When credibility goes down the drain: the grotesque case of two politicians, Ecaterina Andronescu and Victor Ponta

It looks like an unprecedented situation, which could be funny when seen from outside, but it is actually a pathetic misuse of the credibility of an institution which manages the academic medium in a country.

Let me recall the story.

Victor Ponta,  the prime minister of Romania,  has been accused of plagiarism, see the article in Nature  “Romanian prime minister accused of plagiarism”  by Quirin Schiermeier.  Investigations started in Romania, with, say, mixed results, blurred by the fact that Ponta, as prime minister, modified the composition of the National Ethics Council, while the University of Bucharest council decided it is a case of massive copy-paste plagiarism, see the story told again in a Nature article  “Conflicting verdicts on Romanian prime minister’s plagiarism” by Quirin Schiermeier.

But you see, according to Romanian laws, is not the university who gives the PhD. title, it is the Ministry of Education.

The minister of education of the Ponta government, Ecaterina Andronescu, practically does nothing after lots of pressure from the civil society and from the academic medium.

And now comes the surprise: Andronescu herself is accused of multiple plagiarism, after reviews done by international experts, see the excellent reviews at integru.org here and here.

Does it look crazy enough?

Wait a moment! Andronescu counter-attacks: the Ministry of Education issues two press releases concerning this situation. Yes, you read well: the Romanian institution which is responsible for giving academic titles issues two unsigned press releases claiming that there is no case for plagiarism!

One hand washes the other and both are wiped by major Romanian institutions.

Here is a link to the second press release (a “doc” file in romanian) and here is my translation of the title of the press release and some of the conclusions:

“Details of some inaccurate information published on a website and taken by  B1 TV channel during  the show “The question mark” of December 2

[…]

The published articles contain data from scientific research of the authors achieved in our laboratories. The data therefore belong to the  research team members,  were not taken or copied from other authors, and so the charge of plagiarism has no support […] experimental data were originally presented at scientific conferences in the field,  for validation by the scientific community,  and then published in prestigious ISI journals, like Journal of European Ceramic Society, Thin Solid Films respectively,in order  to ensure the international visibility. For publication in these journals,  the articles undergo a very strict process of scientific review conducted by specialists with international prestige.”

Here is the reply by integru.org:

Comments on Ministry’s second press release + Update from Utrecht University on Ministry’s first press release

UPDATE: The National Institute of Material Physics took the decision to retire from publication those articles, mentioned in the plagiarism   accusations of Andronescu, which have members of the institute among the co-authors. Here is the press communicate issued by the institute (pdf, in Romanian).

My conclusion: as I repeatedly commented, the worst part is the loss of credibility of the institution who issues the academic titles. A solution for this loss of credibility was proposed here:

A 3-parts system for scientific credibility

It may be relevant as a international system of attributing credibility (and it might be not original, please inform me about any similar proposals).

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