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Retraction Watch

Tracking retractions as a window into the scientific process

German defense minister Guttenberg resigns after losing his PhD for a plagiarized thesis

with 6 comments

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, photo by Peter Weis via Wikimedia

Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg, who was stripped of his PhD last week after being found guilty of plagiarizing his law thesis, has resigned his post as Germany’s defense minister. According to Reuters:

“I was always ready to fight but I’ve reached the limit of my powers,” Guttenberg, 39, told journalists in a hastily arranged news briefing at the Defense Ministry in Berlin.

“I informed the chancellor in a very friendly conversation that I’m resigning from political offices and requested to be relieved. It’s the most painful step of my life.”

As we wrote last week, a Bremen University professor first discovered the plagiarism, which was then explored a wiki. The University of Bayreuth took away his doctorate on Wednesday the 23rd.

Alice Bell noted in a comment yesterday that there was an uproar over the case. At least one political scientist has said German Prime Minister Angela Merkel may suffer political damage because of it, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, it turns out that zu Guttenberg is not the only politician dogged by copy and paste allegations. The London School of Economics is looking into whether Saif al-Islam, embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi’s son, plagiarized his thesis. That case is complicated by the fact that al-Islam’s Gaddafi International Charity and Development Organization gave the school 1.5 million British pounds in 2009, a year after he earned his PhD.

Hat tips: Neuroskeptic, Willem van Schaik, Madeleine

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Written by Ivan Oransky

March 1, 2011 at 7:17 am

Posted in Uncategorized

6 Responses

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  1. Thanks for following up on this. Although I do agree with a comment on the previous post – these people do tend to return. All the more important to keept this in lots of peoples minds for years to come. Every contribution counts.


    March 1, 2011 at 7:24 am

  2. As for Saif Gaddafi, I suspect this is only the beginning of the scandal.

    LSE are going to be seriously damaged by this, especially if it turns out that concerns were raised before the Libyan situation kicked off and were buried because it would have risked them losing the £1.5 million.

    I’ve no idea if that’s the case or not but it needs to be looked into a.s.a.p. If not, this is a big scandal, if so it is a huge scandal.


    March 1, 2011 at 7:43 am

  3. The final straw was reached I think only when the academic community finally mobilised over the weekend with a demonstration in Berlin (with the now accepted showing of contempt by a lot of shoes left on the railings of the Ministry of Defence) and an open letter was sent to the Chancellor yesterday with more than 25,000 signatures. Criticism from his own party only came yesterday and was the tipping point but I think it would not have happened without the academics waking up.


    March 1, 2011 at 1:56 pm

    • I think the real killer was that his sponsor spoke out over the weekend and essentially made a 180 and threw him under the bus.

      But either way, I don’t think he’d been able to hang on much longer, there was a groundswell building up from my observation and it would have been interesting to see him on the campaign path constantly being asked about it by people.


      March 2, 2011 at 12:34 am

  4. But the real question is: Was he competent at his job or not? I’m curious, since I’m not from Germany…

    Joseph Keller

    March 5, 2011 at 9:43 am

    • At first i thought this is the more important question, too. But even when confronted with overwhelming evidence, Guttenberg did not show any sign of remorse or the willingness to admit severe errors on his side. In the end, removing him had become an urgent question of political hygiene and the credibility of german science and academics.


      March 6, 2011 at 7:52 am

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