Other plagiarism hunters refrained from attacking schavan

Other plagiarism hunters refrained from attacking schavan

Berlin plagiarism researcher debora weber-wulff told "spiegel online". The chairwoman of the bundestag’s education committee, ulla burchardt (SPD), called for an official clearinghouse to be set up by the state to remove accusations of plagiarism from the anonymity of the internet.

The detection of plagiarism should not be left to anonymous internet platforms alone, burchardt said in an interview with the german press agency dpa. "Too often, individual interests, competitive thinking and rivalries among scientists are also at play – something that sometimes occurs not only in business enterprises, but also in universities."

Schavan has been facing anonymous accusations of plagiarism on the internet since the beginning of the week. On a platform called "schavanplag", an unknown person lists alleged plagiarism on 56 pages of her 350-page dissertation from 1980. In essence, they are accused of deficiencies and "obfuscation" in the proof of sources – unlike in the case of ex-defense minister karl-theodor zu guttenberg (CSU), who had identified complete text passages by other authors as his intellectual property in his dissertation.

There were also "very problematic parts" in schavan’s work, said weber-wulff, who is a professor of media informatics at berlin’s university of technology and economics. But you did not have "the good class of a guttenberg". For "vroniplag" to publish criticism of schavan’s work, "at least ten to twenty percent of the text would have had to be plagiarized". "This is not the case with schavan," weber-wulff told the "tagesspiegel" (thursday).

Weber-wulff voiced the suspicion that the anonymous author of the schavan publication could now be a former member of "vroniplag" who had been disappointed about the majority decision. Vroniplag-grunder martin heidingsfelder praised in the "neue osnabrucker zeitung" (thursday) the publication of the accusations by an anonymous author as very courageous. "I cannot recommend anyone to come out publicly."

Burchardt said that by exposing numerous plagiarism traps, the internet scene had successfully "put its finger in an open wound of quality assurance in doctoral studies". It is now the task of science and also of the federal government to draw consequences from this in an orderly manner.

The federal ministry of education should therefore fund an official clearinghouse, for example with the cooperation of the german research foundation (DFG), which would examine suspicious cases impartially and also provide figures on the true extent of fraud involving doctorates, burchardt demanded. "The danger of a strange kind of denunciation, fueled by the anonymous internet, is growing. And someone is quickly pilloried on the internet – sometimes unjustly, in certain circumstances."

Schavan received backing from the union. "With the best will in the world, i cannot imagine that she has violated the rules of science," said a senior CDU politician in berlin. "This anonymity of accusations is a form of denunciation that is unacceptable. Our country is changing."

Plagiarism expert stefan weber, who has acted as an expert witness in several court cases involving doctoral theses, told the "leipziger volkszeitung" (friday) that schavan’s position as research minister was no longer tenable because of the accusations.

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