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Russia’s bloggers help authorities expose forged dissertations

March 20, 2013, 16:12 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila

Russia’s crusade against forged dissertations, launched with the authorities’ support, has met with wide support from Internet surfers. The bloggers’ investigative activity has shown that civil servants, including very high-ranking ones, account for a large share of consumers on the market of dissertations, written by hired authors on contract. The summaries of works by phony holders of scientific degrees can be easily found in the world web. These pieces of evidence showing how daring these people, certain they will never be caught red-handed, really are, have not turned into delayed action bombs any competent person can easily set off.

The spate of scandals that keep rocking the scientific public erupted last year, when graduates of the Kolmogorov mathematics high school suspected the new director, Andrei Andriyanov, was incompetent. At a certain point they started wondering how come Andriyanov, having chemical education, defended his dissertation in history. It turned out that his work contained a number of violations of the established rules, including references to publications in magazines that have never existed.

This affair sparked an angry response from the mass media and bloggers. Andriyanov had to step down, and the Ministry of Education and Science made a decision to check other suspicious works, including those based on information from open sources.

The Education and Science Ministry’s panel of inquiry identified 25 false dissertations (19 doctoral and six candidatorial), defended at the Moscow teacher’s training university (MPGU). The leadership of one of the university’s dissertation councils for history was replaced and also a list of councils that awarded too many scientific degrees was drawn up. As a result of the campaign to expose forged dissertations the Higher Attestation Commission stripped eleven persons of their titles.

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev has thrown his weight behind the campaign.

“The number of false holders of candidate’s and doctor’s degrees is blown out of all conceivable proportion. Now, this affair has risen to the surface, and I cannot see anything wrong about that. I believe it is absolutely right, because if science keeps moving along this track, the net effect will be discrediting and devaluation of scientific degrees and ranks,” he said last month.

Medvedev asked the government to draw up the rules of placing dissertation papers on the Internet by March 31.

The chief of the Higher Attestation Commission, Vladimir Filippov, too, pointed to the need for placing dissertation papers on the Internet. He said science works will be placed on a special forum for a discussion preceding the defense procedure – candidate’s dissertations, one month in advance, and doctor’s dissertations, three months beforehand.

The Education and Science Ministry this week will scrutinize the activity of five educational establishments to see if there were any false dissertation papers.

Quite a few senior officials are among those who have already been stripped of their scientific degrees. Their papers contained stolen paragraphs, references to non-existent publications in magazines, and also forged conclusions by institutions of higher learning. They have proved defenseless in the face of the most terrible weapon – the publication of texts of their works.

Over the past few months bloggers, journalists and oppositional politicians have formed a group of so-called “dissertation diggers” in the search for false dissertation papers. In the Russian segment of the world web, Runet, they have published a tremendous number of comments and analytical reports, whose authors compare the texts of works by officials and politicians with the earlier published works by other authors. Cases of plagiarism are found everywhere.

Bloggers have responded with great interest to the author’s summary of the dissertation of Ramzan Kadyrov, the head of the Chechen Republic, who two years ago defended a dissertation titled Management of the Restoration and Development of the Chechen Republic’s Building Industry at the State Technical University of Dagestan and was awarded a degree of doctor of science in economics. It has turned out that the Chechen leader widely uses higher mathematics instruments. In part, the author easily operates with the Kolmogorov equations. Attached to the author’s summary is a list of 53 publications Kadyrov ostensibly authored. Many of them heavily rely on higher mathematics.

According to the official biography, Kadyrov in 2004 graduated from the Makhachkala Institute of Business and Law. His specialty at that university was Jurisprudence. Kadyrov has never received any instruction in exact sciences.

Most Russian politicians prefer the humanities. LDPR leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky, a doctor of sciences (philosophy) received his title (stepping over the mandatory candidate’s degree) at the Sociology Department of the Moscow State University. His work was entitled The Past, Present and Future of the Russian Nation. The defense took place on April 24, 1998. Nearly half of the Higher Attestation Commission members then quit the commission in protest of the decision to award the scientific degree to Zhirinovsky.

Specialists say that a third of the doctoral dissertation of Zhirinovskiy’s son, Igor Lebedev, called The Evolution of the Ideological Basis and Strategy of Political Parties in the Russian Federation in 1992-1993 was borrowed from dissertation papers defended earlier.

Earlier, the charges of plagiarism were brought against State Duma members from the United Russia party, Vladimir Burmatov, Rishat Abubakirov, and Nikolai Bulayev. However, all have retained their degrees. The Higher Attestation Commission does not consider such issues three years after the dissertation has been defended.

Among the officials and legislators false candidates and doctors of sciences range 70-75 percent, the daily Novyie Izvestia quotes one of the dissertation diggers, member of the Opposition’s Coordination Council, Sergei Parkhomenko, as saying. He said most of the suspicions were over research in the field of science and medicine, defended more than twenty years ago. As for officials’ dissertations on philosophy, sociology and the economics, they are very probably compilations of stolen chapters and paragraphs.

“I know at least one FC member who has defended a forged dissertation in medicine,” Parkhomenko said, adding that he would disclose the name soon.

The dean of the sociology department at the Higher School of Economics, Alexander Chepurenko, has told the daily that a scientific degree for officials is a symbol of their status: “Many officials are obliged to do teaching. With scientific degrees they can count on higher positions. I believe that this requirement should be removed from the office instructions and regulations.

As one can easily see in the Internet, the market of forged scientific works is thriving. Key in an “Order a dissertation” query and any search engine will offer up to two million hyperlinks. The prices of a candidate’s dissertation vary 500 dollars to 10,000 dollars, and those of a doctor’s dissertation, 5,000 to 20,000.