Saturday, July 6, 2013

Universities should ignore anonymous plagiarism hunters - Spiegel Online

ago Guttenberg Guttenberg after – at universities and research institutes, a new era could introduce. Ever since the plagiarism scandal of former minister and former PhD support from the CSU, the science has to put the question: Does it enough against scientific misconduct, fraud and plagiarism promotion


Now, after numerous other plagiarism scandals, disputes, resignations, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and thus one of the most important organizations in the science system has its “Recommendations for Safeguarding Good Scientific Practice” revised (as pdf). There are a certain extent the guidelines for universities, how they should behave in suspected cases and the role of the competent ombudsmen. Recommendation is actually a euphemism: Who wants to be supported by the DFG, the specifications must implement


a particular point ensures for dispute and misunderstanding: the handling of informants, informants or whistleblowers


At its Annual Meeting, the DFG has now ruled that anonymous reports of scientific misconduct, on or about plagiarism, in principle, should not be pursued, at least not in the context of a formal ombudsman. “We have anonymous sources excluded,” said DFG Secretary General Dorothee Dzwonnek.

the recommendation of the DFG states that: “In principle dictates an appropriate investigation, the attribution of the whistleblower.” The DFG will therefore proceed differently about tax offices, which also investigate anonymous reports on tax evasion. However, it is said at the DFG, should a permit verification anonymous reports are quite “balanced”.

How much anonymity is useful?

It sounds like a formal detail, but among scientists and in some blogs cooked up the excitement in advance of the decision. Because in May the German Rectors’ Conference had recommended that whistleblowers with their suspicions should not go public. Those who still did, would be different in turn unscientific.

scholars like Gerhard Dannemann, a professor of law, economics and politics of Great Britain at the Humboldt University Berlin, fearing any public confrontation with questionable theses should be prevented – whether in the form of reviews or plagiarism on platforms on the Internet. “That would be absurd,” he says, “Science needs publicity, even if it hurts sometimes.” He has therefore contributed to an online petition that opposes the recommendations of HRK and DFG -., And which has now been signed by over 200 Indignant

DFG President Peter Strohschneider called the criticism “absurd”. Anyone who wants to comment on the net or in newspapers to scientific work that could be done at any time. Only in formal ombudsman the whistleblower must disclose his name – but will protect the confidentiality of the proceedings. Furthermore, there is no compulsion to choose this method, Straw said Schneider. But it was also important not to act on any malicious denunciation would vilified by colleagues. Secretary General Dzwonnek seconded: A display must “always in good faith” done

. useful informer or whistleblower?

And in fact quite a few scientists complain that dealing in recent years has become rough – often there were unfounded allegations or insinuations that they had written or manipulates data. Often such a suspicion is raised just then, when an appeal is pending or a promotion. So careers could be damaged, warns Strohschneider.

The initiator of the online petition Stefan Heßbrüggen, Ph.D. historian of philosophy, however fears that the recommendations of the DFG would intimidate rather than encourage whistleblowers. “It depends on the wording in the paper, and which are at least misleading,” he says. Who guarantees the whistleblower that his identity will be kept really confidential? “A whistleblower is providing the arbitrariness of the Ombudsperson or the institution of” warns Heßbrüggen. There is at least problematic and contrary to international standards.

the less controversial recommendations of the DFG is the requirement of the universities to introduce a maximum length for test methods in scientific misconduct. For many a plagiarism process drags on for years. Secretary General holds Dzwonnek a year for real. Even the competent ombudsmen at universities should be made known, such as by prominent placement on the website.

three years after Guttenberg is the confrontation that probably still far from over.

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