Sunday, December 11, 2011

Open cases of plagiarism in Germany

Note: this list has moved to the page Scorecard, and is linked from the homepage. It will no longer be updated here.

The VroniPlag platform has currently documented 22 23 cases of plagiarism in dissertations or habilitations since the zu Guttenberg case was documented on the GuttenPlagWiki. The first few cases - especially ones involving politicians in the wake of the zu Guttenberg case - were dealt with promptly:

Documentation publicCurrent
KTzG 2009
Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg
(University of Bayreuth)
2011-02-16 After 2 weeks: doctorate rescinded
VS 2009
Veronika Saß
(University of Constance)
2011-03-28 After 6 weeks: doctorate rescinded
MCP 2007
Matthias Pröfrock
(University of Tübingen)
2011-04-04 After 12 weeks: doctorate rescinded
SKM 2001
Silvana Koch-Mehrin
(University of Heidelberg)
2011-04-10 After 10 weeks: doctorate rescinded
GC 2000
Georgios Chatzimarkakis
(University of Bonn)
2011-05-15 After 10 weeks: doctorate rescinded
BDS 2008
Bijan Djir-Sarai
(University of Cologne)
2011-06-01 After 40 weeks doctorate rescinded
UB 2011
Uwe Brinkmann
(University of Hamburg)
2011-06-08 After 6 weeks: doctorate rescinded
MM 1987
Margarita Mathiopoulos
(University of Bonn)
2011-06-14 23 years after the first investigation on accused plagiarism  and 10 months after the publication on VroniPlag: doctorate rescinded 
SH 2003
Siegfried Haller
(University of Halle-Wittenberg)
2011-07-24 After 9 months: doctorate rescinded
JG 2009
Dr. Jürgen Goldschmidt
(Technical University of Berlin)
2011-07-30 Still open
CS 2008
Prof. Dr. Cornelia Eva Scott
(University of Krakau, Poland)
2011-08-08 University of Cracow annonces plagiarism found on Jan 12, 2012, refers case to a central authority
AH 1998
Dr. Arne Heller
(University of Hamburg)
2011-08-28 Still open
MW 2009
Dr. Martin Winkels
(University of Bonn)
2011-09-05 Still open
DV 2005
Dr. Daniel Volk
(University of Würzburg)
2011-09-19 Still open
UT 2003
PD Dr. Ulf Teichgräber
(Charité Berlin)
2011-10-12 Still open
PES 2004
Prof. Dr. Patrick Ernst Sensburg
(Fernuniversität Hagen)
2011-10-18 After 8 weeks the university determines this to be "no case".
DD 1999
Prof. Dr. Detlev Dähnert
(BTU Cottbus)
2011-11-01 Still open
NK 2006
Dr. Nalan Kayhan
(University of Heidelberg)
2011-11-17 Still open
AWB 1997
Prof. Dr. Andreas Wolfgang Bonz
(University of Heidelberg)
2011-12-21 Still open
MH 2007
Dr. Michael Heun
(Frankfurt School of Finance and Management)
2012-02-16 Still open
LM 1999
Prof. Dr. Loukas A. Mistelis
(University of Hanover)
2012-03-12 Still open
AOS 2008
Dr. Asso Omer Saiwani
(TU Berlin)
2012-03-26 Still open
AHG 2006
Dr. Arne Herting
(University of Bochum)
2012-04-10 Still open
NM 2007
Prof. Dr. Nasrullah Memon
(University of Aalborg, Denmark)
2012-04-18 Still open

But since June, the universities have fallen asleep, it seems. I have written letters asking about the status of the investigations. In general, they are not expecting results before Christmas.

Gerhard Fröhlich from the University of Linz put it so nicely:
Self control mechanisms are a myth in science 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.
It seems that the moment the outrage dies down, the speed of investigation slows to a crawl.

  • 2011-12-21: Another case from the medical faculty of the University Heidelberg added; the University of Bonn is said to be prepared to rescind the doctorate of Margarita Mathiopoulos 
  • 2011-12-22: The Fernuniversität Hagen determines the case of Patrick Sensburg to be too weak to do anything about. The dean of the faculty announces on radio that the documentation is "malicious". The reader is encouraged to read the documentation linked above for themselves. The expert opinions on which this decision was based remain under cover. 
  • 2012-01-27: The University of Cracow had determined that there is plagiarism in the Scott dissertation and has referred the case to a central authority.  The decision by the University of Bonn on Mathiopolous, expected for February 12, is delayed to April 18 by an extension appeal filed by her lawyers. 
  • 2012-02-16:  Case 19, from the private Frankfurt School of Finance and Management, is added to the home page.
  • 2012-03-05: University of Cologne rescinded the doctorate of German member of Parliament Bijan Dijr-Sarai
  • 2012-03-12: Case 20, a dissertation in law from the University of Hanover, is added to the home page. 
  • 2012-03-21: A decision is expected by the University of Halle on April 18. 
  • 2012-03-26: Case 21, a dissertation from the same doctoral advisor at the TU Berlin as Jürgen Goldschmidt, is posted on the home page. Many texts appear to have been copied and the names of the country under investigation, Iraq, exchanged for the country name in the original work. 
  • 2012-04-10: Case 22, a medical dissertation from the University of Bochum, is posted on the home page. 
  • 2012-04-18: The University of Bonn rescinded the doctorate of Margarita Mathiopoulos and the University of Halle-Wittenberg rescinded the doctorate of Siegfried Haller. Case 23, submitted in English to the University of Alborg, Denmark, by Nasrullah Memon, is added to the list.  

University of Heidelberg refuses Koch-Mehrin's protest

The University of Heidelberg has announced that they have rejected the protest that Silvana Koch-Mehrin lodged against the rescinding of her doctorate earlier this year. Articles can be found at Spiegel Online, Süddeutsche, n-tv, among others.

The documentation at VroniPlag has one third of the pages containing plagiarism.

Koch-Mehrin has stepped down from official duties except for her mandate in the European Parliament. In September 2011 news media in Germany complained that she was not even attending parliamentary meetings, although still a member .

