Board of Directors University of Tilburg
Colombia, South America, April 2020
Rector Philip Eijlander
Tilburg University, Netherlands, Europe
Copyright is a cornerstone in the construction of knowledge and its communication to the academic, scientific community and to society as a whole. That is why, under today’s universal laws, the norms of quotation allow to fully reference publications and other contributions in the unfinished construction of knowledge.
Plagiarism or copyright infringement constitutes the greatest affront in the academic world, because the “author” through different forms of deception appropriates the work of others or presents it as a novel a finding of his/her own, without the required quotation of the original author and the source.
Doctoral training constitutes a process of transformation and personal achievement, but it is also an achievement of the academic community and of society, when it is achieved with intellectual honesty. In a doctoral thesis, the omission of required quotation of the original author and the source. is not a minor offence, since its occurrence questions the essence of professional training and the lack of personal scruples of the graduate, therefore, when plagiarism occurs and it is demonstrated, it can hardly be argued that its origin comes from an unintentional oversight, since the doctoral thesis is the product of rigorous research and also rigorous writing. The process of writing a doctoral thesis is a conscientious and meticulous act, which compulsorily and specially complies with known academic regulations, which include the originality of the publication.
Academic institutions have pre-established procedures that must guarantee the quality of the content, as well as the editorial quality of the doctoral thesis; Likewise, they have regulations in accordance with which, in the event of any violation of them – plagiarism is – this must be sanctioned without hesitation, since what is at stake is not the personal reputation or reputation of an academic institution, but the essence and confidence of education and science that academic institutions once swore to safeguard for the benefit of society.
The PlagioSOS blog, an original portal, over ten years of existence (since 2010), we have independently presented and through our initiative 39 Case Studies and more than a hundred News of plagiarism in Spanish-speaking Ibero-America. Throughout these years, we have witnessed the systematic and increasing occurrence of the practice of plagiarism or violation of copyright in academic, scientific, and literature enviroment, as well as institutional behavior.
In accordance with academic standards, the doctoral thesis has two inescapable characteristics: originality and being prepared by the candidate for the postgraduate degree. The academic institution that grants the title is under the legal, regulatory and ethical obligation to protect the intellectual property and copyright. In the procedures of institutional quality, which lead to the preparation and approval of a thesis, there is the direction, evaluation, defense, approval and publication. At the regulatory level, there is the defense date and publication date, but there is no procedure to carry out subsequent “correction” of the doctoral thesis, even less if what is proposed to “correct” are aspects related to its originality and authorship, which denotes, by itself, the occurrence of a very serious offense already typified in academic standards.
Under the direction of Sylvester Eijffinger and Harry Huizinga, at the University of Tilburg, Center for Economic Research, on December 1, 2017, Jonathan Malagón González defended the doctoral thesis entitled “Four Essays on Central Banking in Latin America under the control of the balance of payments” (Tilburg: CentER, Center for Economic Research 2017, pp. 130), which was approved and classified as sum cum laude. It has a publication date, year 2017.
In Colombia, almost two years later, in September 2019, the newscast “Noticias Uno” and “Cuarto de Hora” presented a journalistic investigation carried out separately by Juliana Ramírez (Noticias Uno) and Giovanny Quintero (Cuarto de Hora). These journalistic investigations account for the possible plagiarism in the four chapters of Jonathan Malagón’s thesis, which would affect four master’s thesis published in Colombia previously.
Journalist Juan Pablo Barrientos, from Caracol Radio, also investigated the case. In December 2019, he reported that four professors from Colombian universities, with a doctoral degree, after reviewing the theses, conceptualized that there is indeed plagiarism in J. Malagón’s thesis. Listen to the audio.
When reviewing the information of the complaint from these sources, it is observed that in the four chapters of Jonathan Malagón’s doctoral thesis, several paragraphs, figures and tables appear as his authorship, but had actually already been published by other authors, in language Spanish.
Colombian news media reported that the board of directors in the University of Tilburg had received the public complaint and proceeded to carry out the corresponding investigation.
On March 26, 2020, the decision of the directors of the University of Tilburg was published, according to which an external Scientific Integrity Committee, led by Dr. Ton Hol, appointed by the board of directors in the University of Tilburg, based on the 2014 Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice, decided to order J. Malagón to correct the doctoral thesis.
