Posts Tagged ‘zu Guttenberg’

Are Universities cracking down on academic and scientific misconduct?

September 3, 2011

It may just be a passing gust of a cleansing wind but I do have a perception that universities are becoming much more responsive to allegations of academic dishonesty and scientific misconduct.

Investigations of misconduct at academic institutions have long been notorious for the amount of time they take (usually many years) and for always protecting “the establishment”. But I think I detect a change.

Investigations are speeding up and sanctions against those found guilty are beginning to be more than symbolic slaps on the wrist. The frequency of enforced resignations and dismissals seem to be increasing. I perceive a trend and I hypothesise that it is partly in response to the on-line scrutiny and negative publicity which comes from the blogosphere. 

Close on the heels of the recent Ahluwalia resignation /dismissal come these two cases:

1. Academic impropriety with Professor Julius Nyang’oro considered to have improperly helped athletes to cheat at the University of North Carolina. He is tied to two athletes who were kicked off the football team. In one case he did not detect or ignored blatant plagiarism and in the other he allowed a freshman to take a senior graduate level course and awarded him a suspiciously high grade. Nyang’oro apparently rarely gave low grades in his classes:

College athletes and accommodating professors

UNC professor resigns amid football investigation

UNC’s Afro-American studies head resigns amid questions of football …

2. A well known cardiac researcher Zhiguo Wang has been dismissed from the Montreal Heart Institute for scientific misconduct following retraction of two papers in the Journal of the Biological Chemistry just a month ago.  Wang also has an appointment at the University of Montreal, and is senior research scholar of the Fonds de Recherche en Sante de Quebec, a ChangJiang scholar professor, and a LongJiang scholar professor of China. The dismissal comes less than a month after the publication of the retraction notices.

Authors retract two JBC papers on how heart rhythms go awry; Montreal Heart Institute looking into why

Montreal heart studies ‘withdrawn’ – Zhiguo Wang’s arrhythmia research being investigated after retractions 

Montreal hospital dismisses cardiac researcher over misconduct allegations

There have been a number of other cases recently in Germany as well where the speed of the investigations by the academic institutions have been unprecedented (zu Guttenberg and Bulfone-Paus as examples).

Perhaps it’s all just in my mind – or even wishful thinking – but I have the distinct impression that a cleansing wind is beginning to blow. The world wide web may already be having an impact on combating academic dishonesty and scientific misconduct by forcing institutions to be more responsive. There is much on-line which is still malicious or untrue or just plain rubbish. But the amount of “solid” comment has achieved a  “critical mass”. The blogosphere can no longer be merely ignored it seems.

A rash of rescinded PhD’s as German Universities clean house

August 6, 2011

Some good may be coming out of the zu Guttenberg affaire.

Many PhD thesis awarded – mainly to politicians – by German Universities are now under investigation and the initiative is coming from the media and on-line websites. The apparent speed with which the Universities are moving is – I think – unprecedented. It is also a tribute to the power of the internet for change (not forgetting the misuse of that power as evidenced by the “hate-sites” and the Norway massacre). But the Universities themselves rarely investigate without external pressure and some measure of scandal. And as Gerard Fröhlich points out scientific “cheaters” usually have venerable establishment figures as their protectors.

Gerhard Fröhlich, University of Linz, from an interview in the online Journal of Unsolved Questions:

Self control mechanisms are a myth in science ( and just) to avoid any serious external control. I have studied all fraud affairs precisely and in almost every case anonymous allegations coupled with mass media outrage – in most recent years with an interim period of outrage on the internet – were necessary before the institutions themselves agreed to take action. Science and its sponsors, media and politics, everybody wants heros, “Uebermenschen”. The lion’s share of uncovered scientific cheaters were supermen or superwomen, shooting stars in their field, decorated with honors and predicted to win the Nobel Prize.

In every case, though, an elderly gentleman held his protective hand over them to award them an official seal of scientific credibility.

Prof. Debora Weber-Wulff summarises the status of the various actions /investigations ongoing at German Universities.  From Prof. Debora Weber-Wulff’s blog:

The media barrage has not let up, as there are new candidates up every few days. So here is my modest attempt to get you up to date:

  • Mathematics professor at the University of Potsdam censured
    This blog reported in May 2010 on the plagiarism dispute between Gumm and Denecke. The University of Potsdam has just revoked the rights that the now-retired Denecke had to still supervise dissertations, and he is to remove the publication from his CV, and withdraw the book from the market.
  • Veronica Sass
    Doctorate rescinded by the University of Konstanz
  • Matthias Pröfrock
    Doctorate rescinded by the University of Tübingen
  • Silvana Koch-Mehrin
    Doctorate rescinded by the University of Heidelberg, she has legally challenged the decision
  • Georgios Chatzimarkakis
    Doctorate rescinded by the University of Bonn
  • Bijan Djir-Sarai
    Plagiarism level is currently at 60% of the pages, the University of Cologne is investigating
  • Uwe Brinkmann
    Doctorate rescinded by the University of Hamburg
  • Margarita Mathiopoulos
    Plagiarism level is currently at 46 % of the pages, the University of Bonn is investigating
  • Siegfried Haller
    Plagiarism level is currently at 21 % of the pages, the University of Halle-Wittenberg is investigating
  • Jürgen Goldschmidt
    is the most recent member of the club, clocking in at a plagiarism level of 10% of the pages, the Technical University of Berlin is investigating. The entire nation is having a good laugh at his footnoting technique, which includes “Tagesschau vom 02.12.2004” (on page 42 of the dissertation), “WDR vom 24.03.2007” (on page 51), and best of all “Super Illu 17/2005” (on page 45). SUPERillu is a weekly family magazine often read in Eastern Germany, leading Spiegel Online to headline “Magna cum Super-Illu“. Mr. Goldschmidt tried to delete two sites that he runs on the topic of his dissertation, as they contained the sources for some of the plagiarism. Luckily, the Internet Archive had kept a copy for posterity.
  • Bernd Althusmann
    The weekly newspaper Die Zeit hired investigators to look into the dissertation of the minister of education of Lower Saxony, currently the speaker for the national committee on education. The calls for him to step down are getting louder and louder.
  • Roland Wöller
    The dissertation of the minister of education from Saxony was investigated in 2008, when it was determined that he had incorporated large portions of a master’s thesis by another student into his work without proper attribution. The University of Dresden sent him a sharp letter reprimanding him and requesting that he “fix the footnotes” for future editions of the book, but they did not rescind his dissertation at the time. The thesis is being re-investigated by people outside of VroniPlag. Update: The media is trying to make a scandal out of this, as there is nothing else to report on. Flurfunk debunks the scandal.

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.

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