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Prime minister of Romania accused of plagiarism

Daniel BuenoRomania has been faced with successive cases of scientific misconduct that have already affected the government. According to Nature magazine, which has investigated the cases, the explanation for the current situation that members of the post-Communist elite, including politicians, have avidly pursued academic credentials. As a result, many universities have become “university degree factories,” with total disregard for academic ethics and quality.

The Romanian Government’s National Ethics Council is currently analyzing the case of Ioan Mang, former Minister of Science and Education. Last month, Mang – a computer science specialist – resigned after having been accused of plagiarizing at least eight articles. The most serious event so far involves Prime Minister Victor Ponta, who had been accused of having plagiarized other academic papers – without quoting the sources – in his doctoral thesis in the field of law. He defended his doctoral thesis in 2003. If the charges are confirmed, they could increase the pressure for his resignation.

On June 18, Nature published an article on this episode, after having gained access to documents attesting that more than half of Ponta’s doctoral thesis consisted of published – albeit unidentified – academic texts. The thesis was re-published in the form of a book in 2004 and used as reference for another book, published in 2010, on international humanitarian laws. Substantial excerpts from the three publications seem to be very similar to articles published in Rumanian by legal scholars Dumitru Diaconu and Vasile Creţu, and in English by Ion Diaconu. “The evidence of plagiarism is devastating,” said Marius Andruh, a chemist from the University of Bucharest, in an interview to Nature. Andruh is the chairman of the Romanian board that validates academic titles.

On June 21, Nature published a letter forwarded by the Romanian Government’s press publicist, denying the accusations of plagiarism. In the letter, Victor Ponta states his willingness to submit his work to “any kind of analysis.” According to Great Britain’s newspaper The Guardian (June 19), the prime minister accused his political rival – Romania’s President Traian Basescu – of orchestrating the attack against him.

Ponta worked on his doctoral thesis at the University of Bucharest when he was State Secretary during the administration of Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who had also been Ponta’s doctoral advisor. He became prime minister in May of this year, after his predecessor, Emil Boc, resigned from office.