Professor Ciprian Mihali, from Babeș-Bolyai University, explains what writing a doctorate involves and why it is so difficult to detect plagiarism and withdraw a doctorate.

In the context of the discussions about the second decision of the Babeș-Bolyai University (UBB) regarding the doctorate of Minister Lucian Bode, Ciprian Mihali, associate professor Dr. abil at UBB explains, on his Facebook page, what it means to write a thesis of doctorate.

“Writing a PhD thesis is the most important effort in terms of time and creativity on the part of a researcher. To start writing a thesis, you need at least a year or two in which you just read, just go to libraries, make notes, structure ideas, compose an outline of the future thesis. A text of at least 150 pages needs months of preparation just for the work plan, which cannot be developed in a vacuum, without massive prior readings”, says Mihali.

He claims that a PhD student must spend a lot of hours in the library every day, i.e. stay there for 4 hours, 6 hours, 10 hours if necessary, without being interrupted by anyone or anything.

“The mental effort of preparing for the doctorate is huge, and that’s why some of the doctoral students leave completely exhausted at the end of the thesis,” says the professor.

Ciprian Mihali explains what it means to write a doctoral thesis.  PHOTO: Personal archive

Ciprian Mihali explains what it means to write a doctoral thesis. PHOTO: Personal archive

The teaching staff claims that after a year of intensive reading you can put together a thesis plan. Next comes her writing, which is the greatest intellectual effort.

“To start writing, you need to have computer skills, you need to have hundreds or thousands of cards, quotes, notes prepared, organized, which you can link together so that they become coherent and at the same time it represents something new compared to what other authors have said. A PhD student with average editorial skills cannot write more than 2-3 pages a day,” he elaborates.

Ciprian Mihali claims that it is very difficult to maintain the rhythm of writing, because there are weekends, trips, professional obligations, dead days. He calculates that for 150 final pages, with an average of 3 pages per day, it takes about 50 days of writing, distributed randomly over the course of two years. And every day, you have to spend at least a few hours in front of the keyboard and the screen.

Which doctorates are acts of imposture

Mihali is of the opinion that “absolutely all the doctorates of political people are acts of imposture, because a triple reasonable suspicion hangs over them”.

“It is unlikely, to the point of impossible, that they would have spent months in libraries, while at the same time holding many other functions simultaneously. Their public speaking skills are virtually non-existent, which leads us to believe that their computer skills are as well. Someone who does not know how to type easily will need many hours to write a page. Therefore, it is very plausible that their texts were written by someone else. And no, not by secretaries who transcribed notes from handwritten sheets, but by “ghostwriters”, ghost writers whose mission or obligation is exactly that, to compile a doctoral thesis copying from the books generally indicated by the supervisor of doctorate. Where these compilations are not plagiarized yet proven they are texts of zero scientific value, mere waste paper that never benefits anyone. Therefore, the title of doctor is awarded for nothing and is completely devalued”, says the university.

Why is plagiarism so difficult to retract?

Mihali’s conclusion is that when a politician or dignitary “writes a doctorate”, we can reasonably assume that there is a whole “network of well-wishers” behind and around him.

The role of this network is to help him pass easily through all the stages of the thesis: “from the project “suggested” by the doctoral supervisor, passing through the permission of the Doctoral School that accepts such doctoral students, then through the non-existent filter of a committee that evaluates the project, but also through the intermediate stages of examination and evaluation of the doctoral student, until the pre-defense of the thesis in the Doctoral School and its public defense – plus other formalities and stages that must necessarily be completed, all of these prove, in the end, that a plagiarized doctorate or a political doctorate can be achieved only and only with the broad complicity of dozens of people with scientific and institutional responsibilities who intervene during the preparation of the thesis.”

Mihali believes that this is also the reason why it is so difficult to report plagiarism and withdraw a doctorate.

“A plagiarist is never alone, and sanctioning the lack of academic integrity of all those guilty of a fraud of this kind would become, as a former minister suspected of academic fraud rightly said, a problem of national security, because it would destabilize numerous institutions in the country (think that for a single PhD student you need a commission made up of specialists from at least three universities, plus national commissions from the ministry, etc.)”, explains the professor.

UBB’s conclusion in the Bode case

The Ethics Commission of UBB adopted on 09.01.2023 Decision No. 1 of 2023 as a result of self-reporting following new information regarding suspicions of plagiarism in the doctoral thesis of Mr. Lucian Bode.

The conclusion of the analysis is that suspicions of plagiarism are confirmed in the vast majority. In the absence of the legal possibility to apply disciplinary sanctions to a person who is not a member of the academic community, the Commission requests corrections to the thesis and the withdrawal of the book published on the basis of the thesis, and the national councils (CNATDCU/National Research Ethics Council) will be notified for additional steps, according to the law.

The decision can be consulted here.

Asked why the percentage of plagiarized text was not specified in the current decision, as in the previous decision, the president of the UBB Ethics Commission, Professor Dacian Dragoș, replied that that percentage is not relevant, as the conclusion is clear.

“We also said at the first decision that, regardless of the percentage, it is a plagiarized text,” said the professor.

Regarding the sanctions granted, the president of the Commission says that they are similar to those of the first decision, with the difference that the withdrawal of the book published on the basis of the thesis was requested.

“We have no other legal means of sanctioning. Even if there will be a third referral, we cannot give other sanctions”, explained the president of the Ethics Commission.

To the question of whether, based on this decision, it is possible to ask for the withdrawal of the doctorate in the case of Lucian Bode, professor Dacian Dragoș answered: “The Ministry must ask. This is the reason why we notified the Ministry to continue the steps. Normally, yes, the Ministry can request on the basis of this resolution the withdrawal of the doctorate, but the Constitutional Court and the High Court have closed this possibility. It is possible only on matters of legality of the procedure, so the jurisprudence of the two courts must be studied”.

Who is Ciprian Mihali?

Ciprian Mihali has behind him a solid academic and diplomatic career. Dr. able university lecturer at the Babeş-Bolyai University in Cluj, at the Faculty of Philosophy, Mihali has, among other things, a doctorate in Cluj, one in Strasbourg, in France. Mihali was the director for Eastern Europe of the University Agency of Fracophony. He was the ambassador of Romania in Senegal.

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