July 18, 2011

Contested plagiarism charge on new Turkish government

Alison Abbott

German politicians found guilty of plagiarism have seen their careers stumble. First came the forced resignation in March of the German defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg - the University of Bayreuth withdrew his PhD thesis after identifying extensive plagiarism. Other German politicians wielding doctor titles were then gleefully been targeted by plagiarism software users. Only last month, Silvana Koch-Mehrin of Germany's Free Democratic Party (FDP) was forced to withdraw from the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy after the University of Heidelberg had revoked her plagiarizing PhD. Her predecessor on the committee, Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, had his own PhD revoked by the University of Bonn last week for plagiarism.
In Turkey, on the other hand, a controversial charge of plagiarism has not stopped Ömer Dinçer from being appointed minister of education in Prime Minister Erdogan’s new government. The new government was approved by parliament on 13 July.
Dinçer got his PhD from İstanbul University School of Business Administration in 1984. He went on to build up a high flying academic career in parallel with a political career, becoming chief undersecretary in Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s first government in 2003, and minister of labour in Erdoğan’s second government after 2007 elections.
But he lost his title of professor in 2005 when the Turkish Council of Higher Education YÖK identified extensive plagiarism in his academic book Introduction to Business Administration. Dinçer appealed the charge, but it was upheld in court.
On 8 July newspapers reported that YÖK had quietly cleared him early this year to the dismay of many academics. YÖK confirmed to Nature that it had withdrawn the charge but did not provide reasons.
Dinçer has told newspapers that the charge of plagiarism was part of a smear campaign from a supposed network of people, known as Ergenekon, who favour a military coup.

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