Posts Tagged ‘Bayreuth University’

The Guttenberg syndrome: Another German politician resigns over plagiarism

May 12, 2011

German politicians under the age of about 50 who have PhD’s would now all seem to be suspect. No doubt every one of their theses is being subjected to intense scrutiny. It suggests a shortage of personal ethics in this group. They are bringing German science and German Universities into disrepute.

Koch-Mehrin was the German liberal 'face' in Europe

Koch-Mehrin was the German liberal 'face' in Europe: Deutsche Welle

Deutsche Welle reports:

FDP politician Silvana Koch-Mehrin has quit following allegations of plagiarism in her thesis. It comes after ex-defense minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s university said he deliberately cheated in his thesis.

German Free Democrat Silvana Koch-Mehrin has resigned her post as vice president of the European Parliament and head of the German Free Democratic Party (FDP) in Europe, after allegations surfaced that she plagiarized parts of her doctoral thesis.

“I regret this decision, but I respect the reasons behind it and I’m confident that she will continue to shape European politics,” the foreign minister and outgoing FDP leader, Guido Westerwelle, said on Wednesday in Berlin.

Koch-Mehrin’s decision to step down follows an article in German daily Tagesspiegel, which revealed that the University of Heidelberg is investigating allegations made by activists on the VroniPlag Wiki website.

The website states that its contributors had found that Koch-Mehrin had copied material without attributing it on 56 of the 201 pages of text in her 2001 thesis on the 19th century Latin Monetary Union in Europe. “I hope to make it easier for my party to make a fresh start with a new leadership team,” Koch-Mehrin said in a statement, without admitting to or commenting on the allegations.

Koch-Mehrin’s announcement comes ahead of the FDP’s party convention at the weekend, which will see the election of a new party leader as well as a reshuffling of several cabinet posts. The party has slumped to around four percent in the polls since gaining 14.6 percent of the vote in the 2009 federal election.

Koch-Mehrin’s resignation follows that of former Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg on March 1. The University of Bayreuth, who stripped him of his title at the end of February, confirmed last week that Guttenberg “deliberately cheated” in his thesis, while he continues to admit only to sloppiness and carelessness, caused by the stress of trying to combine his job as a politician with family life.

Prosecutors in the Bavarian city of Hof are investigating him on charges of infringement of copyright.

As Professor Debora Weber-Wulff puts it:

Germany has been sweeping plagiarism and scientific misconduct under the rug for ages, and it has gotten very lumpy. I think we need to lift the carpet up, give it a good beating to get out the dust, sweep up the garbage that has collected, and get a fresh start. There are so many good scientists in Germany who have to defend themselves against all this bad science.

Related zu Guttenberg posts

Bayreuth University: Guttenberg’s plagiarism was “intentional”

May 6, 2011

Der Spiegel:

Former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg always insisted that he had never meant to plagiarize portions of his Ph.D. dissertation. On Friday, however, the University of Bayreuth said that he copied intentionally.

… On Friday, the University of Bayreuth, which awarded Guttenberg his Ph.D. title in 2006, announced its conclusion that the former conservative ally of Chancellor Angela Merkel had intentionally plagiarized. Guttenberg, the university said in a statement, “extensively violated academic standards and intentionally cheated.”  

It is a sentence which completes one of the most rapid and stunning political downfalls Germany has ever seen. Prior to the questions about his doctoral thesis, the member of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats, had been among the country’s most popular politicians. Many had even tipped him as a possible successor to Merkel in the Chancellery. But in late February, the University of Bayreuth revoked his doctor title pending an investigation and on March 1, Guttenberg resigned from Merkel’s cabinet. He went on to step down from all other political offices.

zu Googleberg: image

Related posts: The zu Googleberg affaire

zu Googleberg lives on: Guttenberg wants to suppress investigation results:

April 9, 2011

Guttenberg’s plagiarism was apparently quite deliberate and he is now trying to prevent publication of the investigation report!!!!

Deutsche Welle reports:

The University of Bayreuth has nearly finished its investigation into the plagiarism allegations that cost Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg his job as defense minister. He doesn’t want the university to publish its findings.

Former German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who was forced to resign over allegations that he had plagiarized other authors in his doctoral thesis, does not want a university review into the affair to be made public, according to reports in the German media. Friday’s edition of the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung said Guttenberg’s lawyers would object on the grounds of breach of privacy if the university tried to publish its findings.

The University of Bayreuth, where Guttenberg completed his doctorate in 2008, withdrew his Ph.D. title when it emerged that parts of his thesis had been lifted from other works and incorrectly attributed. The university commission tasked with examining the thesis has now largely completed its work and wants to make its findings available in early May. The Süddeutsche Zeitung suggested the report may reveal that Guttenberg acted deliberately.

