Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Swiss Politician's Thesis

The Neue Züricher Zeitung (Felix Schindler) reported on April 30, 2013 about a case of plagiarism in a thesis of a politician, Doris Fiala, a member of the Swiss National Council. It seems that although she did not have a matura, the Swiss school-leaving certificate the enables one to study at university, she was able to attend a post-graduate program for a Master of Advanced Studies at the ETH Zürich. This program is a tuition-based program in a country where public university programs are free.

The NZZ reported that a person working at the department of psychology of the ETH Zürich had used her thesis (which was available online and was removed, but still can be found on the Internet Archive) to test a plagiarism detection system, and it came up with a number of text parallels, including a number from the Wikipedia.

Ms. Fiala defended herself profusely, for example in the Tages-Anzeiger on 7 May 2013 (Lorenzo Petrò) or on TV: Teletop (13 May 2013, video, in Swiss German) with a copy of her thesis.

At some point the beginning of May VroniPlag Wiki started to take a look at the thesis. It was not a doctoral dissertation, but it was interesting to see what kind of plagiarism was to be found. There were interesting things to be seen: Many statistics on pages 132-141were taken from official sources as screen shots, with the official copyright notices cut off. There was indeed plagiarism from the Wikipedia and even two articles from the NZZ. Chapter was an almost complete plagiarism, as were pages 146 and 147. It was decided to publish the documentation, since the case was already being discussed in the press and there were attempts being made to play down the extent of the plagiarism, which currently stands at 41 %.

The Tages-Anzeiger (Lorenzo Petrò) reported on 14 May 2013 about the VroniPlag Wiki documentation, including a link to a copy of the current preliminary report, but noted that the university is currently not commenting on why this thesis was accepted, except to say that they are looking into whether to start an investigation.


  1. Doris Fiala's thesis is again available on her website: http://www.fiala.ch/pdf/MAS_ETHZ_SPCM_Thesis_Doris_Fiala.pdf


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