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German defence minister quits over plagiarism row

German’s defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg has resigned from all political posts after a scandal over duplications in his PhD thesis.

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Announcing his decision, the 39 year-old Christian Democrat told the press this morning that public pressure on him to resign had become too strong.

Guttenberg was last week stripped of his doctoral degree after the University of Bayreuth confirmed that large parts of his 2006 dissertation were plagiarized.

Chancellor Angela Merkel had attempted in vain to keep the popular minister in her cabinet, arguing that Guttenberg’s academic wrong doings did not diminish his merits as defence minister. Germany’s research organizations and many German scientists did not share this view: In an open letter, signed by more than 30,000 doctoral students and academics, they had vociferously criticised Merkel for trivializing academic plagiarism.

Image: BMWi

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    Frank Christian said:

    Germany’s research organizations, including the University of Bayreuth, were fairly slow in responding to this incredible incident, although it uncovered the disrespect of science and scientists that many Germans (and likely others) have – “it were just footnotes”. Shockingly this includes their political leaders – especially Angela Merkel who is herself a scientist and should know better.

    Thanks to the initiative of doctoral students, politicians were kept from just getting back to business as usual. The big question is now: Will this help to improve the German scientific system, in which PhD students are still examined and graded by their supervisors (not exactly helping to prevent objectionable practises), and, most importantly, how will Angela Merkel explain her disregardful treatment of science in favour of a popular minister shortly before elections?

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