Sunday, October 20, 2013

Freiburg rescinds habilitation in sports medicine

The University of Freiburg in Germany recently rescinded the habilitation of Hans-Hermann Dickhuth, a professor of sports medicine who had been embroiled in a doping scandal (and eventually cleared) before he retired in 2012. The Badische Zeitung reported on October 14, 2013 (after some speculation on March 3) that the 30-year-old second dissertation had been found to be over 90% identical in text, figures and data to dissertations that were also prepared at that university. The seven dissertations, some of them quite slim volumes, also share large portions of text and data.

In comments to an editorial from October 19, 2013 in the Badische Zeitung, Dickhuth's son protests against his father being put in the stocks, as it were. Apparently, Dickhuth grew weary of the investigation and threatened to investigate the habilitations of the members of the committee, which may or may not have influenced their decision. Dickhuth has threatened more legal action, apparently the university has already spent about a half a million Euros on legal fees on this case alone.

The was the first time that the habilitation committee decided on rescinding a habilitation; at least two of the doctorates have been referred to the doctorate committee for investigation. Freiburg also has two current plagiarism cases, Gjb and Tmu, that are being investigated.

Update: Spiegel Online reports on Sept. 15, 2014 that the university has finally decided to rescind the habilitation, but not to strip Dickhuth of his professorship (and thus his pension), as he faithfully fulfilled his duties as a professor for many years. He is now retired.
I wrote to the university to see what's up with the other cases, they report that they are still "investigating". This, after having a more-or-less complete plagiarism documentation delivered to their door, so to speak. The universities are dragging their feet, hoping everything will go away, instead of vehemently defending academic standards. What a sorry state of affairs.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Plagiarism Detection Software Test 2013

Today I released the results of the Plagiarism Detection Software Test 2013. The report is available online, as are the individual results. Spiegel online reported on the test, including a picture of the home pages of the systems and the company response to the results, if the company cared to answer. We also offer the companies the opportunity to send us their comments on the test, we are glad to publish them.

The results can be summed up rather simply:

So-called plagiarism detection software does not detect plagiarism. In general, it can only demonstrate text parallels. The decision as to whether a text is plagiarism or not must solely rest with the educator using the software: It is only a tool, not an absolute test.

If a university decides to use plagiarism detection software, they need to have a clear policy on why they are using the software and how they will react to the results. It would be good to set up a competence team that offers educators help in testing suspicious texts, and to perhaps have two systems on offer, as the systems find different sources for different parts of the same source.