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Education Science

German Science Minister Stripped of Her PhD 123

An anonymous reader writes "In a move likely to have major political implications, the University of Düsseldorf has revoked the doctoral degree of Germany's science and education minister, Annette Schavan. The committee investigating allegations of plagiarism came to the conclusion that she 'systematically and deliberately claimed as her own intellectual achievements which she had in fact not produced herself.' Schavan wants to appeal the decision in court and has not resigned from her post so far."
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German Science Minister Stripped of Her PhD

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  • PhD's in Germany (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Having a PhD in germany is a status symbol more than anything. I expect this type of thing to happen more often since plagiarism is the easiest way to achieve this status symbol.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      That's a sweeping and unfair generalization.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      As opposed to PhDs in other places, like, America!

    • by osu-neko ( 2604 )
      If that's all it was, this wouldn't have major political implications, nor would there be questions about her resigning her post. If something gets you your current job, it's a lot more than a status symbol...
      • by WoOS ( 28173 )

        Well, I don't know whether a potential resignation of a (education & research) minister counts a "major political implications" in the first place.

        The potential break-up of the CSU-FDP coalition in Bavaria over the (non)-abandoning of university tuition fees, that is something which could have major political consequences.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Um, it's the same across the Western world, I'm afraid.
      • I take this is a comment from someone without a doctorate from the US. I know nothing about other nations' practices, but in the US you would have been tossed out for plagiarism. Legacy kids are getting bounced from Harvard undergrad for cheating. Yes, professors can be oblivious and there are high profile cases. In the sciences your dissertation also requires publications in the process. This would require that no one notice plagiarism in peer review.
    • I'm sure she deserved her doctorate as much as Dr Ian Paisley deserved his.
      • From a googled BBC [bbc.co.uk] article about Paisley:

        "His doctorate is an honorary one, bestowed by the Bob Jones University, in South Carolina but he likes to use the title."

        In other news, Bob Jones University is some sort of racist Xian degree mill, and amusingly it's logo is a "BJ", which would probably appall the fascists in charge if they knew what it meant.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @05:34PM (#42813811)
    "Annette Schavan stripped"

    do NOT want!
  • by MightyMait ( 787428 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @05:36PM (#42813821) Journal
    "A university committee yesterday evening confirmed accusations, first aired last May, of plagiarism in Schavan’s ethical-philosophical dissertation entitled ‘People and conscience — studies on the conditions, necessity and requirements for formation of conscience today’."

    • Re:Oh, the irony!! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @05:44PM (#42813917)

      Actually the irony gets even better.: A year ago she publicly humiliated another politician because of his shoddy "copy & paste" PhD. http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/german-press-review-of-the-annette-schavan-plagiarism-scandal-a-881783.html [spiegel.de]

      • Yeah, she was ragging on his copy/paste skills, not the fact that he copied and pasted his PhD. Let's face it, she's apparently an expert in copy/paste PhD work.

        • by jonadab ( 583620 )
          I guess she did OK with the copy/paste part, but she appears to have omitted too many citations. Maybe her doctoral supervisor should have gone through the thing and helpfully added {citation_needed} to the end of every sentence and passed it back to her.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      "A university committee yesterday evening confirmed accusations, first aired last May, of plagiarism in Schavan’s ethical-philosophical dissertation entitled ‘People and conscience — studies on the conditions, necessity and requirements for formation of conscience today’."


      To her credit, she followed the ethical principles outlined in the disseration, to the letter.

  • Pics or it didn't happen... Ohh la la.
    Come on, I can't be the first one to think of this joke....

  • by Ukab the Great ( 87152 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @05:38PM (#42813855)

    Until she can copy off someone else's letter of appeal.

  • by eddy_crim ( 216272 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @05:49PM (#42813977) Homepage
    No one wil ever say it better! [youtube.com]
    The great Tom Lehrer
    • by slew ( 2918 )


      She went to university in Bonn
      Whose sister city is ....Minsk!

