Whatever you do, don’t get on Dr. Marek Wronski’s wrong side. Wronski is a medical doctor and a journalist, who after returning from 18 years of medical research work in the United States, nine years ago turned into a defender of academic ethics, and had become Poland’s top expert in hunting down, researching and exposing scientific fraudsters who lace their academic research with someone’s original work. “Plagiarism and scientific misconduct are to be hunted down and gotten rid of,” he told me as we sat down in one of the cafés at Warsaw’s Zlote Tarasy (Golden Terraces). As we were winding down our conversation, Grazyna arrived, and he said to me, "You did not say that you would come with your daughter." For a moment I wondered if I actually like him!
Wronski doesn't care where these fraudsters are from, and who may be behind them, he told me. An award-winning writer-historian and reporter of Forum Akademickie (Academic Forum), a monthly magazine that ends on the desks of all university professors in Poland, Wronski does not reveal how many academics, including university presidents, had their doctorates rescinded and be removed (or resign) from their academic posts because of his research. He takes his job as a Research Integrity Officer of Warsaw’s Medical University seriously, and that his interests reach into other corners of Poland’s academia.
He takes one case after another and feels legally obligated not to sweep fraudulent and unethical behavior under the proverbial carpet. He has little time to play games with academics who twist the facts, spin the truth and hide behind “old boys networks,” when the artificial smoke-screens prove to be a useful, but inadequate defense. In a recent article in a weekly popular magazine “Polityka,” Wronski explained that “plagiarism is a phenomenon similar to corruption and only a small number of them comes to light.” But those who generate the formal, and public exposure serve as a warning to members of the academia and the students.
The day we met will be remembered by many people by a removal of a Wroclaw Medical Academy president, Dr. Ryszard Andrzejczak for his act of plagiarism. The case was all over the media. As we talked, Wronski expressed his added concern that academic dishonesty referred to also as scientific perjury, adds a different flavor if discovered among religious academics or in theological doctoral dissertations. His current case involves a charge exposing a sizable academic misconduct with a majority of doctoral thesis text “borrowed” from authors of a historical symposium from 1976, whose research was later published in a book.
The case of Dr. Bernard Kozirog, principal of the Adventist Church’s College of Theology and Humanities was investigated by the Christian Theological Academy, and verification passed on in the early November for future decisions to state office that verifies academic degrees and title. It goes without saying that no-one wants any publicity that this case is generating, and the involved parties are interested in clearing the good name of the Church and its leaders. While the case continues, Wronski moves on with lobbying the government to establish a state agency that would monitor academic integrity in a similar manner to different countries.
After Wronski exposed the case in June, I checked the issue for myself. I knew about the topic Dr. Kozirog covered in his doctoral thesis which appeared also in a book he published a couple of years later. I wanted to look at the details with my own eyes. I didn’t need to wait for the Academy to do its investigation and render its verdict, and wondered why his employer was “waiting for Godot”? Wronski was right in his evaluation. As an author of my own original research into the topic covered by Kozirog, I was disappointed to see my own, and others’ words, research and references published under a different name. The case awaits a conclusion, and I suspect, the moral resonance of it will continue to haunt those involved for years to come.*
Meeting Dr. Wronski was like opening a window into the virtue of honesty in what one says and does. It was also a sharp reminder that if you cut corners, one day you will over-shoot one of them, details notwithstanding.
* Since posting this blog entry, the case was reviewed by the state Central Commission for Academic Degrees and Titles on November 29, with a decision to reopen Kozirog's doctoral process to be sent to his Alma Mater, the Christian Theological Academy. According to Wronski, the Kozirog's case is second such case in the country.
Next - Part Four: Dorota Jaslowska and Jarek Wajk