Her lawyer notes that the next step would be to take the university to court, but she herself has not stated whether she will take that step or not.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

DFG: Good scientific practice

The DFG, the German federal research financing board, held a conference on good scientific practice on Nov. 29, 2011 in Berlin. I was not asked to talk, but was permitted to attend the closed conference.

The first session was about the current state of quality assurance at the large extra-university research institutions. Since universities are financed by the state governments in Germany, the federal government can't give them money directly. The solution has been to move the research out to research institutions, but that has the problem of them not being doctorate granting institutions. So they keep close ties with universities, often offering the universities money if they will award a professorship to a deserving department head so that he (rarely she) can be proposing doctoral candidates to the dissertation board. The professors are then usually then "loaned back" to the research institution.

One interesting link I noted was to a talk that Max Weber gave in 1922 on science as a profession (Wissenschaft als Beruf). But most of what they were talking about seemed to be great ideas that are not really anchored in reality. Each of the sessions had a long time for discussions, and the 200 people in attendance were not shy about asking questions or giving statement.

I found one statement to be very fitting - the woman asked why we were being so concerned with the "bad children", the plagiarizing or falsifying doctoral students. Shouldn't we be looking more closely at the "bad parents", the doctoral advisors? I fully agree with this! I was also pleased that persons other than myself called for a national board such as the ORI in the USA. It was a bit sobering to hear people such as the rector of a large southern university state that he regularly uses so-called plagiarism detection software even though he knows that it doesn't work, but as a deterrent, because the students think that it does find plagiarism. 

The second session was about the current situation in Germany for securing good scientific practice. A bit of history was explained, for example, how the Hermann/Brach case led the DFG to formulate their rules for good scientific practice. Wolfgang Löwer, the Ombud for good scientific practice at the DFG gave an interesting talk on hierarchies vs. independence of the researchers. He mentioned a case that was mentioned in the press a few days later about a curious case of a doctoral student being accused of plagiarism, because she reused texts that she herself had written under a pseudonym for her advisor.

Diethelm Klippel from the University of Bayreuth summed up the conference that was held there a few days ago (I hope to report on that soon as well), and then Christopher Baum from the medical university in Hanover gave a good overview of the problems associated with whistleblowing.

The third session was entitled "Promotion - Quo vadis?" and was more or less a round of back-patting.

The symposium closed with a very interesting podium discussion, and a number of politicians showed up for this. The DFG filmed the discussion and has it available online. I feel that it is a consequence of the work invested in GuttenPlag and VroniPlag that this podium - with the vice president of the Hochschulrektorenkonferenz (Klaus Dicke), the president of the DFG (Matthias Kleiner), and the chair of the Wissenschaftsrat (Wolfgang Marquardt), the journalist who broke the zu Guttenberg story (Tanjev Schultz) and the doctoral student (Tobias Bunde) who initiated the signatory list - actually took place.

There were lots of good discussions during the breaks - I hope that something comes of this and not that people feel that they've done enough now. There is plenty more to do. I insist that we need Beratung, Transparenz and Kontrolle, (advice, transparency, and control) and that that needs to be in a federal, independent entity. We'll see how it goes in the new year.

Friday, December 2, 2011


There are now two cases of people accused of plagiarism who have been permitted to keep their doctorates, as determined by the respective universities.
  • Johannes Hahn, University of Vienna
    The former Austrian Minister of Education and current Member of the European Parliamenthad been accused previously of having plagiarized his dissertation (a number of articles can be found at the blog Plagiatsgutachten). The University of Vienna reopened the case, hemmed and hawed, asked for expertises, and then decided that the thesis would have been unacceptable today, but they could not determine what "rules for quotations" were valid 25 years ago. Many people found this shocking, as pretty much the same rules for quotations have been in place for more than 25 years.
    Reports can be found at Die Presse - Spiegel Online - Official university statement
  • Bernd Althusmann, University of Potsdam
    The current Minister of Education in Lower Saxony and chairman of the German national board of Ministers of Education (in Germany, education is the responsibility of the states, not the federal government) was accused of plagiarism in the newspaper Die Zeit in July. The University of Potsdam took the issue up and looked into the thesis. Everyone agrees that the thesis is pretty bad. Some even say that it should never have been accepted. But the problem is, the doctorate was granted, and the rules say that in order to rescind the doctorate, you have to prove that he knowingly cheated. Much of the plagiarism is of the sloppy kind that you normally throw in the face of a bachelor student and demand a rewrite. It appears that he was actually asked to rewrite one or two times, and then they gave up and gave him a rite on it, a grade meaning "go away and stay away from university, but you can put the letters in front of your name". The commission felt that they could not prove intention, just sloppiness, and so did not rescind his doctorate. There is a good discussion on the blog de plagio explaining the reasoning.
My problem, today, is that I caught a student plagiarizing three times. Okay,  I hadn't graded the lecture summaries for 2 weeks, so there were four half page reports for each student to grade. One student stole from the Wikipedia twice, and a tutorial once. The first Wikipedia one was easy, he forgot to remove the links to other Wikipedia articles. The second one he even had the word "Wikipedia" on the page, but didn't use quotation marks. The third one was stolen from a tutorial site, and easy to note, as in the middle of the second paragraph it said "In this tutorial....".

Now, if I apply the reasoning above or the reasoning zu Guttenberg uses, if the plagiarist is busy or does not know the rules, then it's not plagiarism.  Which pretty much means that we can pack in as teachers. How can we enforce tough plagiarism policies, when education leaders get let off the hook for sloppiness?

Common Craft explains plagiarism

I've got an enormous backlog of things I've been meaning to post. Commoncraft, the folks with the wonderful cut-out, stop-motion videos, decided to explain "plagiarism". It's a shame the licensing fee is so steep, this should be a standard part of an introductory course on writing in college. I'm just including the link here.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Guttenberg: I was a bit scatterbrained

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg reappeared on the German scene this past week. He gave the editor in chief of the weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Giovanni di Lorenzo, a three-day interview that is to be published next week as a book, Vorest gescheitert (Failed - for the time being). A portion of the interview was published online, a longer version with nice pictures was published in this week's Zeit.