University of Bayreuth President Rüdiger Bormann told the daily Tagesspiegel he hoped that Guttenberg would accept the publication of the commission’s findings. “We want to make the conclusions public – they also address the question of whether it was a deliberate act,” Bormann said. “There is a strong public interest in the university’s appraisal of the case.”

The Local reports that

Daily Süddeutsche Zeitung said a commission at the University of Bayreuth determined that the extent and manner of the infringements were such that they could not have been inadvertent.

Guttenberg is toast – a tribute to the power of the internet

March 1, 2011

The power of the internet and we should not forget that of the shoes!!

zu Googleberg has bowed to the inevitable and has resigned.

Burnt Toast

German Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has announced his resignation after weeks of criticism over plagiarizing parts of his Ph.D. thesis. ….The University of Bayreuth had already stripped Guttenberg of his law doctorate last week. Guttenberg apologized to the German parliament, and said he had made “grave errors” in his thesis, but insisted he did not intentionally copy it.

Pressure mounted on him to resign, after at least 17,000 academics signed an open letter to the German chancellor on Monday (over 20,000 according to the Updated ticker of Germans signing the open letter here), in which they said the plagiarism scandal made a “mockery” of the academic profession.

In recent days Education Minister Annette Schavan had called Guttenberg’s actions shameful, and parliamentary speaker Norbert Lammert said they were “a nail in the coffin for confidence in democracy.”

Gaddafi Jr.’s PhD thesis from LSE being examined for plagiarism

February 24, 2011

After the success of the on-line analysis of Guttenberg’s PhD thesis from Bayreuth University which proved that more than two-thirds of the pages had plagiarised content, the suspect thesis of Gadaffi Jr. from the LSE is also being examined on line here.

It would probably be a good idea for LSE to apply some plagiarism software and get ahead of the curve.

From Wikipedia:

Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi received his Ph.D. from the London School of Economics in 2008. Through the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, Saif subsequently pledged a donation of £1.5 million to support the work of the LSE’s Centre for the Study of Global Governance on civil society organizations in North Africa. Following the political uprising in Libya in February 2011, the LSE has issued a statement indicating that it will cut all financial ties with the country and will accept no further money from the Foundation, having already received and spent the first £300,000 installment of the donation.

Saif’s Ph.D. thesis has been made available online and commentators have already identified several passages which appear to have been copied from other sources without attribution. There is speculation that the thesis was plagiarized and/or ghostwritten by another individual.

Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi

Analysis of Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi’s LSE Thesis:


In the Guttenberg case, Bayreuth University has now rescinded his PhD in an investigation which lasted less than a week. As Professor Debora Weber-Wulff points out this must be the fastest ever decision by a German University in over 400 years!!

Well, this has to be a record. I believe this is the shortest university decision process in the last 400 years or so. Last Tuesday evening the story broke, just over a week later the university commission for good scientific work at the University of Bayreuth reached a decision. They are rescinding his doctorate.

They didn’t go into details, and most important, didn’t decide if he plagiarized on purpose. He says he didn’t, the documentation found on the GuttenPlagWiki screams a different story. Since he has announced that he wanted to withdraw his doctorate anyway, he won’t contest it, so they don’t have to do the normal detailed analysis.

Googleberg affaire: Loss of reputation could hit Bayreuth students

February 22, 2011

University of Bayreuth’s President Rüdiger Bormann sees “zu Googleberg’s” letter to the University requesting that his doctorate be withdrawn as an admission of guilt says Welt Online. Whether the plagiarist could retain his academic title or not, was not his decision, but solely the responsibility of the Examination Board. “The request to withdraw his doctorate, does not relieve the Commission from making an assessment of the incident.”

In addition to the thousands of jokes now circulating about Guttenberg, the University of Bayreuth is also getting its share of criticism and ridicule. “The University with a special mailbox where inadvertently or unfairly acquired doctorates can be resubmitted anonymously. “

Bayreuth’s commission of self-regulation for science currently consists of Professors Stephan Rixen, Nuri Aksel, Wiebke Putz-Osterloh and Paul Rösch. “Cases like this have never happened”. Never during his term of office has the examination committee had to meet, protested President Bormann. Bormann was only appointed in 2009 but the Dean of the Faculty of Law and Economics, Markus Möstl also asserted “In Bayreuth university circles, no one can recall the denial of a doctoral degree”.

However, Borman admits that in the Law School theses have not always been checked for plagiarism. Computer programs to detect plagiarism would be used only for “suspicious” cases.

But there are many students at the University who are irritated and depressed. They are now questioning how such a set piece of work could have been awarded a “Summa cum laude” stamp.  Students were concerned about the reputation of their degrees, accuses the student chairman Benjamin Horn. They fear, that as Bayreuth students they will be disadvantaged in their search for jobs.

And the University is obviously very sensitive to being accused of giving undue favours. They declared that the management had immediately checked and that the University had not received any donations from the Guttenberg family.