In the statement from the board of directors in the University of Tilburg, indicate that the Committee found 1) that J. Malagón had obtained authorization from the authors of the master’s theses, but that he did not inform the directors and evaluators of his doctoral thesis (By not informing his Supervisors that his students had obtained his permission to write a Master’s thesis on part of the PhD thesis topic and not (explicitly) mentioning either to his Supervisors or in his PhD thesis that he had worked together intensively with students in preparing his PhD thesis I have been guilty negligent); 2) that J. Malagón recognized that in his doctoral thesis he should have been more explicit when mentioning the omitted authors (The person concerned also acknowledged that he should have mentioned more explicitly that his students had written Master’s theses under his supervision that were based on his PhD thesis); 3) despite the fact that the Committee found the existence of paragraphs, tables and figures that are the same, it could not determine who is responsible for the authorship and therefore the plagiarism could not be demonstrated (The CWI observes that there is an overlap between the PhD thesis of the person concerned and the master’s theses of the students involved in the investigation by the CWI. Various text paragraphs, tables and graphs / diagrams are the same. However, the CWI has not been able to establish who wrote which text, who made which tables and graphs and who had what part in this. As a result plagiarism cannot be demonstrated).
Based on these elements, the Board of Directors in the University of Tilburg ordered the doctoral thesis to be corrected, where he must include, throughout the thesis (paragraphs, tables and figures) the required quotation of the original author and the source and also must include the master’s theses in the bibliography of the four corresponding chapters.
The procedure and recommendations of the appointed Committee and of the Board of Directors of the University of Tilburg, surprises in several aspects and contrasts with the institutional procedure from the universities of Bayreuth (Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg case, 2010) and Heinrich-Heine (Annette Schavan case, 2013).
We provide some considerations. They are as follows:
1. The Committee states that they could not clearly establish the authorship of the master’s thesis, whose sections -paragraphs, figures and tables- are copied without appointment in the doctoral thesis of Malagón (2017). We recall that in the four master’s theses the authors and publication dates are perfectly established. In addition, the theses come from three Colombian universities and are housed in institutional repositories that guarantee the credibility of the information. They are the following titles, publisher, place, date, number of pages and author:
• “La política monetaria en Colombia durante el periodo 2003-2014: reaccionando al producto para controlar la inflación” (Monetary policy in Colombia during the period 2003-2014: reacting to the product to control inflation), Universidad de los Andes, Bogotá, 2015, pp. 56, author Juan Sebastián Betancur Mora.
• “El miedo a la flotación cambiaria de América Latina: un cambio de enfoque” (The fear of exchange rate floating in Latin America: a change of focus), Universidad del Externado, Bogotá, 2016, pp. 30, author María Camila Orbegozo Daza.
• “Estabilidad financiera y dominancia de balanza de pagos: evidencia para América Latina” (Financial stability and balance of payments dominance: evidence for Latin America), Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, 2016, pp. 39, author Daniel Felipe Lacouture Daza.
• “Incidencia de la política monetaria de las economías desarrolladas sobre los mercados financieros y monetarios de América Latina” (Incidence of the monetary policy in developed economies on the financial and monetary markets of Latin America), Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá, June 2017, author Marcela Rey Hernández.
Neither of these master’s thesis were cited or referenced in the chapters of J. Malagón’s doctoral thesis, they were not cited in the bibliography. That is, total omission.
2. During the investigation carried out by the Committee – despite the fact that the dates of publication and the authorship of the four master’s thesis are established in the master’s thesis and institutional repositories – he resorted to a novel procedure, such as testimony of the authors of the allegedly plagiarized thesis and of the one denounced for plagiarism.
This fact does not know 1) that in the master’s thesis and institutional repositories it is already established who are the authors and publication dates, 2) the role of the thesis director is to contribute ideas, guide and correct, while he is the author of the work person who expressed and expressed his ideas through said work (Circular 06 of 2002, National Directorate of Copyright); 3) the moral author’s right is perpetual, inalienable and inalienable to claim the paternity of his work at all times and, especially, to indicate his name or pseudonym, this right cannot be waived or assigned (Law 23 of 1982 , article 30, Moral Rights).