I must admit to having be extremely angry when I read the interview. di Lorenzo so often quits asking questions on sensitive topics and switches to other topics, such as if he is going to start a new party and when he will be coming back. zu Guttenberg does not admit to having plagiarized, but keeps coming up with excuses. He had over 80 diskettes, and 4 computers, and 2 kids, and this and that and another excuse and this and that and I was really scatterbrained and and and and.

He just does not understand why plagiarism is a problem for science - the only thing we have is our credibility. If we lie or steal, we are no longer reliable. If we pretend to be authors of something that is from someone else, we are liars.

Luckily, the rest of the press pretty much heaped scorn on zu Guttenberg. The best one was a faked interview in the Süddeutsche Zeitung about zu Guttenberg looking like the soccer player Lothar Matthäus, with answers that Guttenberg gave di Giovanni. If you understand German, you will enjoy this interview.

One hopes that he returns to the US and finds something useful to do for society. I don't think, however, that writing another dissertation in the US will be a good idea for him to try. Maybe he can learn a useful trade.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Dutch researcher fabricated data

The case of Dutch social psychologist Diederik Stapel from the University of Tilburg has made headlines in many countries. I just want to make a short note so that the articles are linked here. He fabricated data on a large scale for several dozen publications, including Science, so that the data better fit what he wanted to prove.

  • Spiegel article (in German)
  • Chronicle article on the extent of the fraud
  • Chronicle article on how he managed to fool people
The Science article, published in April of this year, has not yet been retracted. But the editors have added links to articles about the fraud.

Stapel seems to have often offered colleagues "data" that fit their hypotheses, thus being listed as co-author. They now have to deal with the retractions.

Six young researchers were the whistleblowers in the case, apparently some tenured professors had felt something was wrong, but did not have the courage to act on their instincts.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

VroniPlag: The next three cases

So sorry not to be keeping up, but the beginning of a semester is always a time sink and this one was no different - plus all the VroniPlag work.

I owe my English-language readers the next three cases published on the home page of VroniPlag:
  • Case 14: The first medical plagiarism in the collection and the first habilitation, the second doctorate that is written in Germany, submitted by Ulf Teichgräber to the Charité, Berlin. This is a very strange work, as it incorporates large portions of three doctoral theses that were done by people in his department - and one which was submitted after the habilitation. There are some mighty strange plagiarisms here, 29% of the pages are from this doctorate submitted later and page 101 of the habilitation includes "blah blah blah see figure 3-6 blah blah blah" which is an exact copy of the doctorate. Except the figure - which is also taken from the doctorate - was renumbered in the habilitation to be figure 4-20. The herausragende Fundstellen, the outstanding discoveries, is a long and fascinating documentation and includes passages taken from common publications of the four. The Charité has apparently already investigated this and found it to be okay. I sent a written protest to the dean in the hopes that the investigation will be reopened.
  • Case 15: Patrick Ernst Sensburg, member of parliament for the CDU and professor at a college that educates public servants, submitted his thesis to the distance education University of Hagen. He has the distinction of having the first thesis to have a typo in the title. He took up the gauntlet, choosing the weakest fragments documented by VroniPlag and discussing them on his home page, completely ignoring the strongest fragments. Unfortunately, one cannot comment there. He complained to the press that one cannot comment on VroniPlag - strange, as it uses a MediaWiki under the hood that permits a discussion page for each and every page, and there is a forum available - and that one cannot contact the VroniPlag people to discuss things. One magazine offered to set up a discussion between me and Mr. Sensburg, I immediately agreed, but he decided not to pursue this avenue of discussion until his university has reached a decision. So be it.
  • Case 16: Detlev Dähnert, honorary professor of the engineering college in Lausitz and manager at the Vattenfall Europe Carbon Storage. Earlier this year anonymous persons set up a VattenPlag Wiki that got itself removed. They had published a link in the VroniPlag forum and the press picked it up, stating that "VroniPlag" had discovered plagiarism. Okay, that starts with "V", too. Anyway, out of curiosity one of the VroniPlag researchers started looking, and soon found plagiarisms. But since only a digital copy of the thesis was available, it took some time to locate and obtain a printed copy. Only when a printed copy can be verified to be identical to the digital copy that is available, will the VroniPlag group go out with a name for the plagiarized work. In the meantime, the number of pages with plagiarism has topped 35%.
Is anything happening about all these plagiarisms? Yes. I attended a symposium put on by the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (I seem not to have blogged about that) and the German parliamentary committee on education and research will be holding a hearing Nov. 9, 2011 on the topic. I have been asked to participate as an expert witness. And the DFG is holding a (closed) discussion day on the topic the end of November.

I have taken to liken changes in the German educational system to glacial movements. Even though many are disappointed that things are not happening faster, the glacier is receding, very slowly, but things are indeed happening. This is very encouraging.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I'm so honored!

Prize certificateThis evening at a reception for our new professors Michael Heine, the president of our school, the University of Applied Sciences HTW Berlin, presented me with an award as the school's "Science Communicator" of the year for my work with the press about the plagiarism scandals in Germany this year.

The press secretary collected up the original clippings from her clippings file for the year to date (only making copies for herself) and put them in a folder - a big folder. And they gave me a megaphone, painted in the school colors, that is to travel each year to the current prize holder.Green megaphone

They told me that they had quite a time locating one, as they are no longer in general use. This is an old one from the Bavarian police, still usable, and painted up in a local body shop.

I tried to spread out all the clippings on the dining room table, but it really wasn't large enough. And oh my, the Bild-Zeitung article was on the front page of every single edition of the paper, country wide.
A lot of clippings
I thanked the president - my school has really been great over the past 10 years. Not every school would find it cool to be associated with plagiarism. I've enjoyed a sabbatical, in which I developed Fremde Federn Finden (that is dated and needs a chapter on zu Guttenberg & Co), and has often given me student researchers for getting the work done and lets me run my plagiarism site off of the school servers.

The good thing is that the press now gets the name of the school spelled right - best advertising you can get for free!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Professor barred from advising for 2 years

The University of Münster in Germany has barred a professor from accepting doctoral students for two years, the Westfälische Nachrichten reports.

In July 2011 the university rescinded a doctorate that was found to have replicated one submitted to the same advisor a few years earlier. The duplicate disseration was found by a Wikipedia editor researching a topic.

