The numbers of plagiarism checks carried out at the Berlin universities vary greatly. This is shown by the responses from the Berlin Senate administration to a request from CDU MP Adrian Grasse. Since 2012, the Charité has completed 21 procedures. At Freie Universität, which recently came to the attention of the public with Franziska Giffey’s plagiarism scandal, there are eleven. The Technical University reports four completed procedures, three from the Humboldt University and one from the University of the Arts.
If the universities have information from third parties or if there are any abnormalities during the assessment, examinations must usually be initiated. HU, TU and the Charité use special computer programs for this purpose.
The Charité goes one step further and does not always wait until there is a suspicion. She also carries out spot checks and is working on being able to use central software to check all dissertations in the future.
However, not all completed procedures in which plagiarism is detected lead to the doctoral title being revoked. In addition to confiscation, there is also the reprimand, which is issued in so-called less serious cases. This has never happened at the HU, only once at the FU. The Charité, on the other hand, issued ten complaints, as can be seen from the response from the science administration. The TU stopped all proceedings without sanctions.
In most cases, however, proven plagiarism as a sign of a scientific work that is not clean does not lead to it being removed from the university libraries. It is also not always immediately indicated that the doctoral degree was revoked for the corresponding work.
Any person who has been found to have plagiarized can file a lawsuit against the withdrawal of the doctorate. As the Senate’s responses show, many are taking this route. Lawsuits are then often successful due to formal procedural errors. At the Charité, for example, lawsuits were filed seven times against the withdrawal of the title – and five times this had to be granted due to a formal error.
All in all, these are very lengthy processes. “The court proceedings, the duration of which has not changed significantly in the last ten years, according to the universities, usually last several years,” says the Senate’s response, which was first reported by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.