Therefore, based on existing legislation and regulations, it is clear that the authors of the four master’s theses are Juan Sebastián Betancur (2015), María Camila Orbegozo Daza (2016), Daniel Felipe Lacouture Daza (2016) and Marcela Rey Hernández (2017) and that J. Malagón acted as director not as author. It is also clear that these authors are legally prevented from giving up or assigning that right. If that could be done, they would also have to give up the master’s degree obtained at Colombian universities.
3. The Committee was completely unaware that there is a right of appointment (APA, Standard, Harvard, Vancouver, etc.), which the authors of the doctoral theses and of the University of Tilburg are obliged to fulfill. It is not possible for a doctoral thesis author to omit making bibliographic citations or include in the bibliography the publications from which he / she takes texts, figures and tables, while those same ignored authors are mentioned in the acknowledgments of the doctoral thesis.
4. In the Regulations of PHD of the University of Tilburg there is no instance or procedure to carry out «correction» to a doctoral thesis, after its approval and publication, for a very simple explanation, such as the rigor in the procedures and institutionalized instances. If a “correction” is possible, we ask, will the new version of thesis by J. Malagón be dated 2017 or 2020? In the four chapters of the doctoral thesis, in addition to including the omitted thesis in the bibliography, ¿on how many pages, paragraphs and tables does J. Malagón have to carry out the “correction”? If then, in a few months or years, another new complaint appears for alleged plagiarism, ¿will there be a new “correction”?
In relation to the evasion of personal and institutional responsibilities, to which copyright is exposed in universities, the proposal of “correction” of a doctoral thesis is the most novel and unusual seen so far.
5. The Committee ignored the academic rules that must prevail at the University of Tilburg, as a guarantee of transparency, quality and legitimacy of the degrees obtained. These rules are explicit in The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice and the PHD Regulations of Tilburg University.
Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice includes the principle of scientific integrity and transparency, “cornerstone of good scientific practice”, which is essential to maintain credibility in science; This Code signals researchers to actively comply, maintain and promote the rules of good scientific practice, the recognition of authorship and everything related to transparency in the management of documentary sources and respect for relationships between professionals (of the Code, see Best practices, numerals 1.1, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.5); the reliability of the information, methods and results must be demonstrated in the investigation carried out and these must be verifiable -what is known today was only revealed almost two years later, by means of journalistic investigations- (of the Code, see, Reliability, II .1; verifiability, principle and III.3), which denotes lack of scruples and lack of dedication to the scientific rigor expected in the doctoral thesis (Commentary on the principles established in the Code, I.1, I.2, II. 1, III).
Without a doubt, copying excerpts from other author’s publications (paragraphs, tables and figures) without the required quotation of the original author and the source and excluding them in the bibliography of the doctoral thesis, hiding the existence of these previous publications from the directors and evaluators, do not constitute good academic practices.
The PhD Regulations of the University of Tilburg establish the conditions and procedures for the preparation and approval of a doctoral thesis, aspects related to its quality characteristics, such as the direction (of the Regulation, see IV., Article 10 – supervision of the document, observation of compliance with the Code of Conduct and indication of compliance with the PhD Regulations-, article 11, supervision of the manuscript -including its originality and handling of information-); the doctoral thesis must be authored by the doctoral student and fully comply with the Regulations for Scientific Integrity of the University of Tilburg and the Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice in the Netherlands, and must also undergo automatic programs to detect the occurrence of plagiarism ( VI, article 17, numerals 1, 2 and 3).
Keep in mind that the then student J. Malagón did not inform the director or evaluators of the existence of the four master’s theses previously published in Colombia by other authors, also, when using a similarity program, this would not be detected, for being in a different language -Spanish-. The doctoral student, during the public defense, also did not provide that information.
That is, in the reflective moments that arise during the maturation process and preparation of the doctoral thesis, J. Malagón had several opportunities and months to report, in accordance with the Regulations (revisions from the board of directors, revision from the juries and the public sustain) the existence of the four previous publications and reference them according to the obligatory norms of existing citations, which would not detract from academic achievement. He could do it, but he didn’t.
From the PlagioSOS portal we invite to the board directors in the University of Tilburg, to be guarantors of copyright, to respect and apply The Netherlands Code of Conduct for Scientific Practice and the PHD Regulations of the University of Tilburg.
Thanks for your attention.