The university continued the investigation into the role of the advisor. It was decided that he had been "inattentive", not remembering that he had seen the same thesis a few years earlier. The faculty voted to give him two years time to work on focusing his attention - he is not allowed to advise doctoral students during that time, but can continue to teach and keeps his job as a professor.

He has been quite a popular advisor, and was given a prize for teaching just prior to the story of the duplicate dissertation breaking.

The university hopes that everything is now okay, as they make all doctorates and advisors sign a contract with each other and run all the theses through a software system.

On the basis of my tests of plagiarism detection systems I would not be so sure.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Responsible conduct of research in academic medicine

I attended and spoke at a one-day conference "Responsible conduct of research in academic medicine - From neglect to action plan" at the Charité in Berlin today on good scientific practice. The speakers:
  • Jens Georg Reich (Max-Delbrück-Center of Molecular Medicine, Berlin and German Ethikrat) spoke on "Ethic topics in modern biomedical research"
  • Gretchen Brodnicki, J.D. (Dean for Faculty and Research Integrity, Harvard Medical School, USA)
    Coordinated approach to research integrity at Harvard Medical School - Lessons learned
  • Ulrich Dirnagl (Center for Stroke Research Berlin, Department of Experimental Neurology, Charité)
    Why most published research findings are false: GSP to the rescue
  • John C. Galland (Director, Division of Education and Integrity, Office of Research Integrity, US Dept. of Health and Human Services, Rockville MD, USA)
    Implementing and monitoring responsible conduct of research in academic medicine: The ORI experience
  • Sabine Kleinert (Senior Executive Editor, The Lancet, London, UK and Vice-Chair of COPE (Committee on Publication Ethics))
    Plagiarism, duplicate publication and text recycling
  • Hubert Rehm (Freelance Journalist, Freiburg, Germany)
    Research misconduct in the German medical system: Role of whistle blowing and investigative journalism
In the afternoon there were three sessions, one on "Teaching and implementing a culture of responsible conduct of research", one I gave with a colleague on "'GSP - Forensics': Tools and approaches to detect misconduct", and one on "Sanctioning misconduct in academic research".

The plenary sessions were held in the anatomy department in a steep lecture theater in wood with inkwells (!) [I thought all day that this would be a great place to put an electrical outlet]. Along the back row were what one participant noted was the data of the anatomists: a large collection of skulls.

My head is spinning from all the information I took in, here just a few points:
  • The USA is lightyears ahead of Germany on Good Scientific Practice. They have training courses, GSP officers, procedures, national bodies, a cool interactive movie on avoiding research misconduct, great flowcharts on what to do if you suspect scientific misconduct, info material on avoiding plagiarism, etc.
  • A national repository for original data is necessary.
  • Training and procedures for dealing with allegations must be the top priority in Germany at the moment.
  • John Galland had a cool formula for Research Excellence:

    RE = β1T + β2R + β3V +β4 C

    T = does tasks well
    R = builds strong relationships
    V = has a vision
    C = is a person of character

    The coefficients βi are between 0.0 and 1.0. He asserts that most researchers are at a RE factor of 0.8 and exhorts people to strive for 1.0 by working together.
  • Hubert Rehm talked about a number of German scandals, I didn't know all of them: Nazi doctor Sigmund Rascher (the only person ever to be shot for scientific misconduct); Bernhard S*******, called the "P*******or" by Laborjournal (link removed); Austrian incontinence researcher Hannes Strasser accused of fabricating data; Nicolai Savaskan, doctor at the Charité accused of falsifying data.
It is a great start to have so many researchers talking about good scientific praxis!

Update: On 2013-03-20 I changed the wording for the sake of clarification on the last bullet point because of a lawyer's letter. 
Update 2:  The lawyers insist that even linking to the publication that they consider to be illegal is not okay. By linking I am not assuming the position of the items I link to - I am reporting on what what was said and giving my readers the opportunity to decide for themselves. This is covered by the laws governing freedom of speech and the freedom of the press. I am not removing information because I made an error - I am making the changes clear while removing the identifying information because I do not wish to fight a legal battle on this particular issue. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

The Googling Baron

An interesting article by Goetz Richter about the "Googling Baron just tip of plagiarism iceberg" in The Australian:

It must be concerning for anyone to witness the abuse of universities as failing clearance houses for political impressionism. For we must realise that one important conclusion from the sad matters in Germany is the increasing inability of universities to comply with their own standards of intellectual accountability only to be shown by volunteer websites how doctoral dissertations should have been supervised or examined.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

VroniPlag - the next cases

Goodness, you get busy with something else, and the VroniPlag count has again been upped. The new kids on the block are:
  • Case 11: Arne Heller, a lawyer in Hamburg, submitted a dissertation on managing boards. He is currently applying for a habilitation, the second doctorate necessary for a university professorship in Germany. There was a nasty spat that ensued over an article in Die Zeit accusing VroniPlag of letting itself be instrumentalized by unknown persons from the University of Hamburg using VroniPlag to subvert the habilitation process. Heller has, however, already passed Chatzimarkakis with the amount of plagiarism (72% of the pages) and is not too far behind the gold standard, zu Guttenberg (94% of the pages). Many VroniPlag activists joined the fight on the comments page, which run to 39 pages at the time this blog post is being written.
  • Case 12: Martin Winkels submitted a dissertation on the Ostpolitik that has plagiarism on 24% of the pages. Since he is neither a politician or well known, there was a longish discussion about whether the name should be made public or not. The VroniPlag group voted that since a thesis is published, it is fair to discuss it and its author. The vote was not unanimous, however.
  • Case 13: Daniel Volk, Member of the German Parliament for the FDP. His thesis on international law is currently at just over 20% of the pages plagiarized. He insists to the press that nothing is wrong with his dissertation.
It is also encouraging to see the activity that is starting in the fall term:
  • The Charité is holdling a symposium in Berlin on October 7, 2011: "Responsible conduct of research in academic medicine: From neglect to action plan" 
  • The Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung will be holding a conference on October 11, 2011 about quality assurance at university that is said to be streamed on "Plagiatsfälle in der Wissenschaft -Wie lässt sich Qualitätssicherung an Hochschulen verbessern?"
  • The DFG is said to be having a conference the end of November, I don't have a prospectus yet.
  • I have been invited to speak at many gatherings, and have been asked to attend a parliamentary committee meeting as an expert witness. Both the Green party and the SPD have prepared motions about academic misconduct that they are planning on presenting to parliament. 
I will try and report on as many of these as possible so that non-German speakers can see what is happening. 

