Bernd Scholz-Reiter, professor for logistics and rector of the University of Bremen in Germany, is definitely a grand role model for the German academic youth, in so many respects. First and foremost, Scholz-Reiter is a champion of Open Access (OA): when his colleagues hesitantly moved to publish in new community OA journals, Scholz-Reiter went a bold step further: he published conference proceedings with those OA publishers many of his peers would never touch with a barge pole: WSEAS and WASET, known as predatory scamference organisers. With Scholz-Reiter however, it’s a fair chance to all, because for the greater good of OA. Employees of the state-university joint-owned BIBA (Bremen Institute for Production and Logistics), who travelled to those predatory conferences and presented papers Scholz-Reiter co-authored, didn’t notice anything untoward back then. In fact the rector and his colleagues valued these events so much they submitted same papers repeatedly, one no less than four times. In one case, a paper was self-plagiarised 4 times.
At that time, Scholz-Reiter was BIBA director, and in 2011 he included all these papers, conventional; predatory, self-plagiarised or both, into his successful rectorship application. The scamference visits continued, and ended in 2014, apparently BIBA academics needed multiple trips to the Mediterranean and other exotic locations to figure out that those conferences were shady.
You can read all details of Scholz-Reiter’ OA activities here, or about his amazing understanding of research integrity here. But now something was uncovered in his own papers which the University of Bremen insists is definitely not plagiarism. One conference paper from Scholz-Reiter’s institute, a 15-page scientitic publication, re-appeared two months later 5 pages shorter at a different conference, with the last author replaced. That newly appointed last author was Scholz-Reiter, and the logistics conference that this reformatted version was presented at, was initially described by BIBA as predatory. They changed their mind in the meanwhile.
The paper, after it became attributed to Scholz-Reiter, remained largely same: mostly same figures, mostly same text, though in many cases text was slightly reformulated, probably to avoid 1:1 resemblance. Also, the title was flipped. These are the two conference proceedings, the university provided me with PDFs:
1. Pallasch, A.-K.; Heitkötter, J.; Echelmeyer, W.
Ropeway for marine containers. Innovative transport system for seaport terminals
In: Casaca, A. C.; Duarte, L. F. (eds.): IAME 2010: Annual Conference of the International Association of Maritime Economists. Lisboa, Portugal, 2010, pp. 15.
The last author here is Wolfgang Echelmeyer, until 2009 academic at BIBA, and since 2009 professor at ESB Business School in Reutlingen, Germany. He never replied to my email. The paper was presented on 7-9 July 2010, PDF is here.
2. Pallasch, A.-K.; Heitkötter, J.; Scholz-Reiter, B.
Innovative Transport System for Seaport Terminals – Ropeway for Marine Containers
In: Proceedings: The 1st International Conference on Logistics and Maritime Systems (LOGMS), 2010, Pusan, South Korea. LOGMS, Pusan, Korea, 2010, pp. 313-322.
This paper was presented 15-17 September 2010, PDF is here. The University of Bremen does not deny the dates, but it also refuses to explain them. The Press office also refuses to say if Scholz-Reiter was personally present at the conference. Echelmeyer was completely removed as the author, and Scholz-Reiter took his place. It may very well be that the rector provided some impressingly novel insights to deserve co-authorship, but if one compares the two papers, the LOGMS 2010 with Scholz-Reiter contains actually less data than the IAME 2010 with Echelmeyer:
I also obtained the conference programme of LOGMS 2010 conference in Pusan, see here. Scholz-Reiter is listed as a member of organising committee, and so are two other Bremen professors: Herbert Kopfer and Hans-Dietrich Haasis. All three of them organised the 2012 LOGMS at the University of Bremen, the peculiar bit is that most records of that 2012 event were removed, but I found them in internet archives, including this flyer. Not just BIBA, even Haasis’ own website doesn’t mention that 2012 conference he himself chiefly organised (there are however LOGMS 2012 Bremen papers listed on the LogDynamics research cluster website). Maybe the University of Bremen was temporarily confused? Or maybe they are permanently confused? It is difficult to operate a public research and education institution as a kind of small family business whose entire purpose is directed towards serving the interests of its owner, pardon, its rector.
