The sciences, as many people have experienced since the outbreak of the corona pandemic, do not always produce clear and sometimes only temporarily valid results. Some things are withdrawn, some turn out to be unsustainable, and in the case of a pandemic this means that politicians will also correct decisions because knowledge about the effectiveness of wearing masks has changed. You don't have to accuse anyone of malicious intent: the level of knowledge has simply changed.

Measured against this, the statements made by an investigative commission of the Technical University of Darmstadt in the matter of a professor teaching there and which were disseminated by the university in a press release, are of sharp finality: The sociologist Cornelia Koppetsch has therefore "on the rules of good scientific Practice ignored "and, according to the audit report, plagiarized the works of other scientists. In two books and four articles that Koppetsch has written since starting work at the TU Darmstadt in 2009, the investigation committee classified 111 of the 117 audited bodies as "plagiarism or violations". According to the university's press release, the president of the TU Darmstadt sees herself as a line manager to initiate disciplinary proceedings against Koppetsch.

This is a turning point. First of all for the affected scientist herself, who is accused of such deceit and misconduct: "The image of questions from foreign authorship remains as a result of inconsiderate author over the years", writes the internal investigative committee, made up of professors from the university about Koppetsch. This is, if not a verdict, a devastating charge. (When asked by ZEIT ONLINE, Koppetsch does not want to comment on the matter and refers to the press office of the TU Darmstadt. They responded to a request from ZEIT ONLINE that they could "not provide any further information during the ongoing proceedings", but said that the possible sanctions against Koppetsch included "reprimand, reduction of salaries, loss of civil servant status".)

It is also a turning point for the university, where Koppetsch is still active as a lecturer and researcher, but also a non-fiction book published last year for readers, especially by Koppetsch's Die Gesellschaft des Zorns. Right-wing populism in the global age .

"Still not available"

The book was highly praised in various reviews after its publication in May 2019. It cemented Koppetsch's reputation as one of the most important German sociologists and was nominated for the Bavarian Book Prize in the non-fiction category. On the evening of the award ceremony in December 2019, however, the jury chairwoman Sandra Kegel, senior editor in the features section of the FAZ , removed the book from the award ceremony at a public jury meeting in front of an audience. Kegel had found out about allegations of plagiarism, but Koppetsch had refused to withdraw her book of his own accord. She took it on. An almost unprecedented scandal.

The transcript Verlag, which originally published Die Gesellschaft des Zorns von Koppetsch, finally took the book that had been successful up to that point off the market; The publisher had previously published a revised second edition in November 2019 after the historian Frank Biess criticized takeovers from his book Republic of Fear . Koppetsch then also admitted that he had made "manual mistakes" when quoting from the non-fiction book The Society of Singularities (2017) by the sociologist Andreas Reckwitz. When asked about the examination report of the TU Darmstadt, the transcript Verlag now informs ZEIT ONLINE that it has to analyze the report "which we do not have at the moment, first internally". They do not want to give an opinion "at the present time", the book will "still not be available".