Thursday, September 15, 2011

German Libraries Avoiding Fake Publishers

This blog has reported a number of times on what I term fake or write-only publishers (1 - 2 - 3). I am happy to report that German university libraries are fighting back - they are trying to avoid purchasing expensive rubbish.

The Süddeutsche Zeitung reports that after some libraries realized that they were purchasing printed copies of material from the Wikipeida or dodgy bachelor's theses at outrageous prices, they have begun only purchasing the books - often badly produced print-on-demand volumes - with the possibility of returning the book. And they are keeping lists of the subpublishers that are springing up to disguise who is really behind the publishers. If a book is to be ordered from such a publisher, the librarians are asking back if the person ordering the book is aware of the common practices of these publishers.

There is a long list of publishers that engage in practices like this:
  • Verlag VDM (Verlag Dr. Müller),  Saarbrücken
    • Alphascript Publishing 
    • Betascript Publishing
    • Doyen Verlag
    • Verlag Classic Edition
    • Südwestdeutscher Verlag für Hochschulschriften
    • Lambert Academic Publishing
  • (General)Books LLC
  • Bucher LLC
  • GRIN-Verlag
There are a lot of good sources online about these publishers (these are mostly in German):

VDM and their imprints:

(General) Books LLC and Bucher LLC
 Hopefully, more and more libraries will realize that these are not legitimate publishers, and quit ordering books from them.

Thanks to C.W. for the linklist!

Schön loses his Dr. for good

The Stuttgarter Zeitung (via dpa) reports that Jan Hendrik Schön has lost his Dr. for good.

Schön, a physicist and shooting star in research, was awarded a doctorate 1998 from the University of Konstanz in the German state of Baden-Württemberg. He moved to a large research organization (Bell Labs) in the US and began producing amazing results in the area of nanotechnolgy - at times publishing one paper every 8 days. 17 papers were published in Science and Nature,  before it was discovered that he was fabricating data.

A number of researchers became suspicious about the exactness of his measurements in 2001, in 2002 Bell Labs started an internal investigation. They determined that at least 16 papers were based on fabricated data, and fired him on the spot. Prized that had been awarded him were revoked, and co-authors withdrew some of the papers. Science withdrew 8, Nature 7 of his publications. (The papers are listed in the Wikipedia article linking his name)

The University of Konstanz was so angered by this - and the ensuing public debate about scientific misconduct - that his doctorate was revoked in 2004. It was not revoked on the grounds that his doctorate was false, but on the basis of a state law that provides for revocation on grounds of "dishonorable conduct". There was some controversy about his, because the law was used in the Third Reich to strip doctorates from Jewish scientists.

Schön sued the university and won, and the university appealed to the state court. They overturned the ruling of the lower court, and since this is a state law, no appeal to the federal court is possible. The doctorate remains rescinded.

It was a long, long process, but it is good to know that the courts are upholding decisions taken by the universities. It will be interesting to see if this has any relevance for the other cases in which doctorates were rescinded on the basis of plagiarism, and the former doctorate holders suing the universities.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Research Cloning

The German business daily newspaper Handelsblatt reports on the case of Bruno Frey, a well-known economics professor in Zürich. There had been a bit of fuss in July when colleagues discovered that he had published four papers about the sinking of the Titanic with co-authors Benno Torgler and David Savage without mentioning that pretty much the same papers had already been published elsewhere. The texts were not identical, but the research was, and each paper suggests that it is the only one presenting the results.

The "Journal of Economic Perspectives" (JEP) has formally censured him, the "Journal of Economic Behaviour and Organization" (JEBO) has blacklisted the authors and will not accept any further papers from them. Frey and Torgler have said that Savage is not at fault and have tendered excuses at 3 of the 4 journals [German language detail: The article says that they "excused themselves", I always thought you had to ask the other party to excuse you --dww]. Apparently, Frey had not gotten around to writing to the "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" (PNAS) before the Handelsblatt  started its investigations.

The whole issue seems to have started with the blog Economic Logic and an entry entitled "On the ethics of research cloning". The author of the blog had a good look at the CVs of the senior authors and finds evidence both of slicing results very thin in order to get much publication mileage out of them, as well as republishing the same results multiple times. In the comments a number of other clones showed up, and a FreyPlagWiki (the currently popular German way to collect evidence on scientific misconduct and plagiarism) was set up.

Interesting things have popped up, such as Frey exempting his doctoral students from coursework now required by the University in Zürich, or his being dropped from an editorial board without explaination, according to a followup blog entry.

The Handelsblatt author Olaf Storbeck has set up a Google Table documenting the cloning in 5 papers - it would be great if this and FreyPlagWiki were unified. It is a wiki, after all.

Update: "Ich habe mich zu wenig selbst zitiert"

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Open Discourse

Andrew I Dayton notes in Retrovirology 2006, 3:55 doi:10.1186/1742-4690-3-55 that online journal clubs are springing up for debating papers before they are published (hopefully in an Open Access journal). He discusses, which is primarily concerned with medical fields, as well as a few others. I do think that this is the way science must go!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Who stole from whom?

