German Minister Resigns

The minister of education and research has stepped down after being stripped of her doctorate following accusations of plagiarism.

Feb 12, 2013
Kate Yandell


The German minister of education and research, Annette Schavan, resigned on Saturday (February 9), 4 days after being stripped of her doctorate due to plagiarism.

Schavan, who got her PhD from the University of Düsseldorf in 1980, was first accused anonymously on the Internet in spring 2012 of plagiarizing parts of her philosophy thesis. Schavan denied any deliberate wrongdoing and urged the University of Düsseldorf to launch an investigation.

In October, the university’s report leaked to the press, stating that Schavan had cited sources inadequately in 60 passages of her thesis. Last week (February 5), the university revoked her degree.

Schavan is not the first German official to be involved in a plagiarism scandal. Defense Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg resigned in 2011 after it was discovered that his law thesis contained passages copied from many sources, including newspapers.

Some think that Schavan, whose plagiarism was less extreme, does not deserve the harsh censure she has received. Max Planck Society President Peter Gruss told ScienceInsider that the affair brings up many questions, “especially with regard to how we deal with people who received particular public attention based on their office, as well with regard to how the proceedings were conducted that ultimately led to the revocation of her doctoral degree.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that she will replace Schavan with Johanna Wanka, currently the minister for education and research in the German state of Lower Saxony. Wanka will take office on Thursday (February 14).