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Serbian Minister Faces Familiar Allegations

Posted by Jonathan Bailey on Jun 24, 2014 3:00:00 PM

Earlier this month, three professors who currently teach in Britain, claimed that Nebojsa Stefanovic, Serbia’s Interior Minister, plagiarized in his doctoral thesis, which he defended at Megatrend University’s Faculty of Business Studies in June of last year.

The professors used iThenticate to perform their analysis and published the allegations on a site named Pescanik, which translates to “Sandpit”, only to have the site go down after being hacked and blocked. However, the allegations remained online long enough to attract public interest and with it an investigation by the Serbian Parliament.


However, that investigation proved fruitless as the Parliamentary Committee on Education Science, Technological Development and Information Society failed to adopt any conclusions regarding the allegations. Furthermore, Megatrend University has stood by the thesis saying that it is authentic.

Stefanovic, who is also a key figure in the country’s ruling Progressive Party, has also found defenders from within his party. The State Secretary at the Serbian Ministry of Education, Aleksandar Belic said that the attacks on Stefanovic were politically motivated. Even the nation’s Prime Minister, Aleksandar Vucic, has defended Stefanovic, saying that the allegations are “stupid”.

For his part, Stefanovic has also steadfastly denied the allegations.

Despite the backlash, the original accusers stand by their claims and other academics, including Danica Popovic of Belgrade University, have also said that the extracts they examined showed evidence of plagiarism.

However, the public does not have a chance to evaluate the claims on their own. Megatrend University does not post copies of theses to a public database nor share them with any government repository. Furthermore, a push by the Serbian Parliament to make all Ph.D theses available in a central database has also fallen short.

The lack of transparency that has many unnerved. Not only is the thesis unavailable for public analysis, but Megatrend University is widely seen as being sympathetic to the country’s Progressives, causing many to question whether the evaluation performed by the school was biased. Combined with the takedown of the site making the allegations and the political divisions in Parliament, the dispute seems to be more about politics than research ethics.

That, in turn, does a great deal of harm to the work of other researchers and students in the country. When the headlines about the quality of research in Serbia focus on a politicized investigation of plagiarism with little transparency, it casts a shadow on the work of others in the country as well.


The opinions expressed here are my own and do not represent the views of iThenticate.