      (of course Tom Leher copied from Danny Kaye's Stanislavsky sketch from the Jack Benny show, but he gave him credit)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Romania's prime minister, Victor Ponta, was also accused of blatant plagiarism and it was all over the TV. His paper was nothing more than copy-pastes. So what happened? Well, there was this committee that was investigating these things and they were supposed to give their opinion on whether it was plagiarism or it wasn't. Two hours - TWO HOURS - before they were to give their response, the committee was officially dismantled. That didn't stop them from saying that it was plagiarism of the worst kind, but t

    • HA! I can top that!

      In Pakistan, there is this organisation called "Higher Education Commission", which administers our universities; our court asks them to assess the degrees of our, ahem, *elected* politicians, because there was accusation of them being fake. Guess what happens, the politicians try various tactics, and in the end, decided to end the damn commission itself!

      The bloody commission that governs our entire higher-educational system!

      To speak in American terms, it's like eliminating the entire DMV

  • by excelsior_gr ( 969383 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @06:14PM (#42814257)

    Defense Minister Guttenberg resigned from his post for the exact same reason a while back. Getting a PhD in Germany is a hardship and I can well imagine that some people would like to "cut some corners" to reach their goal.

    • by WoOS ( 28173 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:49PM (#42815241)

      Mr. Guttenberg resigned because his whole Ph.D. - done outside the university while he was already a politician - was a lousy Copy&Paste job including copying papers done by the research arm of the parliament for him. Especially also in places where he claimed original thought.

      Mrs. Schavan did the Ph.D. at the university before she started her career and seemingly ca. 15 years before she went into heavy politics. As far as I understand her Ph.D. was revoked because of incorrect citations (i.e. she named sources but not marked text as direct citation) in her literature section.

      The only commonality is that both lost their Ph.D..

      • by Swiper ( 1336263 )
        Yep, Gutenberg based his political career on his doctorate, that was the sole reason for his Ph.D. Schavan on the other hand is already an established politician, and, whislt the entire circumstances surrounding her doctorate are a bit...strange (no previous degree), it was not the basis of her career.
      • by Tom ( 822 )

        No, if you actually follow the university announcement and the evidence, it turns out that her actions are considerably worse than Guttenbergs.

        He was lousy even in his plagiarism. She intentionally rephrased and covered up where the copied from. Guttenberg did a copy&paste job - Schavan copied and then rephrased so if you would put the phrase into a search engine, it would come up empty. But she only changed words, she didn't add any original thoughts.

        That's plagiarism at its worst - intentional and dec

    • Getting a PhD in Germany is a hardship

      Getting a PhD anywhere should be a hardship. If you could just get one by sending off a coupon on the back of a cornflakes packet it wouldn't mean a lot.

      • I totally agree.

        However, in Germany, PhD students are more often than not in the total mercy of arrogant professors with even sadistic tendencies and nobody to control them. Compared to doing research in a british, dutch or american university (based on people I know), being a PhD student in Germany is a very lousy deal. The doctorates get relatively good money with full benefits, but that doesn't really sweeten the pill.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @06:21PM (#42814339)

    current Committee on Science, Space and Technology member Paul Broun...

    " embryology, evolution, and the Big Bang are "lies straight from the Pit of Hell ... lies to try to keep me and all the folks who are taught that from understanding that they need a savior."

    former Committee on Science, Space and Technology member Todd Akin...

    "If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. "
    on Evolution - "I don’t see it as even as a matter of science, because I don’t know if you can prove one or the other."

    I'd love to see that kind of zeal put on the backgrounds of US politicians.

  • 'Plagiarize, Let no one else's work evade your eyes, Remember why the good Lord made your eyes, So don't shade your eyes, But plagiarize, plagiarize, plagiarize... Only be sure always to call it please "research".'
  • by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <bzipitidoo@yahoo.com> on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @07:10PM (#42814895) Journal

    How does a university not know a dissertation is full of plagiarism? Only by wearing blinders!

