Saturday, March 21, 2015

News about VroniPlag Wiki cases

A few notes on current and past VroniPlag Wiki cases:
  • Margarita Mathiopoulos (VPW case Mm, extensive documentation to be found at MMDoku) submitted her dissertation in political science in 1986 to the University of Bonn. In 1989 an intensive public discussion (started by Spiegel) arose about plagiarism in the thesis, but the university decided after an investigation not to rescind the doctorate. In 2011, VroniPlag Wiki looked into the dissertation again and found much more plagiarism. The university re-opened the investigation and rescinded the doctorate in 2012. Mathiopoulos took the university to court and lost. No appeals were permitted, but she appealed against there not being a chance of an appeal. According to Spiegel Online, she has won that case, so now an appeal is permitted to determine if the VroniPlag Wiki documentation contains new material. If that is the case, the university can indeed withdraw the doctorate after the second examination. If the documentation is considered to be more of the same that was evaluated the first time, then the university will be bound by its decision at that time. Since the appeals are still running, Mathiopoulos can continue to use her doctoral degree and remains appointed as an honorary professor at the University of Potsdam and the Technical University of Braunschweig.
  • Sophie Koch (VPW case Ssk) submitted a dissertation in pedagogy to the University of Düsseldorf in 2011. This is the same department to which former German education minister Annette Schavan had submitted her dissertation in 1980. Suspicions of plagiarism were raised in the VroniPlag Wiki forum in 2012, and the documentation began. And stagnated. There were plenty of other cases around. Eventually, though, it was decided to make the case known, and the university was informed. Surprisingly, the university library notes that the doctoral degree was already rescinded in February. This means that someone else had already informed the university and they they had been investigating it for some time.
    So who is Sophie Koch? If you read German, the blog Erbloggtes has an amusing account. The so-called "popular press" has been having a field day, as Sophie Koch is a popular and well-known TV personality with her own show on a German commercial television channel giving advice to single mothers and teenagers. The number of mistakes in the reporting, even by the so-called serious press, is highly amusing. 
  • It is sad, however, to see that the press only seems to report on celebrities or particularly problematic cases (100 % of the pages plagiarized). Cases in which a dissertation in law that was rejected from a German university for plagiarism was then submitted with a few modifications to the Austrian University of Innsbruck and accepted there (VPW case Rm) or a 61-page dissertation in medicine at the University of Bonn that includes 11 pages verbatim and without reference from the Wikipedia and even more from various textbooks and papers (VPW case Go) get little press coverage, if at all. There are currently 143 cases documented on the site, 75 alone in medicine and dental medicine. There is plagiarism from papers by the doctoral advisor, there are habilitations that share much text with dissertations prepared under the tutelage of the same post-doc and it is impossible to tell who copied from whom or if they wrote it together and "forgot" to mention it. Some lift bits and pieces from other theses at the same university, some prepare a collage of papers from other universities, some use the Wikipedia without reference rather copiously. We have seen someone recycle his own doctorate in medicine for part of his second doctorate, this time in theology (VPW case Jpm). What we can determine is that the system is failing to detect and sanction plagiarism at all levels. The big question is: how do we do something about it?

2 comments:

  1. I am preparing a small note on plagiarism for some journal but I was unable to copy text from this blog. Is that intentional?

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  2. You should be able to copy the text. It might be a browser problem. I use Firefox and can copy the text. You can email me if you need a particular text and I'll send it to you.

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