Friday, December 27, 2013

No "real" name, no answer

The pseudonymous researcher Robert Schmidt continues to work on a documentation of irregularities in the dissertation of Norbert Lammert, the parliamentary president of Germany. He has now encountered additional interesting indications of copying. On page 32 of the dissertation a reference is given to Eldersveld, p. 408f. One source, Mühleisen, attributes a different statement to Eldersveld from the same page. However, there is no mention of the contents Lammert's statement refers to on the page given, but there are other pages that are close to Mühleisen (p. 16, p. 19).

Such things happen: two numbers get switched, a 1 is mistaken for a 4 or a 7 because one's notes were taken in terrible handwriting, off-by-one. However, when another writer makes the exact same mistake, it is curious. When there are more identical errors in bibliographic data, such as wrong names or titles as found, for example, on page 52, some serious questions arise. However, the president of the University of Bochum decided that there is no case here, end of the discussion.

Robert Schmidt forwarded a copy of a letter to me that he sent to the Minster of Innovation, Science, and Research in North Rhein-Westphalia. In that letter he analyzed the legal basis for dealing with plagiarism cases in doctorates that have already been granted and came to the conclusion that in Bochum, as at most other universities, it is the job of the individual schools or departments (Fakultäten) to decide what to do. The ombud for good scientific practice is primarily installed as a place for whistleblowers from the inside to point out cases of academic misconduct. The ombud can forward other cases to the dean in question, but the granting and rescinding of degrees is solely the job of the affected Fakultät. In Bochum, however, the rectorate of the university decided not to open a case after an initial investigation by the ombud. The Fakultät was not consulted. He requested that the ministry, as the supervisory body for the university, look into the question.

It is, perhaps, "only" a procedural question. But if the university gives itself rules, why does it not follow them?

The answer came, surprisingly fast:
Ich bitte um Verständnis, dass ich zu Anschreiben von Personen, die sich
offensichtlich unter Verschleierung Ihrer Identität an das Ministerium wenden, in der Sache keine Stellung nehme.

(I ask for your understanding that I cannot comment on letters addressed to the ministry from persons who have obviously cloaked your [typical misspelling, "their" is probably intended -- dww] identity.)
Obviously? I did not realize that it was necessary to send a copy of one's identity card along with a letter questioning whether proper procedures were followed. I think the ministry needs to read Robert K. Merton. It does not matter what the position is of someone who states a truth or asks a question. Professor or student, laboratory assistant or janitor, Nobel prize winner or academic without a job: What counts is the CONTENT of the statement or question.

I also fail to see that "Robert Schmidt" is an obvious cloak. Honeybee123 is perhaps clearer as a name that is probably not on an ID card, but there are numerous Robert Schmidts who were born with that name or who changed to that name upon marriage. I suppose it is a welcome dodge for avoiding answering uncomfortable questions, but what if that was, indeed, his name?

(Updated with a few minor corrections and a few links)

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