Prof. Marco Cosentino wrote a report on the case of the PhD thesis by the former Minister Marianna Madia, for the newsletter of the European Network for Academic Integrity : this summarizes the journalistic investigation, the report by the consulting company engaged by the IMT School, which has stated that copying without citating is common practice in economics, and the reaction of the President of the Italian Economist Association.
Evidence from official documents, obtained by an independent Italian newspaper, confirm that the PhD thesis by Marianna Madia at the IMT School for Advanced Studies of Lucca has been plagiarised. Ms. Madia is a politician of the Democratic Party, a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies since 2008, and the Minister of Public Administration and Simplification since 2014.
Although discussed in 2008, the thesis came under scrutiny only in 2017, when a journalistic investigation provided allegations of plagiarism and fraud, and forced the IMT School to open an internal investigation and thereafter to ask a consulting company to perform an additional examination of the document. According to information provided by the journalistic investigation, Ms. Madia’s thesis is composed of three chapters with a total of 51 pages. More than 4.000 words have been apparently copied from other authors’ publications (in some pages up to 86% of the words) without quotation marks or proper citation of the bibliographic references in the text. In addition, the second chapter corresponds to an already published paper, which however was coauthored, but the thesis does not include any credit to the coauthor for her contribution.
Finally, the third chapter reports the results from an original study that the author claims was performed at the University of Tilburg (NL). The University of Tilburg however denies that the study was performed there, or even that Ms. Madia has ever been there.
The consulting company engaged by the IMT School confirmed that parts of the text have been actually copied from other publications without any citations, however they also included an unusual justification, stating that this is common practice in economics, the specific field of the thesis. The consulting company claims to have expertise in research integrity, however this was apparently the first time that they performed a plagiarism check. The final report does not make any reference to the original study included in the third chapter of the thesis.
The President of the Italian Society of Economists wrote an open letter of complaint, expressing her profound indignation and stating that in the field of economic sciences rigorous ethical and methodological standards apply to the same extent as in any other scientific discipline, denying that plagiarism is a common occurrence in economics. Meanwhile, the IMT School is apparently not going to take further action. The Italian government has so far not commented, and Ms. Madia announced that she will soon undertake a legal action for damages against the newspaper which published the journalistic investigation.
- The journalistic investigation:
- Open letter from the President of the Italian Society of Economists: https://docentipreoccupatisite.wordpress.com/tag/caso-madia-gli-economisti-noncopiano
- The thesis: http://e-theses.imtlucca.it
- Slides about the thesis with results from text-matching software: https://www.ilfattoquotidiano.it/premium/articoli/madia-dottorato-con-4-mila-parole-copiate-nella-tesi/