Hermann Horstkotte reports on Spiegel Online about a strange plagiarism case.
A young woman was working on her doctorate in law at the RWTH Aachen. Since there is no law faculty there, she had to submit her doctorate to the University of Bonn. But she did not submit until after she came back from an extended maternity leave.
Her professor in Aachen sent his glowing expertise on her thesis to the Bonn colleague, who, while reading the thesis, discovered that he had read that before. Indeed, the colleague from Aachen had published another volume of his "Handbuch für Europarecht" during her maternity leave. 40 pages of this volume are identical to the thesis submitted.
Now we have the chicken and the egg problem: did the professor take the text from his doctoral student? Did she take the text from the handbook? Did both write the text together?
Aachen investigated the case and determined, that they could not determine who was the original author. They note that the professor should have noticed in his expertise that there was a large portion that matched his recent book. He agrees that this is a lapse on his part.
The University of Bonn now has to decide how to proceed with the case.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Case Number 10

Another VroniPlag case hits the 10% level: Prof. Dr. Cornelia Scott

More details on the German professor who did her dissertation in Krakow, Poland, here:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Update on Plagiarism in Germany

I do apologize to my English-speaking readers that I have not been writing the past few weeks. It is getting quite difficult to follow what is going on without a scorecard, even I get confused at times. And 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.
As you can see, the weather has been horrible this summer in Germany, so people are learning how to find dissertations and check and document the sources used. And there appears to be quite a lot to find, all over the republic.

Let me close this blog post with a quote from Gerhard Fröhlich, University of Linz, from an interview in the online Journal of Unsolved Questions:
Self control mechanisms are a myth in science 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.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Turkish Education Minister under Plagiarism Charges

The Nature blog reports that the new Turkish Minister of Education, Ömer Dinçer, lost his title of professor in 2005 on the basis of plagiarism in a textbook published in his name. Turkish Council of Higher Education took back his professorship title, and Dinçer lost his legal appeals case.

But on July 8, 2011, the Turkish Council of Higher Education cleared him, and on July 13 he was appointed Minister of Education. Nature spoke with the council, which confirmed that they had withdrawn the charge of plagiarism, but refused to elaborate.

Since this is a publicly available textbook, I would hope that Turkish academics can quickly set up a wiki and document the extent of the alleged plagiarism, in order to let the public judge for themselves how extensive the copying is.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Psychiatrist accuses colleagues of plagiarism

A reader sends along this link: Penn Psychiatrist Accuses Five Colleagues of Plagiarism
by Jocelyn Kaiser on 13 July 2011

It seems to be a case of ghostwriters and "honorary" authors. Quite troubling in the pharmaceutical research community, I feel. 

The Twelve Commandments

The Law Faculty of the University of Hamburg has issued rules for dealing with scientific honesty. They are stated so clearly and explained well, that there is no room for doubt. Here is my attempt at translation:
  1. Without exception, the works, ideas and thoughts of others is to be shown the necessary respect by use of appropriate forms of textual layout.
  2. Every word-for-word use must be set between quotation marks.
  3. Even for paraphrase or summary instead of word-for-word use, appropriate denotation is to be given.
  4. In paraphrase or summary, care must be taken not to attribute to the authors something they did not state.
  5. Translations of texts in foreign languages are to be denoted with reference to the original source. If the translation is not word for word, it must be marked as such. If someone else's translation is used, this too is to be noted.
  6. General knowledge need not be cited.
  7. Self-plagiarism is not scientific misconduct per se, but every effort should be taken to give the source and note the extent of the use.
  8. It is a clear case of scientific misconduct to use a ghostwriter. This is also the case, even if you have permission to use the text.
  9. Authorship is not just a right, but also carries a responsibility. Substantial portions of work denote authorship. On the other hand, no one can claim authorship who has not done a substantial part of the work. Honorary authorship, hierarchical authorship, leadership authorship or authorship on the basis of obtaining resources are clear cases of scientific misconduct.
  10. The assessment of dissertations will be done by the mentors will take these rules into consideration and will make sure that they are followed.
  11. The assessments of dissertations must state whether and how it was made sure that these rules were followed. 
  12. It is obligatory to determine if the texts delivered for assessment follow the rules. The assessors must note what measures they have taken to ensure this.
 Any questions?  

German party suggests removing the "Dr" from ID cards

Very good. The Green Party in Germany has submitted legislation calling for the doctoral title to no longer be able to be included as part of the name on official ID cards:

Good luck with that, this is one step in the right direction! If you read German, the blog de plagio has a thorough discussion of the use of titles in IDs in Germany. The author does not see this as useful, as people will continue to use it on their business cards. The author insists that people who lose their titles must automatically lose any public office. I'm definitely in on that one!

Medical doctorate rescinded

The German University of Münster announced on July 14, 2011 that they have rescinded a doctorate from the medical faculty.

A Wikipedia editor reports on a strange occurrence while researching an article about growth factors in prostate cancer in the Wikipedia Kurier from May 28, 2011. The editor was using a dissertation from 2006 as the basis for the Wikipedia article. Dissertations - the non-plagiarized ones - are very useful for this task, as they offer a succinct overview of the literature on the topic.

The editor stumbled over the term Xxxxxxxxx xxxxxxxxxxxx xxxxxx something s/he had not heard before. It was references from a book from 1996. Instead of running to the library to get the book, the editor first asked the "all-knowing garbage heap" if there was anything on this term around.

The editor was amazed to find a dissertation from 2009 on the same topic from the same university. The university puts all of its dissertations online, so only a click was necessary to download it. A short read was, as Yogi Berri would have put it, "déjà vu all over again". The editor thought this might just be a typo on the downloads page and that s/he now had two copies of the same dissertation. But no, each was by a different author.

Since zu Guttenberg had just recently resigned and VroniPlag was under full steam investigating other dissertations, the editor began a side-by-side comparison. Except for minor (and sometime error-inducing) changes, the general introduction to the topic was identical, down to the the line breaks. Then it got worse: there were even identical results, discussions, and the dedication - except the names were changed. The CVs were, however, different.

The editor was not sure what to do, consulted with some scientists. The unanimous opinion was: this must be reported to the authorities. So it happened, and the doctorate has been rightly rescinded from a practicing medical doctor in Westphalia.

I have often stated, as here in the Deutsche Ärzteblatt, that we need two kinds of doctorates for medicine: M.D. for the practicing doctors and Dr. med. for the researchers.

I'm glad the University of Münster was so quick in reacting.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Chatzimarkakis loses his Dr.

The University of Bonn decided today to rescind the doctorate it had granted to Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, German representative to the EU and (alternate) member of the Research Policy Board of the EU.