In the BIBA publications record, 7 papers from LOGMS 2010 in Pusan are listed (none from LOGMS 2012 in Bremen). Up until 15 July 2018, these LOGMS works were categorised under “Contributions to Conferences (reviewed)“. Scholz-Reiter’s world was peaceful and perfect. Then, on July 19th 2018, German journalists uncovered a scandal, German academic elites, including Scholz-Reiter, were named and shamed for having published with predatory outlets. And suddenly, in August 2018, 4 out of 7 these LOGMS 2010 papers were labelled with “more information”, linking to the disclaimer that the publisher is suspected to be predatory. They were also re-categorised as “Contributions to Conferences (non reviewed)“.
Last weekend, while waiting for the University of Bremen to explain the discrepancy, I noticed that the entire publications list of BIBA was gone (see archive 10.03.2019). On Monday the 11.03.2019, the list was back, but now none of the 7 LOGMS conference papers was tainted with “more information”. They all remained “non reviewed” though, until today, somehow the peer review seal on some of Rector’s papers went kaputt in 2018 when journalists stuck their noses in. I asked the university why the sudden change of mind, and got this reply from Meike Mossig of the university’s press office:
“LOGMS 2010 is a serious conference. This is why a special labelling is not necessary here”.
Strange choice of words, “nicht notwendig”, meaning “not necessary”. How do they know the conference was serious, if Scholz-Reiter views even past WSEAS and WASET conferences as serious? Mossig refused to explain why LOGMS 2010 used to carry the special labelling of being predatory until very recently. She also didn’t want to talk about Scholz-Reiter’s participation at any LOGMS conferences. Strange how a university and its rector are suddenly reluctant to talk about a meeting they themselves organised in Bremen. What on Earth went on there in 2012? The mind boggles.
But back to the LOGMS 2010 and Scholz-Reiters contribution there. There are of course more examples of similarities between that paper and the one from earlier IAME conference, here some, as a slideshow:
Or how about this? If the text and data reuse was not intentional, why would the authors replace “many seaports” with “a lot of seaports”, and “such as” with “such are, for example”? Tricking an anti-plagiarism software? Maybe. But then again, Scholz-Reiter as rector of the University of Bremen has his own strategy of research excellence, so what do we know.
There are other examples. The IAME paper contains this sentence:
“To provide optimal energy efficiency, funicular ropeways are normally designed as a twin system with a circular haulage cable.”
After Echelmeyer was replaced by Scholz-Reiter, the sentence went in LOGMS paper like this:
“Funicular ropeways are normally designed as a twin system with a circular haulage cable, to provide optimal energy.”
Where the earlier paper said “These systems make use of two equal rail tracks“, the later Scholz-Reiter version said: “This system takes advantage of two equal rail tracks“. Another example:
“While the wagons on the first track are pulled from the valley station to the upper station the wagons on the other track are moving the other way around”
became after Echelmeyer fell off the wagon and the Rector jumped on it:
“Whilst one wagon is pulled from the valley station to the upper station the wagon on the other track is moving in the other direction”
Whilst, a rare learned word. Rector Scholz-Reiter is not only expert for logistics of stuff, Open Access and research integrity, he also amazingly versed the English language. One more, and then you can find your own examples:
“In this way the potential energy of one train can be used to pull the other one and only a small amount of additional energy has to be provided”
transformed on The Rector’s own version:
“In doing so, the potential energy of one wagon can be used to pull the second; only a small amount of additional energy has to be provided”.
Practice like this is deemed, even in Germany, to be deliberate obfuscation of plagiarism, and makes it quite difficult to declare your plagiarism unintentional. The German Research Council (DFG), a central public funding and research integrity agency, has clear guidelines on self-plagiarism, and especially on plagiarism where DFG has punished a number of scientists for this behaviour. However, Scholz-Reiter is former DFG Vice-President. This is exactly why we can rest assured that it is perfectly correct what the press spokesperson of the University of Bremen, Kristina Logemann, told me regarding these two conference papers:
“Nobody plagiarised here”
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