graders, quoting from dubious sources (the news; an unspecified radio program; a popular magazine) -- this would be quite a good example for the different kinds of plagiarism that can be found, except that the TU Berlin does not find fault with the thesis. A translation of part of the announcement:
The dissertation committee has come to the conclusion that the scientific quality of the dissertation of Dr. Goldschmidt cannot be disputed. Thus, one of the most important requirements for conferring the academic grade is still in place. In addition, there is no evidence of intent to deceive.  There are, however, shortcomings in the quotation style. These do not affect the originality of the scientific effort. The TU Berlin imposes the condition on Dr. Goldschmidt, within a specific time-limit to resubmit his dissertation unchanged, but with a correct quotation style.
I wrote to the press secretary and the president to find out what this time-limit is and what officials will make sure that it is handed in and who will check if he fixed all of the errors. Although, on second though, I don't know how one can actually submit something unchanged, but with correct (i.e. changed) quotation style. I also wonder if this now means that all of the TU Berlin students who are caught plagiarizing get a second shot at doing it right? No answer yet, I suppose they were hoping this would get drowned in the noise concerning the Schavan dissertation.

As with all the other dissertations that have not been rescinded -- I expect an expertise to be published explaining for each individual fragment why it is not considered plagiarism. There are 206 fragments documented for Goldschmidt. 


  1. Just a thought: as a person holding a doctorate, obtained through sweat and tears I might add, do I have legal standing to challenge this decision in court in Germany? The reasoning would be that this ruling diminishes the value of my doctorate.

    1. Unlikely. Courts have traditionally given huge leeway to Academics and their conferral powers. They can't overturn Academic Judgements, barring infringment of constitutional precident. Academics can generally do whatever the hell they like to you. Their "policies" are their general escape
      hatch against potential lawsuits.

  2. I don't know, but it is an interesting thought. I would think that especially all honest doctors from the TU Berlin (and there are *many*) would stand up and ask the president what this is all about and demand an explanation. Fragment by fragment the university should state why it is not a plagiarism, so that we can learn how the university deals with such issues.


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