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A Plague of Plagiarism
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A Plague of Plagiarism


Most German politicians sport post-graduate degrees, including PhDs?. During the last few years they have been plagued by a wave of scandalous allegations concerning the authorship of their dissertations. People downloaded them from the web and either read with attention or used one of the various plagiarism check on-line services such as Turnitin. Sometimes they found longish passages that seemed familiar or simply got the bad news report on-line showing that they had been published in scientific journals, in monographs and even in standard textbooks years before the future politician wrote the dissertation. Most unfortunately, there was no footnote giving credit to the author of the passage.

Do note that Teutonic universities have not been overly harsh when it comes to plagiarism; the threshold value is that 10% or more of the pages contain text from other authors that are not given credit. If less than 10% of the pages contain unattributed quotations, that is taken to be honest sloppiness, but not theft of intellectual property. In the worst cases discovered so far, 90%+ of the pages were found to contain stolen property. But. increasingly, universities are now asking students to scan their thesis with on-line plagiarism software and to submit the corresponding certificates as a condition sine qua non to get their dissertations accepted.

The most recent case of high-profile plagiarism to come to light is particularly juicy for several reasons. First off, the Federal Minister concerned had piously commented that she felt “shame” when one of her colleagues was stripped of his doctorate. Secondly, she was Minister of Education and Science, thus in charge of maintaining the standards of German science. Thirdly, her degree was in theology. It would seem that she embarked upon her doctorate before she fully comprehended Commandment VIII, which is usually taught to children in catechism class. Finally, her masterwork was entitled “Person and Conscience” (Person und Gewissen).

Ms Schavan is suing the University of Dusseldorf that has stripped her of her academic title, and she has every right to do so. But it seems unlikely that a committee of Dusseldorf professors would publicly humiliate themselves, their alma mater and the Minister of Education and Science without mountains of evidence.

The immediate problem has been cleverly solved; the Chancellor (PhD in Physics) has appointed Johanna Wanka (PhD in Math) as the new Minister of Education and Science. No university department is completely immune to scientific misconduct, but mathematics and physics are sciences with a relatively robust against cheating. Nor is Germany the only country affected.



All this is fun and undertaking the necessary checks is relevant not only for Universities but also to the European Public Service. The EU Institutions spend the bulk of the budget on cohesion and agricultural subsidies, but a few leftover billions do go to science and technology. It would be overkill to create a science-OLAF, but that is not necessary because there is a more cost-effective alternative.
Unfortunately, EPSO selection procedures seldom allocate much importance to academic achievement since it prefers fundamentally challenged forms of psychometrics, nor do EU institutions encourage staff to publish as other international organisations do. Nonetheless, the academic works of our leading lights, Heads of Units and above, should be published on a dedicated, one-stop-shop website. We might include the works of researchers receiving significant grants from European Institutions. Let post-graduates inspect them at leisure. If no plagiarism is discovered we may rejoice. Perhaps this would also promote academic achievement as a not so bad EU staff selection and promotion factor.

If plagiarism is discovered and an academic degree is withdrawn, there is reason to start a disciplinary procedure on the suspicion that an Institution was defrauded into appointing a not-so-qualified applicant to an important post. If the investigation shows that the plagiarism was not the result of honest sloppiness but rather of deliberate deceit, serious sanctions will be necessary. The citizen who brought the misconduct to light would deserve a substantial reward, perhaps in the form of a scholarship.

Transparency begins at home, so the present writer has made the work he did to obtain his Master of Arts in EU Law from the University of Leicester available for public review. Be aware that the papers were all written before the end of 2002. Much has changed in EU legislation during the ten years that have passed; in the meantime we have moved on from the Treaty of Nice to that of Lisbon.

This the first semester term paper Closer Cooperation in its Legal and Political Context; An Assessment. Some of the legal details have evolved, but the recent introduction of a financial transaction tax has moved the subject of closer cooperation to the center of attention. This is the second semester term paper; Sovereignty versus Integration in the Internal Market and the EMU. This topic will never go away. This is the third semester term paper; Industrial Pre-democracy in the EC . The subject is co-decision and industrial democracy in the private sector of the old EU15. The so-called financial crisis has helped the plutocrats to push white, pink and blue collar workers further down into the status of wage-slaves under the threat of unemployment, for now. Later or sooner, times will change, so bookmark the link. This is the fourth semester term paper; To what extent do you think that the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights has improved the EC equality provisions . It traces the evolution of the Charter of Fundamental Rights in the jurisprudence of the Court of Justice from a declaration of good intensions towards an independent source of law. Of course, Lisbon has made the Charter legally binding in the meantime, but it is still good to look back at the long development.

And here we have the dissertation; Two systems of industrial democracy for the civil service on co-decision and industrial democracy in the EU Institutions and in the German Federal Public Service. Again, at this time it seems the EU public servants are light years behind their German counterparts in democracy at work, but times change, especially if we change them.

Let’s see how many of the EU’s top politicians and officials have the guts to follow SID’s example.


Created by: ashbrmi last modification: Thursday 07 of March, 2013 [10:32:11 UTC] by admin


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