The rector who resigned after plagiarizing a student’s PhD thesis

Lots of good stories are hiding behind retraction notices, and with the flood of retractions — 2,200 just in 2020 — we can’t always keep up. Here’s a story about one 2020 retraction that turns out to involve a rector in Poland who resigned after plagiarizing a student’s PhD thesis.

In 2014, Błażej Kochański defended his PhD thesis at Gdańsk University of Technology, where he is now an assistant professor. To pass the exam, two external reviewers — one of whom was Jerzy Gwizdała, an economist at the University of Gdańsk — evaluated his work.

The following year, Gwizdała published a study titled, “Wpływ systemowego ryzyka płynności na stabilność gospodarki polskiej,” or “The Impact of Systemic Liquidity Risk on Stability of the Polish Economy,” in Problemy Zarządzania (Management Issues). Entire sections of that paper, according to a note Kochański sent us through our database Google form, were “copy-and-paste” plagiarized from his PhD thesis. 

Gwizdała also translated sections of Kochański’s PhD thesis to English in 2018, sent it to the University of Gdańsk Publishing House, and had it published as a book chapter

But last September, Marek Wroński, a well-known fraud hunter, published an article called “Wstrzymana profesura,” or “Suspended professorship,” about how 1.5 pages of Kochański’s thesis — which was not yet available online — were duplicated in Gwizdała’s 2015 paper. 

Gwizdała had been elected rector at the University of Gdańsk a few months prior to that article being posted, with a term expected to run through 2024. When Kochański read Wronski’s article and went back to compare the two documents, he found that the plagiarism was actually more extensive:

When I compared the paper with my thesis, it turned out that it consists, practically in 100%, of the paragraphs and sentences from my dissertation (from the Introduction, sections 2.3, 5.1 and 5.2 and the Conclusion), with minor (if any!) modifications. Just a few sentences are not mine.

Kochański blogged about his findings on Facebook and LinkedIn, and the story was swiftly picked up by Polish media outlets, including Dziennik Gazeta Prawna, a daily business newspaper. Gwizdała, who did not respond to requests for comment from Retraction Watch for this story, was then asked by Trojmiasto, a Polish news site, to write a response to Wroński’s article. In that statement, explained Kochański, he argued that the plagiarism was just a coincidence:

Gwizdała issued a statement in which he claimed that the alleged plagiarism instances were just an “ostensible (seeming) coincidence of some excerpts (pozorna zbieżność pewnych fragmentów).” When confronted with the similarity table I prepared (and here in the local press),  Gwizdała’s statement sounded, in my perception, comical.

Just a few days later, on September 28, Gwizdała resigned as rector. Kochański reported his findings to the book publisher (who retracted it in December 2020) and to the journal:

On September 30, 2020, I reported to the journal (“Problemy Zarządzania”), asking for the retraction. I was informed that the retraction procedure had been already initiated based on Marek Wronski’s article. After a few weeks, on November 10, 2020, I received an email from “Problemy Zarządzania” informing me that a retraction had been made, and the appropriate note was posted on the journal’s website.

That retraction notice, available in both Polish and English, reads:

The article entitled Wpływ systemowego ryzyka płynności na stabilność gospodarki polskiej published in “Problemy Zarządzania (Management Issues)” 2015, No. 3(55), pp. 19-29, https://doi.org/10.7172/1644-9584.55.2, written by Jerzy Gwizdała has been withdrawn due to the plagiarism of extended extracts of Mr. Błażej Kochański’s doctoral dissertation entitled “Systemowe ryzyko płynności w polskim systemie bankowym – determinanty i trendy” defended in 2014 and reviewed by Jerzy Gwizdała.

Editor-in-Chief Beata Glinka told us that the journal had received two separate tips about the study’s plagiarism:

Last year we received information from two sources – one of them was formal and came from the original Author. The retraction decision was based on our analysis of sources supported by the opinion of a lawyer. We retracted the paper, notified organization employing a person whose text was retracted, and notified the publisher. Also, the original Author was notified. 

Two days after the journal’s retraction notice was posted online, a story claiming that Gwizdała had also plagiarized his acceptance speech for the rectorship position was published in a daily Polish newspaper called Gazeta Wyborcza. Then, on November 16, the University of Gdańsk announced disciplinary actions against Gwizdała, suspending him “as an academic teacher,” and removing him “from managing the Department of Banking and Finance at the Faculty of Management” at the university. They also announced plans to establish an Intellectual Property Protection Center.

This isn’t the first time that Gwizdała has been penalized for plagiarism. In 2011, one of his papers was also retracted after plagiarizing “extended extracts” of work by Katarzyna Kuziak, an economist at Wrocław University of Economics.

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6 thoughts on “The rector who resigned after plagiarizing a student’s PhD thesis”

  1. As usual. The Polish government, ethical comitees and others organisms did nothing. This guy is confortable at home as an Ex-rector. What kind of example is this?

  2. I feel deeply ashamed and embarrassed on behalf of this former rector. As an academic, it was part of his duty to produce knowledge. If he knew he could no longer produce knowledge, was it not better for him to quit academia entirely and go do something else with his life than engage in the academic depravity that plagiarism is?

  3. Classic plagiarism tale, though he’s old-fashioned: Instead of the “it’s all a coincidence” excuse, you’re supposed to have upgraded to “my assistant did it,” “it’s my involuntary memory problem,” “I have problems at home,” or “my substance abuse.”

    A correction: Paragraph 5: Drop one “last” in front of September.

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