Plagiarism and Wikipedia

After zu Guttenberg declared on Monday that he will use his PhD no longer, the case is still not closed. But the media echo has already shown what people think about plagiarism and Wikipedia.

First, it is amazing that minister zu Guttenberg enjoys so much enduring support from a large majority of the Germans. According to a poll 73 % are content with his political work. This in spite of the critical comments of the media, left-wing or right-wing (with the exception of tabloid king BILD). Plagiarism, a deathly sin in the eyes of scientists and Wikipedians, does not bother the larger population. Concepts of copyrigt or even free knowledge are too complex to be understood fully (and why they are so important).

The extend of the shamelessness, visualized with the pages of the PhD thesis: pages with plagiarism (black), pages with plagiarism from more than one source (red), pages taken over probably from an unpublished Bundestag service paper (yellow), table of content and appendix (blue). Pages related to plagiarism: 270 out of ca. 400 (without table of content and appendix). (GuttenPlag Wiki, PD)

FAZ analyses the astonishing arguments submitted by his fans. Cheating happens everywhere, there are more important things, and chancellor Merkel said that she hired a minister of defense, not a research assistant. FAZ, usually called a centre-right newspaper, itself finds the proceeding of the PhD thesis of zu Guttenberg ‘unexampledly shameless.’


Second, when commentators discuss the issue plagiarism or this specific case, the name of Wikipedia appears frequently. Deutschlandradio believes that homework can be done much quicker ‘thanks to Wikipedia’ than in previous times. Eichstätt promovendus Christian Klenk calls it the ‘Google-Wikipedia-syndrome’: Wikipedia is not trustworthy because everything can be changed so easily, and Google hits are selected due to their popularity, not scientific value.

So Wikipedia is associated with plagiarism and other undesired behavior – although especially Wikipedians point out the importance of media literacy and scientific decency. The negative consequence of our success.




2 thoughts on “Plagiarism and Wikipedia

  1. Couldn’t agree more. No way to explain the scourge of plagiarism to non-academics (or to non-wikipedians, for that matter, which in most cases is more or less the same). What’s more, ironically, Christian Klenk draws himself on the work of Stefan Weber who in 2009 published the 2nd edition of his book called “Das Google-Copy-Paste-Syndrom”. In a series of preceding articles in Telepolis, he first spoke about the “Google-Wikipedia monopoly” in 2005, i.e., at a time when the mass media first took notice of Wikipedia. Let’s hope he’s not just plagiarising Weber’s book…

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