(NaturalNews) There are two types of scientific plagiarism. The most obvious is when one scientist rips off another person's work and calls it his or her own. An example of this is the relationship between Nikola Tesla and Thomas Edison.
Edison got all the credit for electrical advances, such as alternating current for light bulbs, that were created by Tesla. But Edison had the money and the press, and that's often how history is written. More on that here.
Scientific plagiarism also involves grabbing parts of others' PhD dissertations to get the PhD title. A PhD is a type of graduate doctorate that involves more work than other professional doctorates, such as medical doctor (MD) or master's degrees (MA) in other fields. The PhD is the target of Poland's scientific plagiarism crack down.
A PhD is usually academic in nature and involves doing research to establish a new finding or confirm existing ones. The findings from that research, which could take four to eight years, are written up in a scholarly paper, or dissertation, which is then reviewed.
Sometimes, the result is a major breakthrough. For example, the 1997 dissertation for Dr. Jennifer Anne Luke's PhD at Surry University in England provided previously unknown proof that fluoride accumulates in the brain's soft tissue and ultimately calcifies the pituitary gland.
Alleged PhD plagiarists recently defrocked of their doctorates
Poland's deputy environment minister, Stanislaw Gawlowski, was accused of plagiarizing significant parts of his PhD thesis in September of 2013.
Barbara Kudrycka, who heads the Polish science and higher education ministry, announced in October that a new publicly own website will allow educators tutoring doctorate researchers to cross-check students' work against all other scientific publications.
Prior to this, less than one-third of the 460 Polish universities were using an effective private software to detect plagiarism. The new publicly owned software will be available to all of Poland's higher education institutions online, and it will be used to review all of Poland's PhD awarded doctorate dissertations since 2005.
Earlier in Germany, the head of the German research and education ministry, Annette Schavan, had her PhD revoked by the University of Dusseldorf after its investigation into her 351 page theology dissertation. The investigation was started after an anonymous tip in 2012.
Ironically, it was Schavan who insisted the University of Dusseldorf conduct a full investigation into her doctorate thesis after the anonymous tip.
Now, she is suing the university for its decision, denying the allegations of plagiarism while acknowledging that sometimes she didn't follow citation criteria properly.
Apparently, the scientific community in Germany is divided on this issue, some defending Schavan and others defending the university's decision. It has to be mentioned that, in both the Polish and German cases, oppositional party politics was involved.
The scandals may be true, but one wonders if it matters if they were performing their duties well.
Here in the USA, there have been allegations concerning Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.'s doctorate thesis. Even if true, does that tarnish his inspirational voice and leadership during the turbulent 1960s?
Just one year to the day before his 1968 assassination, King declared to a prestigious assembly in New York City's Riverside Church that America was heading for "spiritual death" as "the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today."
King was at the pinnacle of his influence on American youth, black and white, at that time.
King was snuffed in Memphis with a patsy intact to take the lone gunman fall. So even with what some say was a partially plagiarized PhD, he was a powerful influence for truth that couldn't be tolerated by the powers that be.
But PhDs in purely scientific fields are a different matter. They do matter more there.
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