Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Swiss Journalist Reported Plagiarism, Had Home Searched

This is a long and complicated case that has been brewing in the French-language part of Switzerland about a case of plagiarism at the University in Neuchâtel that was reported on in Le Matin by the journalist Ludovic Rocchi. The university eventually suspended the professor in question, and he in turn accused Rocchi of libel and slander because he published about the plagiarism before the internal investigations were finished.

The police searched Rocchi's house in 2012, looking for proof (Le Matin, Persönlich.com, NZZ), and confiscating papers and computers belonging to his wife, as well as hunting him down on a business trip and taking his laptop. This is apparently the first time such a thing has happened in Switzerland, according to Le Matin. Rocchi sued the government for illegal search and seizure (Le Matin, NZZ). The government felt that he had published illegally, as one is innocent until proven guilty, which is strange as in a plagiarism case one can easily document plagiarism and source, and plagiarism is not a crime in a legal sense, but academic misconduct.

In April 2013 Rocchi published a detailed description of the copying in Le Matin, including interesting changes to texts that were about Canada or the Netherlands in the original and suddenly were about Switzerland. In May Rocchi detailed some problems in the professor's CV. It seems he listed positions at a university in Quebec that he didn't actually have. The Quebec university had previously asked him to remove these, and he promised to do so, but never actually did, according to Rocchi's report. 

It was eventually determined that the plagiarism was "partially given" (NZZ, Le Matin, 20 minutes) and that the mobbing within the department ran deep. This seems to be a rather common problem, as seen in the Zürich case this blog reported on recently.

Rocci won his court case (NZZ, telepolis) but the government is appealing to the Swiss Supreme Court.

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