A SPECTRE is haunting Europe, and this time it is the spectre of plagiarism and scientific misconduct. Some high-profile politicians have had to resign in the last 18 months –– but the revelations are also shaking respected European universities.
Many European countries, especially Germany, have long considered it unnecessary to give plagiarism more than a cursory look. One trusts in the self-cleansing powers of science, end of story.
Last February, a reviewer of German Defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg’s doctoral dissertation discovered and documented some plagiarised passages.
When the papers pounced on this, zu Guttenberg denied any wrongdoing, calling the accusations “absurd”. If he had messed up the odd footnote, he said he would fix it for the second edition.
Within days, a group of people formed around a wiki they called GuttenPlag Wiki and proved him to be quite wrong. He had to resign just two weeks later.
That was not the end of it. Soon it was suspected a major ex-politician’s daughter was guilty of plagiarism in her dissertation, and a new wiki was set up, VroniPlag Wiki, to document this case. Quite soon plagiarism was discovered in yet another dissertation, and it has not stopped. Currently there are 27 documented cases on the site.
Elsewhere in Europe politicians with similar problems have emerged. A Romanian Education minister lasted just a week in office before having to step down, accused of plagiarising academic papers.
Meanwhile, a leading scientific journal, Nature, has accused the Romanian prime minister of plagiarising part of his PhD.
He denies wrongdoing and has been backed by a Research Ethics Council, but the accusations have now been upheld by two academic panels in Romania, including one at the University of Bucharest, which awarded the PhD in 2003.
The Hungarian president has already lost his doctorate and resigned on account of plagiarism, and the Russian Minister of Culture is facing accusations that 16 passages of his doctoral dissertation were copied from other sources. He denies the allegations.