Most of my German readers are well aware of the plagiarism scandal around former German minister one of their representatives in the European Parliament: Silvana Koch-Mehrin. However, it is a European scandal now. It has reached the European Parliament and this is why I write this post in English. I hope to draw the attention of other members of the academic community (especially in Europe) to this problem and the petition we have launched today. It concerns us all as ultimately it is about the reputation of academic research.

Koch-Mehrin was found guilty of plagiarism by a committee of the University of Heidelberg in charge of investigating the accusations.

During the two month-long investigation, the committee found more than 120 plagiarized passages in over 80 pages of Koch-Mehrin’s doctoral thesis […]. They came from more than 30 different sources, two thirds of which were not identified. (source)

As a consequence the university of Heidelberg withdrew the title from her on 15 June 2011. In a press release (which as far as I can tell does not exist in English) she was defiant, arguing that “she knew from the beginning that her doctoral thesis was no masterpiece.” She tries to shift the blame by claiming that “good scientific practices” do also “require to closely consider the submitted work.” Apparently Ms Koch-Mehrin has not understood the accusation against her. Fraud is fraud and you cannot blame those who fell for it for your own wrongdoings.

Koch-Mehrin is the second high profile German politician who lost her title because of plagiarism. She resigned as Vice-President of the European Parliament because of the scandal. But yesterday the European Parliament has put the fox in charge of the hen house. Silvana Koch-Mehrin was elected as a full member of the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE) of the European Parliament. This committee is amongst other things in charge of the EU research policy and space policy. To have someone who lost her PhD because of plagiarism to be member of a commission in charge of research policy is an insult for honest academics and an embarrassment for the European Parliament.

We have therefore launched a petition calling for her resignation. She wants to make the “digital agenda, information technologies, telecommunication and the Internet” her priorities. Let us demonstrate how well the digital community can organize.

Please sign the petition and spread the word! It is especially important that European citizens sign the petition (although we are thankful for any support from the academic community in the US, European signatories will have the greatest impact).

Full link to the petition:

Kommentare (11)

  1. #1 walim
    Juni 23, 2011

    She was not really a minister. The minister was another fraud.

  2. #2 ali
    Juni 23, 2011


    My bad. Thanks. Corrected. I was actually thinking of someone else, not Guttenberg.

  3. #3 David Marjanović
    Juni 24, 2011

    Someone else? Austria’s former science minister Johannes Hahn perhaps?

  4. #4 ali
    Juni 24, 2011

    Sentence added at the end of the post to prepare for the impact with the Pharyngula hordes. Thanks to all of you for your support.

  5. #5 George Atkinson
    Juni 24, 2011

    In meiner Doktorarbeit (Heidelberg, 1975) habe ich alles ordnungsgemäß zitiert;
    die ehrlich verdiente Note basiert nicht allein auf Fleiß, sondern auch auf Sorgfalt. Jeder Kandidat weiß, daß Täuschung in einer vorgelegten Doktorarbeit wohl zur Entziehung des Doktorgrades führen kann, sogar nach Jahren. Betrug bleibt Betrug.

  6. #6 Michael Rizzo Chessman
    Juni 24, 2011

    Ms Koch-Mehrin is not the fraud. The fraud are those that lack good enough intelligence and wit o make a better claim against her in how they rate better in integrity overall. We’ve been down this road before in Germany and none of you were better than her back then either (if you know what Im referring to) She is the finest of irish spirits and richly deserves her degrees and awards – how about you? what have you done for the Reich lately other than nag and complain at what is left of the truest irish spirit!

  7. #7 David Marjanović
    Juni 24, 2011

    Ms Koch-Mehrin is not the fraud. The fraud are those that lack good enough intelligence and wit o make a better claim against her in how they rate better in integrity overall.

    See this? It’s my doctoral thesis. Go ahead, try to find plagiarism anywhere in those 324 pages. Have a nice weekend.

    She is the finest of irish spirits

    If that is the finest of Irish spirits, Ireland is well and truly fucked.

    (But I thought she was German…?)

    and richly deserves her degrees and awards –

    Those that haven’t been retracted? Perhaps. I have no idea.

    the Reich

    I burp in your general direction, troll.

    what is left of the truest irish spirit!

    Wide-ranging plagiarism is what is left of the truest Irish spirit? Seriously? That would give a whole new meaning to “the luck of the Irish”.

  8. #8 David Marjanović
    Juni 24, 2011

    (How mind-bogglingly stupid. Comes to a blog full of scientists and blithely assumes everyone must be a cheating asshole like Googleberg and was too stupid to be able to finish university in an honest way. WTF?)

  9. #9 Phillip Helbig
    Juni 27, 2011

    She has now decided not to join this committee. However, she will join another committee instead. So, the petition should call for her to withdraw from the European Parliament, not merely not serve in the research committee. She still doesn’t understand what she did wrong and is not prepared to accept responsibility.

    Irish? She is German, but married to an Irishman.

    Interestingly, of the several politicians and children of polititicans who have been found guilty of plagiarism in the last few months, all are from right-wing parties (CDU, CSU and FDP).

  10. #10 Andre
    Juni 28, 2011

    ITRE is the Industry Committee of Parliament. Not a research commission. The summer hole reporting got it wrong. Each MEPs specialises in Committees, there is nothing wrong with Koch-Mehrin in ITRE.

  11. #11 ali
    Juni 28, 2011


    ITRE stands for Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, so why should it be purely an industry committee? Just because it does not soleyl focus on research it is still relevant to it. ITRE’s self-description:

    It also coordinates European space policy, and as such, has ties with the European Space Agency. It has oversight duties on the Joint Research Centre and the Central Office for Nuclear Measurements, as well as similar projects.

    The Joint Research Centre “is the scientific and technical arm of the European Commission. It is providing the scientific advice and technical know-how to support a wide range of EU policies.” (source).

    You seriously want to argue that oversight functions for the JRC and the coordination of European Space policies are in fact not relevant to research and that Koch-Mehrin severe academic misconduct is not important for this? I really doubt that the “summer hole reporting” got it wrong.