I am relieved that the decision was so clear - and a bit proud that they note the work that VroniPlag did in uncovering the plagiarism. But it was clear to me that there was no other decision possible. Despite Chatzimarkakis' attempts to declare his "method" of citing sources as the Harvard method, or the Oxford method, the university made it very clear that this is not acceptable. Full stop.

Chatzimarkakis has announced that he'll just do another doctorate. I think not - I can't believe that any professor would be willing to accept him as a doctoral student.

The Spiegel Online has a nice commentary on VroniPlag and anonymity - they interviewed me Monday about that. I think the author, Oliver Trenkamp, did a great job is pulling together all the arguments about why most of the VroniPlag people prefer to remain anonymous: It's not about us, it's about the thesis. And there are too many words of others in the thesis that are not clearly marked.

There are many blog comments and newspaper articles, I'll try to link to some: de plagio - Sprengsatz - Saarbrücker Zeitung bedauert der arme GC - focus

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Doctoral Plagiarism Elsewhere

Plagiarized doctoral theses are not only to be found in Germany. Janet Stemwedel reports on Adventures in Ethics and Science on the case of chemist Bengü Sezen. She links to Chemical & Engineering News with a report on the dissertation and three other papers. She quotes:
The documents—an investigative report from Columbia and HHS’s subsequent oversight findings—show a massive and sustained effort by Sezen over the course of more than a decade to dope experiments, manipulate and falsify NMR and elemental analysis research data, and create fictitious people and organizations to vouch for the reproducibility of her results. ...
A notice in the Nov. 29, 2010, Federal Register states that Sezen falsified, fabricated, and plagiarized research data in three papers and in her doctoral thesis. Some six papers that Sezen had coauthored with Columbia chemistry professor Dalibor Sames have been withdrawn by Sames because Sezen’s results could not be replicated. ...
By the time Sezen received a Ph.D. degree in chemistry in 2005, under the supervision of Sames, her fraudulent activity had reached a crescendo, according to the reports. Specifically, the reports detail how Sezen logged into NMR spectrometry equipment under the name of at least one former Sames group member, then merged NMR data and used correction fluid to create fake spectra showing her desired reaction products.
Correction fluid? I thought that state-of-the-art fakes used Photoshop these days.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

El Naschie Watch

Just stumbled over this blog, El Naschie Watch:

"Dr. Mohamed El Naschie is pseudoscientist crackpot who makes grandiose claims about being a "paradigm-shifting" high-energy physicist. He also claims that he deserves the Nobel Prize several times over, and has been nominated for it, but that it has been denied him because he's Egyptian, Muslim, and named Mohamed. He does not tolerate criticism and has earned a reputation as a legal bully.


El Naschie is the founder of a nonsense theory of "fractal Cantorian space-time" that he calls "E-Infinity theory". By founding the Elsevier journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals in 1991, and being its Editor-in-Chief, he managed to publish hundreds of numerological screeds disguised as real physics. As Editor-in-Chief, he was able to avoid peer review for himself, and to publish otherwise unpublishable papers for favored acolytes. In this way he attracted a dozen or so loyal followers, the "E-Infinity group" or "Brotherhood" as we call them on El Naschie Watch. The most famous, or infamous, member other than El Naschie himself is Prof. Ji-Huan He of Donghua University in Shanghai. Ji-Huan He has called El Naschie "The greatest scientist since Newton and Einstein". Another well-known member is Prof. Otto Rössler of the University of Tübingen, who made the news with warnings that the Large Hadron Collider at CERN might make a black hole that would swallow the Earth."

Next: Minister of Education

Just when you think that the plagiarism scandal in Germany might be calming down, the next one shows up. It seems that people are learning how to spot plagiarism, and are finding far too much in the dissertations of plagiarists.

The weekly newspaper Zeit reported on July 6, 2011 that unnamed researchers (not VroniPlag) had analyzed approximately half of the dissertation that Bernd Althusmann had submitted to the University of Potsdam in 2007. He is the minister of education in the German state of Lower Saxony and as such the current head of the Kultusministerkonferenz (State Conference on Media and Education). This is an organization that tries to coordinate education matters in the 16 federal states, that all have their own ideas of how to go about educating the general populace.

The Zeit has posted an excellent list of plagiarisms and an analysis of the same. Prof. Volker Rieble, author of the book Wissenschaftsplagiat, has called for his immediate resignation.

At least the University of Tübingen rescinded the doctorate of Matthias Pröfrock, state politician in Baden-Württemberg, yesterday.

Oxford quotation style

Jorgo Chatzimarkis, German representative in the EU for the FDP party, is currently being investigated for plagiarism in his dissertation. VroniPlag has him currently listed at 70%.

He was on a TV talk show on Sunday, for whatever reason, trying to defend himself by redefining the rules of what good scientific practice is, in order to "prove" that his thesis is okay. It was quite a bizarre show, as he evaded direct questions, the talkmaster Anne Will asked leading questions that presupposed the correct answer. There was a guy with a "von" in his name and a journalist/blogger, and then Anke Domscheidt-Berg, standing up for VroniPlag. She had joined the chat the night before, spent a few hours asking questions, and understood quite a lot of what the group does and why.

Chatzimarkakis defended himself with, among other things, the argument that the work was "intertextual" and that he was using "Oxford style" quotations, that he learned when he was at Oxford. The latter has so enraged German students in Oxford, that they are energetically defending their school. One blogger, at, noted that he seemed to have missed the chapter on "intertextuality" in the 1250 page regulations that were handed out to them the first weeks. He continues:
Das können sich die nächsten VroniPlag-Persönlichkeiten gleich aufnotieren: An jeder größeren Uni in jedem Land sind deutsche Studenten unterwegs, die es nicht lustig finden wenn man deren Uni schlechtredet. (The next ones up on the VroniPlag stage please note: There are German students at every larger university in every country, and they are not amused when people talk trash about their universities)
I just saw a tweet that Chatzimarkakis has now also resigned from the European research council - but I don't have verification on that yet.

Monday, July 4, 2011

De plagio

If you read German, there is a group blog called "de plagio" (a truely wonderful play on words, as you can read it as "Plagiarism in Germany" or "about plagiarism"). They liveblogged the appearance of Mr. Chatzimarkakis on a German talk show (Anne Will) this evening. He tried to defend himself on account of his "accusers" being anonymous.

