“Plagiarism is the scourge of science”

BerlinSoon Franziska Geffi, head of state of the Social Democratic Party, opened a new chapter in her life after she resigned from the position of Federal Family Minister. Since she wants to become mayor after the election in September, she willingly allows the public to participate. Every day that week she was posting details about the new phase of life – along with the usual upbeat mood. “Another day, another week. New section,” someone read on Instagram after Whitsun. “The election campaign begins today.” Ph.D. mark is placed.

The Free University (FU) didn’t even make a formal decision. Giffey’s hearing doesn’t end until early June, even then she can comment on the allegations herself. The report of the second committee that reviewed his doctoral thesis is already ready. Only then was the decision of the Presidium of the Federal Union made. However, one does not discover the mood there. FU chief Gunter M. did not say. Ziegler so far – with the exception of a few statements in the Academic Senate – is almost anything on the proceedings against the prominent doctoral candidate. There are a lot of questions for the follow-up unit.

The university has been busy – with short breaks – for two years and three months trying to find out if Geoffe is wrong with her job. This has always been unchallenged – at least if you ask Gerhard Daneman. The 61-year-old legal scholar is Professor of English Law, Economics and British Politics at Humboldt University.

He is also active on the VroniPlag Wiki, a platform that scans scientific work for plagiarism. He knows Franziska Giffe’s thesis very well. It is good to say, “The work should not be accepted in this way.” It violates three primary rules for dealing with scholarly sources: “You have to name them where they are used, you have to mark quotes and you have to provide evidence. Check yourself out.” Geoffey ignored all this.

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VroniPlag Wiki contested 119 doctoral thesis positions as plagiarism. The thesis on “Europe’s Path to the Citizen – European Commission Policy on Civil Society Participation” is 214 pages long, with no appendix or bibliography. It was presented at the Otto Soher Institute, Department of Political Science at the Free University. It was supervised by political scientist Tania Porzel, who was awarded the title of Magna with distinction (in German: with great praise), a not yet outstanding PhD student. This is the second highest award for a thesis.

It is not known if she found the work really good or was overwhelmed with scrutiny and evaluation with enough accuracy. The professor does not talk to the media about the issue. Nobody from FU ever talks to the press about this. At best, you will be referred to the press office, which in turn will not provide any information.

Dissertation by Franziska Geffe: The mother of the doctor, Tania Porzel, played an important role in the first review

However, it became known that Tania Porzel not only supervised and evaluated the work, but also played an important role in the preliminary revision of the thesis. Journalists at the time found that she was the part of the body that was supposed to decide whether to withdraw the PhD the first time. And it looks like she also made sure to be filled with the right people for her. The first test ended with Franziska Geffe being reprimanded. She was allowed to keep her Ph.D. The test report remains locked and keyed for now. Until the Student General Committee (AStA) of the Free University of Berlin published the report on its website in May 2020. The AStA filed a lawsuit against it based on the Freedom of Information Act.

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Dannemann hopes FU will do so voluntarily with the second report. So far, the university has promised to make the committee members public when they finish their work. It was found that it is understandable for the FU to remain covered during the examination. “But when it’s over, there’s really nothing to stop putting everything on the table and not forcing AStA to hand things over,” he told the Berliner Zeitung. On reading the first report, he was amazed in many places.

VroniPlag Wiki: Amazement at the first report from Freie Universität

“In its first report, FU only admitted 27 of the 119 jobs we cited as plagiarism,” says Daneman. “I was amazed by that.” For example, there is a syllable where 32 consecutive words are taken literally, but not enclosed in quotes. Another long letter dependence that is not quoted has given an incorrect source. Then the committee writes, the source is mentioned in the text, the accusation is incomprehensible. Why is it acceptable to give the wrong source and not the literal source? “

Dannemann believes Giffey asserts that he acted according to his knowledge and belief. Those who impersonate tend to forget that this is their experience. “My students, that is, those who impersonate, often don’t believe it themselves until you tell them exactly what they got in terms of location using the yellow mark,” says the legal researcher. However, case law is clear in this regard. “If it happens too often, whatever pattern is reflected in the work, then according to case law, there is an intent to deceive. And Mrs. Geoffy’s work has torn apart all obstacles as far as it goes,” he said. “There are a lot of defective sites.”

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FU will soon decide on Franziska Giffey’s PhD thesis for the second time

The next few days or weeks will show whether the combat unit will reach the same result. Dannemann says that Freie Universität is not one of the universities that removes academic misconduct under the rug. “But these political issues always put a lot of pressure on universities.” Whether or not to decide whether someone is permitted to obtain a PhD is one thing, and another question is whether or not to step down from your position as a minister. He does not care whether the perpetrators are unknown or notable. He wants to uncover the issues and that works best, according to his experience, if you post them publicly. “Literary theft is the scourge of science,” says Daneman. “You are corrupt. You cannot rely on scientific results that violate the rules of good scientific practice.”

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