German education minister accused of copying in class
Yet another Teutonic politico fingered for PhD plagiarism
Yet another German politician has fallen victim to the increasingly common accusation of academic plagiarism. The German Education and Research Minister Annette Schavan has been accused of plagiarising parts of her research in the PhD thesis she wrote in 1980.
The claims were made by an anonymous website – Schavanplag – set up specifically to pick holes in the dissertation.
Schavan is the latest in a string of German politicians to have had their PhDs challenged for plagiarism in the past few years, with an accusation of poor referencing in a university dissertation actually leading to the resignation of Germany's erstwhile Defence Minister, Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg – aka "Baron zu Googleberg" – in 2011.
Speaking to the press this week, Schavan said that her accusers should come forward and make their accusations in person if they wanted to talk to her about her PhD in Educational Sciences - titled "Person and Conscience: Studies on conditions, need and requirements of today's consciences" and submitted to Dusseldorf University.
The anonymous accuser has set up a detailed WordPress site that goes through the PhD paragraph by paragraph reporting passages where her text resembles that of other published authors.
So far no one from the site has come forward to take the minister up on her offer.
Pointing out plagiarism in university work has become a popular form of mud-slinging in the German Parliament. Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, branded Baron Cut-and-Paste by the German media, left office in 2011 after it was found he had copied large parts of his 2006 law doctorate awarded by the University of Bayreuth.
German MEP Jorgo Chatzimarkakis had his Political Sciences PhD from Bonn University revoked in 2011 after the university found that over half of it was incorrectly referenced and long passages were copied from foreign works. Chatzimarkakis notably claimed that he'd picked up his bad, poor-attribution ways during a stint at Oxford.
But the Teutonic bitchfight looks tame compared to the antics of Yahoo!, which recently claimed in an SEC filing that CEO Scott Thompson has a degree in computer science when he actually only has one in accounting. It was also discovered that his university didn't even offer computer science degrees until four years after he left. ®
"Person and Conscience: Studies on conditions, need and requirements of today's consciences"
Sounds like bs even if it wasn't plagiarism.
Re: Their own fault
I have a lot of respect for Merkel, a 'real' science degree is tough. You are correct, Germany has a preoccupation with aristocracy and doctorates. Anything less than a phd is viewed as a failure, and to be fair a phd is a benchmark for original thought. This has led to soft doctorates (affectionately referred to as basket weaving degrees) and pressure to complete at any cost. Not everyone is suited to a doctorate and not having one is not a mark of failure, I could hardly call our plumber a failure with his renumeration. I remember feeling rather stupid calling my mentor at a petrochem company Dr all the way through an early meeting for him to correct me afterwards. He had no phd but was one of the smartest chemical engineers I have ever met. I learnt it was much better not to place any letters after my name or use any prefix.
Their own fault
Germany idealises PhDs, which is a mistake. I did a biosciences degree and have friends doing them now-they take real, total commitment. (I was told when I was thinking of applying by an academic at York that a 60-hour working week was what he considered sensible-not what he would make you to do, but what he thought you needed to do to produce quality work.) So the result is politicians who got PhDs because they wanted to have letters to go with their name not because they found their subject interesting, and took short cuts.
There's a saying that when you make something a target it stops being a measure of value. That's true here. To be fair Merkel's was in chemistry, so she should be fine.