Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The end of a long plagiarism case

One of the first cases that was documented by the German plagiarism documentation community VroniPlag Wiki in 2011 was the doctorate of a German politician, Jürgen Goldschmidt, the mayor of a town in the Lausitz. In addition to extensive amounts of text overlap, there was a quite strange use of primary sources used in the thesis (documented in German under Befunde). Some examples:
  • "Tagesschau vom 02.12.2004" (p. 42)
  • "Super Illu 17/2005" (p. 45)
  • "WDR vom 24.03.2007" (p. 51)
  • "Pressemitteilung der Bundesregierung, 2008" (p. 67)
  • "Studie im Auftrag des vdw Niedersachsen/Bremen 2002" (p. 71)
Tagesschau is the nightly news, the Super Illu is a tabloid magazine, not generally an academic source for population data. Interestingly, the tabloid itself gives their source for the data: the national statistics board, Statistisches Bundesamt.
CC-BY-SA VroniPlag Wiki
In January 2013, the TU announced that they were not retracting the doctorate, but requesting that Goldschmidt submit a new, properly referenced version of the thesis. This was rather odd, as authors who reuse texts of others, including the Wikipedia, without referencing them can generally not be assumed to have kept track of which texts they took from where. Goldschmidt was given six months to submit an updated version of the thesis. In August 2013 the press secretary assured me that the new version was submitted and was being examined. During 2014 I bugged the TU a few times, asking if they were making any progress and offering assistance, as VroniPlag Wiki had additional material that was not yet documented. They declined, but were working on it.

The press secretary of the TU Berlin put out a press announcement today:
Jürgen Goldschmidt hatte an der Fakultät VI Planen Bauen Umwelt der TU Berlin die Dissertation „Management des Stadtumbaus unter Berücksichtigung der städtebaulichen Rahmenbedingungen“ im Dezember 2009 verteidigt. Im April 2010 bekam er die Urkunde überreicht, mit der der akademische Grad „Doktor der Ingenieurwissenschaften“ verliehen wird. Im Sommer 2011 wurden Plagiatsvorwürfe öffentlich.
Daraufhin gab es ein Verwaltungsverfahren zur Prüfung der Vorwürfe. Herr Goldschmidt erfüllte die von der Universität erteilte Auflage nicht, sodass in Konsequenz ihm der Doktortitel entzogen worden wäre.
Am 7. Mai 2015 hat Jürgen Goldschmidt seinen Doktorgrad inklusive seiner Urkunde an die TU Berlin zurückgegeben.
[Jürgen Goldschmidt defended the dissertation "..." to Faculty VI Planning Construction Environment of the TU Berlin in November 2009. He was given the certificate in April of 2010 that gave him the degree of "Doctor of Engineering". In the summer of 2011 accusations of plagiarism were made public.
As a result of this, an administrative process was initiated to examine the accusations. Mr. Goldschmidt did not fulfill the conditions that were imposed by the university, thus the doctoral degree would have been rescinded. On May 7, 2015 Jürgen Goldschmidt returned his degree and the certificate to the TU Berlin. -- translation dww]
This is a new method of resolving a case of plagiarism: faced with extensive evidence that would lead to the degree being rescinded, the person in question returns the degree. It is perhaps legally questionable if a degree that is conferred by a faculty can be returned by the conferee. But that is perhaps moot, as the university has now brought a case to a close that has been open for over 3 1/2 years.

Additionally, it was discovered that the second case that was reported to the TU Berlin, Aos, has been similarly resolved as of April 2015.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting ... but perhaps this is the analog of:

    X was about to be fired, so X resigned instead.