Anke Domscheidt-Berg did a great job of trying to explain to him what good scientific practice is and why what VroniPlag is doing is not judging him but documenting grave similarities between his thesis and much referenced but unquoted material (currently at 70% of the pages in his thesis). The show should be online in the "ARD Mediathek" for a week or so.

The de plagio blog is well worth reading!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Koch-Mehrin EU Commissioner for Research

Sylvana Koch-Mehrin had her doctorate rescinded by the University of Heidelberg for containing over 30% plagiarism in May 2011, and now in June she has been named EU commissioner for research, Spiegel Online reports.

This means that she is in the committee that determines research policy for the EU. She had been an alternate for the committee, her fellow FDP politician, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis (his dissertation is currently at 71% plagiarism, but he is contesting the plans of the University in Bonn to rescind his doctorate as well) had the main seat. They have now changed places.

What does this say about research in Germany? What message does this give to the general populace about the importance of research? Plagiarists determining research policy? If today was April 1 I would have considered this an April Fool's joke, but it is unfortunately true.

Poor Germany, all of your good researchers do not deserve this.

Update: A petition has been started requesting that she step down immediately.  It is online in English, German, and French. If you feel so inclined, please sign. There are already almost 2000 signatures - on day 1 of the petition.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

GuttenPlag wins Online Award

The GuttenPlag Wiki was awarded the Grimme Online Spezial Award 2011, a German journalism prize for it's work in determining the plagiarism in zu Guttenberg's thesis.

Here is a translation of the jury's decision:
At a time when great confusion reigned about how to assess the dissertation of Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, the "GuttenPlag Wiki" created clarity. In an unprecedented form of collaboration thousands of web users examined the thesis in detail and found discrepancies. Plagiarisms that were found were precisely documented in parallel with the original sources. An overview of the plagiarisms found was kept current on the first page of the wiki.

This method of working produced excellent results in a very short time. The results are verifiable for anyone, making this web site a central contact point for the discussion about plagiarism in the dissertation that was conducted in the media and in the general populace for weeks on end.

The fair and unbiased mode of operation used by the administrators of the wiki was outstanding, and channeled the onslaught of prospective users into constructive paths that delivered a sober overview of the findings. The public statements of Minister Guttenberg about his thesis were thus set in contrast to the facts that could be evaluated by anyone.

Not only was the project idea of the initiators noteworthy, but also the hundreds of web users who found more and more passages online and offline, that were used in the thesis without proper attribution. The project makes it clear that text comparisons can be well-organized in a collaborative manner and shows the possibilities of the web in general for group work.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Strange Tale of the Paus Family and Borstel

Silvia Bulfone-Paus is an immunologist. She worked at the Forschungszentrum Borstel (FZB) outside of Hamburg in Germany, and is a professor at the Medical University in Lübeck. reports that she published many papers together with the Russian couple Elena Bulanova and Vadim Budagian from Russia. Retraction Watch reported in March 2011 that 12 papers by the three authors have been retracted. The three have published 22 papers together, so there may be more.

In October 2009 the biologist Karin Wiebauer realized that the Western blots in some of the papers were very similar - sometimes just the labels were changed, in others a dose of Photoshop was used to mirror, move or distort the bands. This is the same method that Marion Brach used in the Hermann/Brach scandal end of the 90s [strangely enough, there is nothing in either Wikipedia about either them or the scandals].

In November 2009 Wiebauer informed the first author, Bulfone-Paus, of her discovery. Nothing happened. Finally, in April 2010 an investigation committee was convened. They determined that there was just sloppy publication, but the results were okay. There was a culprit found - the Russian couple. They were accused of deceit and the 12 papers retracted, although the Russians did not agree to the retractions.

There ensued an anonymous Internet-based campaign. Colleagues then published an open letter supporting Bulfone-Paus,  saying the poor woman, who is a brilliant researcher and has published much, including work together with her husband, was deceived by her postdocs. The Borstel Board of Directors - sans Bulfone-Paus - published a good response to the open letter soon after forcing her off the board:
Severe failure in one area (as supervisor and responsible senior, corresponding and first author) can hardly be compensated by merits in other areas. [...] For all scientists, one of the greatest goods in science is personal credibility and integrity, and that the most precious currency scientists have is the truthfulness of their data. The scientific community expects rigorous adherence to the rules of scientific research from principal investigators and, in particular, from heads of research divisions or departments. [...] The scientific misconduct in Silvia Bulfone-Paus's lab and her procrastination to go public despite being ultimately responsible has highly damaged the reputation of the Research Center. This is what cannot be tolerated.
But now the plot thickens: An additional paper by Bulfone-Paus (not including the Russian couple) in Blood  is currently under investigation. A co-author on this one is her husband, Ralf Paus, a dermatologist at the University of Lübeck. And the university has verified for Spiegel, a German news weekly, that they are currently investigating 6 papers of Paus.

And now it appears that Bulfone-Paus and Paus both have professorships in Manchester, in England, where they spend 20% of their time, according to the Times Higher Education. The couple also have three children, as reported by Spiegel in January.

In other news about Borstel, another director, Peter Zabel, stepped down earlier this month amidst plagiarism charges. It seems he double published a paper (once in German and once in English), as well as in 2009 publishing a paper that included large portions of text and diagrams from a 2008 paper published in the US. The double publication is deemed not so severe, although it is not clear that the later publication makes clear that it is in fact a double publication - the abstract has been rewritten, but is still similar. Zabel has now also resigned from the editorial board of Der Internist.

The double publication was found by someone calling themselves Clare Francis, who informed Retraction Watch, Abnormal Science Blog, and me. It was found using the Déjà vu tool for searching for duplicate content in Medline.

Joerg Zwirner, in a recent post to the Abnormal Science Blog, calls for setting up an Office for Research Integrity in Germany, as is to be found in the US. I heartily agree - this is far too complicated to understand for non-medical researchers, but it seems that there are deficiencies in the medical research complex in Germany that have existed for decades. And Hermann/Brach did not result in these being adequately addressed. Germany needs action, and it needs it now.