    Dissertations are supposed to be carefully checked by at least 3 professors. Her major professor and committee was at best rubber stamping her work without bothering to check anything. Or they were so incompetent or lazy that none were aware of whole areas of work in their field? How else to explain a failure to recognize plagiarism? And how could they not notice that a student's ability and knowledge had wide gaps? Shop talk should have exposed her as a fraud long before she got anywhere near graduation. Also, she may have a history of cheating, unless she earned a B.S. and M.S. honestly, and only resorted to cheating for the PhD? I suppose that could happen-- someone who had an easy time in school and never experienced failure might be tempted when facing it for the first time.

    So how could this happen? They were deliberately overlooking serious problems because it suited them in some way. If it wasn't outright bribes and implied threats, as in, her family was a large donor who might not wish to donate any more if she didn't receive the degree, it could be that the department or school was too eager to boost their numbers.

    This kind of crap is a black mark for everyone who legitimately earned a PhD.

    • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

      Get real. Computers make detection of plagiarism so much easier and combined with the internet and digitisation of so many literary works pretty much guaranteed. Of course it makes creating truly original equally difficult and the likelihood of similar works which were not glimpsed let alone researched much more likely but of course if you want to earn your doctorate you should be forced to add something new and original to the field, really that is the whole point.

    • by WoOS ( 28173 ) on Wednesday February 06, 2013 @08:14PM (#42815495)

      How does a university not know a dissertation is full of plagiarism? [...] So how could this happen?

      A) The Ph.D. thesis in question was submitted 1980. Long before computer checks and internet groups gathering to check Ph.D.s.
      B) It was not "full of plagiarism". You might want to fetch (non-marked) copy from the net and find the sentences in question before you accuse others of intent.

      • I don't read German, so unless there's an English translation, I'll have to pass on reading a copy. Are you speaking from knowledge or have you not read it either?

        I'm not doing the accusing. Schavan herself admitted "careless mistakes". She's not denying that the dissertation has problems! She's only trying to wiggle out of characterizing those "mistakes" as plagiarism. Most damning is that the university agreed that what she did is indeed plagiarism. Revoking a degree, and not just any degree but t

        • Her lawsuit sounds more like a desperation move to drag things out or bully or tire the opposition into giving up, rather than a serious attempt to exonerate herself by raising good points.

          That won't happen.

          This year we have federal elections here in Germany and the opposition will not let this chance to weaken the ruling coalition go to waste.
          Especially since their own candidate for the position of chancellor it doing his best to sink his own candidacy.

        • by WoOS ( 28173 )

          You can have a look on the possible plagiats on http://schavanplag.wordpress.com/ [wordpress.com] (google translation might be necessary for non German speakers). Note that this is basically the 'prosecutors' position (except that in this case the prosecutor is a community of people on the net) not the findings of the university.
          How many of them would you have found without computer help?

          And I don't believe that "important officials" are less likely to have their degree revoked in Germany. I think it is actually more likel

    • She has got neither B.S. nor M.S, going straight for the PhD after her high school diploma.

      • She has got neither B.S. nor M.S, going straight for the PhD after her high school diploma.

        Is that normal in Germany? I'm pretty sure you couldn't do that here in the UK even if you were some sort of genius.

  • and B. the profound irony re. matters of ethics/"conscience"!

    Schavan’s ethical-philosophical dissertation entitled ‘People and conscience — studies on the conditions, necessity and requirements for formation of conscience today’.
  • Looks to me like she is now better than ever qualified for the job.
    • Perhaps she wishes to switch to a religious career?

      As an Atheist or Mithraist (Roman) she would probably do fine... she probably hasn't accumulated enough chutzpah to make a passable imam khatib?
  • Since this is now the 7th member of the ruling coalition that has been stripped of his or her title (beginning with defence minister Von Guttenberg), something like that seems like non-news to Germans like me.
    • Still, it is a new low: a Science Minister lost her PhD. She has also been very vocal in criticizing von Gutenberg for doing basically the same. On top of that she has no university degree at all now which is funny for a Science Minister.

      • by Hentes ( 2461350 )

        This is a PhD in philosophy, it would be pretty much worthless even if it was legit. It's far harder to cheat in an actual science.

  • Unfortunately this situations are increasingly. The students are losing the references and the teachers are losing the good reputation.

%DCL-MEM-BAD, bad memory VMS-F-PDGERS, pudding between the ears