Saturday, February 7, 2015

The disappearing links

I've noticed a change in what Google returns when you search on the names of persons who have been documented on the VroniPlag Wiki plagiarism documentation site as having extensive text parallels that could constitute plagiarism in their dissertations and habilitations. It used to be that when one searched for their names, the link to VroniPlag Wiki came at the top of the search.

Now there is a notice that some links have been removed because of personality rights questions, and links show up -- if at all -- past the first page of results. This is perhaps due to a recent court ruling.  The European High Court (EuGH, 13.05.2014 - C-131/12) ruled that people can have links about them personally "forgotten" by search engines. The pages naming them do not have to be removed, but they can insist that the search engines not point to such pages.

So it is not enough to just google a name to see if there are any problems associated with scientific publications about a person. One would now need to know where to look in order to find out if, for example, plagiarism in a doctorate has been documented or a paper withdrawn or issues with a publication documented.

This is unfortunate for scientific purposes, as it is vital that other scientists are made aware of dissertations, papers, and books that have been withdrawn for plagiarism or other academic misconduct. Otherwise they will try and replicate experiments that were forged, or build on top of wrong material. I have heard the excuse that a paper is plagiarized, but the contents are true. That is not always the case, sometimes in plagiarizing, something gets taken out of context and the meaning is changed.

Privacy is important, but scientific papers and dissertations are not part of one's private life. They are contributions to the body of science, and are thus public and open to criticism. That's what keeps us honest as scientists: if we goof up, our names are forever associated with our misdeeds.

Update: There has been some discussion about which cases are affected. The following cases (there may be more) show me the VroniPlag Wiki link either on the second page or not at all: Alm - Bm - Cl - Nig - Rh - Tt


1 comment:

  1. You can search the unfiltered German language index via so you can make a direct comparison. BTW: Your allegations regarding Google sending the links back to the second page are quite ridiculous: if Google decides to honor a request under European law, the link is removed completely. So if you see the link appearing on the second page, it must have a different reason (e.g, wikia's notorious ad bombardment).