GERMANY: Plagiarism MEP loses second post

Silvana Koch-Mehrin has bowed to pressure from Germany's major higher education and research organisations and stepped down from her new post in the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy, or ITRE, following plagiarism accusations.

Koch-Mehrin, a Free Democrat, only recently resigned as vice president of the European parliament, having been caught up in a copycat affair concerning her doctoral thesis.

Just a few weeks ago, Koch-Mehrin was stripped of her doctoral title in economic history after serious allegations of plagiarism. Her thesis turned out to have contained more than 120 passages on around 80 pages that the University of Heidelberg classified as plagiarisms.

Two weeks after having her PhD title revoked, and despite resigning as vice president, Koch-Mehrin became a full member of the European parliament's research committee.

She had previously been a deputy member of the committee, and switched posts with fellow party colleague Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, who is now also facing plagiarism charges concerning his own doctoral thesis. His work is being reviewed by the University of Bonn.

The ITRE committee is responsible for the European Union's research policy, including the "dissemination and exploitation of research results", as its official website states.

When Koch-Mehrin announced her new appointment, the Allianz der Wissenschaftsorganisationen (AdW - alliance of higher education and research organisations) urged that she refrain from taking the post.

"Plagiarism in academic theses is anything but a trivial offence," the AdW said in an official statement. "This is why the alliance deems Ms Koch-Mehrin's representing Germany on the European Parliament's Committee on Industry, Research and Energy unacceptable."

AdW's membership comprises the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, German Academic Exchange Service, German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina, German Research Foundation, Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft, Helmholtz Association of German Research Centres, Max Planck Society, Leibniz Association, Rectors' Conference (HRK) and the Science Council.

Earlier this year former defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned in the midst of a plagiarism scandal. An investigation by his alma mater, Bayreuth University, found that his PhD thesis was riddled with other people's unattributed work, and stripped him of the title.

The HRK, representing Germany's higher education institutions, has called for new steps to be taken following the latest cases of plagiarism. "Institutions must be more careful in their assessments and check that academic standards are observed," said HRK President Margret Wintermantel.

Martin Schulz, representing the Socialist Faction in Brussels, has demanded that Koch-Mehrin also resign her seat as Member of the European Parliament.