In response to frequent calls to plead about recent cases of PhDs of some Serbian politicians suspected for plagiarism, we explained in this public announcement our position regarding those cases and plagiarism in general.

 

(i) CEON/CEES is dealing with plagiarism in academic publishing intensively, at both professional and research level. What we learned from this experience is that, when it comes to textual plagiarism, there is a big difference between (a) the normative definitions of plagiarism, which are derived from the standards of citation and (b) practical, diagnostic classifications, which as a rule take into account research field, section of an article, citation style, etc. The amount of overlapped text is only one of the criteria in the row. Consequently, in our procedure of diagnosing plagiarism we distinguish between (1) detection phase, when we use appropriate software to determine the origin, amount, and distribution (size of portions) of the overlapped text and (2) verification phase, as an expert judgment that includes knowledge of (a) the relevant scientific topic, (b) given citation standards, and (c) the amount of (non) compliance with these standards in a given geo-cultural and scientific environment. Many academics who rushed these days to declare critical PhDs plagiarized, took their positions only on the basis of quantity of overlapped text, without caring to introduce other criteria and take the context into account.

(ii) It is our judgment that the whole recent plagiarism turmoil was motivated politically,  rather than ethically and scientifically. Instead of squeezing hints of plagiarism in PhDs of some politicians, the academic community of Serbia should, in our opinion, confront plagiarism within its own yard.  Also, we believe that the primary cause of the problem here is not in politicians who have earned undeserved doctorates, but in those who enabled them to. Those that focus on doctorates of politicians only, are not dealing with the problems of science and education, but rather with the problems of politics. This area is outside of CEON/CEES mission. It is one another's yard, and we think one have first to clean up its own. It is hypocritical to say in Serbia today that politicians should be ethically the most stringent because supposedly only as such they can repair Serbian ruined society, including the Serbian academy. We beleive it's the opposite. We first have to bring professors into order, so that they gain credibility among voters, sufficient to change politicians.

(iii) We turned attention to the problem of plagiarism in Serbian science long ago. In the articles published in the Serbian citation index, we recorded in 2011 even 11% plagiarisms of various shape and size. Based on this large study we proposed the authorities and the public a set of ten measures for combating plagiarism. Instead of taking appropriate actions, the problem was consensually swept under the rug. Practically the only one who proved to be ready to do something were some forty journal publishers who, working with CEON/CEES, now regularly check their papers for plagiarism. Obviously, there are people in Serbia who start from themselves, who take care of their own yards. We think that only such people deserve our loyalty and our time.

 

Full text (in Serbian)