The University cannot escape some ridicule and loss of reputation. But as with all such cases where the actual award is less rigorous than the process to be proposed for an award of a degree, his supervisor for his doctorate bears a large part of the blame and cannot be immune to criticism.

“zu Googleberg”: PhD retracted at the request of the plagiarist

February 22, 2011

zu Googleberg on 18th February 2011:  “I will temporarily – I repeat temporarily – give up my doctoral title.”

22nd February 2011:

The University of Bayreuth says he has now asked them to retract his doctorate in law, according to German TV. Mr Guttenberg admitted that he had made “serious mistakes”. At an election rally near Frankfurt on Monday, the charismatic defence minister said the mistakes were not intentional but he conceded that they “do not meet the ethical code of science”. ….

Chancellor Angela Merkel insisted on Monday that she is standing by her defence minister, who is seen as something of a rising star in her conservative coalition.

“I appointed Guttenberg as minister of defence,” she told reporters. “I did not appoint him as an academic assistant or doctor. What is important to me is his work as minister of defence and he carries out these duties perfectly.”

He has a nice smile and he is apparently popular but the Defence Minister of the Republic of Germany, Mr. zu Googleberg is nothing but a liar and a cheat and a fraud. And Angela Merkel will at some point realise that keeping him on brings her own ethics and integrity into question.

But maybe it is just a continuation of the long line of German politicians with deficient ethics and little integrity.

“We hang the petty thieves and appoint the great ones to public office”.
Aesop (~550 BC)

Guttenberg plagiarism: Germans fixated with academic titles

February 18, 2011
c. 2011: Axel Völcker,

Prof. Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff

The Guttenberg plagiarism saga continues while he has gone off to Afghanistan for a surprise visit – probably because it is less dangerous there right now.

Prof. Dr. Debora Weber-Wulff is Professor for Media and Computing at the HTW Berlin. She was involved in the BMBF flagship project “Virtuelle Fachhochschule” developing eLearning materials and carries out Internet- and eLearning-related projects. She also works on detecting plagiarism and has a plagiarism blog.

Following the apparently blatant plagiarism carried out by Germany’s Defence Minister for his PhD thesis, she was interviewed by which includes the folllowing:

What is your assessment of the Guttenberg situation?

What the rest of the thesis is like, and which chapter the alleged plagiarism is in – that’s another question. There are communities here who say it’s OK to plagiarize a little in your methodology section, but not in others. I think this is completely bizarre. Germans have a way of talking the problem down.The excerpts that the Süddeutsche Zeitung has online are scary, because they are one-to-one copies. And that’s not OK.

What is the real issue then?
This has to do with the German tendency to love titles, they are title-fixated, and people in politics love to have a doctor title so they seem wiser. But it should be about science, for scientists to prove that they can work by themselves – it’s the first proof that they can do research on their own.

Would you say there is a culture of plagiarising and cheating among German students?
I wouldn’t go that far. There’s a download culture. Young people download their music, videos, and why not download their thesis, because they just see it as busy work – something that stands between them and the degree they think they want or need so they can make lots of money and don’t have to work any longer.

She also writes on her blog:

Guttenberg, the conservative German defense minister from Bavaria, has left the country and gone to Afghanistan. They say this was planned, but right now, he’s probably safer there than in the streets of Berlin. The opposition is gleefully taking potshots at him (metaphorically, you understand).

His supporters accuse the scientist who discovered the plagiarism of being part of a commie plot to undermine the country, if I understand their tone of voice correctly.
No one believes that a professor might sit down one evening at the computer, in the midst of writing a review of a doctoral thesis that had been around for a while, but had a very prominent author, currently under fire for other things. The professor, Andreas Fischer-Lescano of the University of Bremen, poured himself a glass of Argentine red wine, looked over the thesis and put three words into Google: “säkularer laizistischer multireligiöser” (secular lay multireligious – the thesis includes a chapter on putting references to a god in a constitution).
And he got a hit. From an article in the Neue Züricher Zeitung by Klara Obermüller, written a few years before his thesis was published. Oops. He poured another glass and tried some other terms, and some more. Fischer-Lescano wrote a scathing review, and includes as an appendix 24 word-for-word passages that are not quoted and not referenced. The review will be published the end of the month in Kritische Justiz, 44(1), pp. 112-119.
A number of journalists have spoken with me today to question this way of working. How do I look for plagiarists? “Well,” I said, “pretty much the same. Except that I prefer Austrian wine.”

As a sociological phenomenon, the rise of the “cut-and-paste” culture together with the German love of academic titles is a worthy subject for study. But what does not seem to be in doubt is that Guttenberg is just another politician who is just another fraud. And a misuse of position – whether to get an academic degree or to amass huge sums of money – is still corruption.

Why voters continue to vote for frauds is an even more interesting subject for study.

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