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Komi Minister of Education Mikhalchenkova lost the case against media. Expertise found signs of plagiarism in her thesis

The Komi Supreme Court rejected the claim of Natalya Mikhalchenkova, Vice-Premier of the republic, Minister of Education, Youth Policy and Science, against the online portal "Krasnoye Znamya" and the online journal «7x7». She tried to prove that their articles about incorrect borrowings in her PhD thesis did not correspond to reality.

At the beginning of the meeting, Natalya Mikhalchenkova commented on the conclusions of the legal expertise, which recognized incorrect borrowings in her Ph.D. thesis. According to her, "it’s a pity" that different experts and plagiarism detection systems evaluate the work differently. The dissertation committee did not find any violations before the Ph.D. defense, but a new examination revealed them.

The judges asked to clarify at whom the minister aimed her demands. Initially, Mikhalchenkova asked to bring to justice two media and two online resources. During the court session, she refused to complain against the site of the newspaper "ProGorod" and jodda.ru, asking to bring to justice only «7x7» and "Krasnoye Znamya".

Representative of «7x7», lawyer of the Mass Media Defence Center for Protection of Media Rights from Voronezh Svetlana Kuzevanova recalled that Mikhalchenkova herself insisted on the legal expertise, which found incorrect borrowings. However, her argument that the dissertation committee did not find violations before the Ph.D. defense, does not mean that these results can not be reconsidered.

"Plaintiff's and her representative's argument surprised me. According to them, as the dissertation committee properly checked the thesis, it can never be subjected to any form of analysis," Kuzevanova said.

The Komi Supreme Court canceled the decision of the Syktyvkar City Court and issued a new one. It recognized Natalya Mikhalchenkova's claims as unfounded. Moreover, the minister must pay 37 thousand rubles for the expertise. The decision came into force.

On March 2, 2016, the website of "Krasnoye Znamya" published a material "Formula Rubik-jana". It stated that "Mikhalchenkova [at that time acting principal of the Syktyvkar State University] just copied almost 40% of her thesis." The article was written on the basis of the conclusion of the non-commercial partnership "Expert-Analytical Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences", which used the program "Antiplagiat". On March 2, 2016, «7x7» wrote news on the basis of this text. Articles also appeared on the sites progorod11.ru and jodda.ru.

In April 2016, Mikhalchenkova filed a lawsuit to protect honor and dignity against four publications that published data on her thesis. At first, she asked to recognize the phrases in the article of "Krasnoye Znamya" about the copying and unoriginal nature of the thesis untrue, and then demanded to remove articles from all sites and collect 1.5 million rubles from "Krasnoye Znamya" and «7x7» in equal parts.

In April 2017, Syktyvkar city court rejected the claim of Mikhalchenkova. The judge considered that information from the article of "Krasnoye Znamya" was confirmed by the conclusions contained in the expert opinion, and was not a statement but an estimate.

On October 12, 2017, Mikhalchenkova appealed to the Komi Supreme Court. According to the legal expertise of Mikhalchenkova’s Ph.D. thesis, 72.67% of the work consists of her own text, and 27.33% — of borrowings. "It’s difficult to separate some fragments from the author's text and they are often given after the reference to the source." The expert found several fragments of the thesis, used without reference to other works or official documents or with violation of the citation standards. For example, a three-page fragment from the work of the Minister of Education of the Komi Republic is taken from another source, but the reference to the source is placed elsewhere. "As a whole, this may be considered as incorrect borrowing," the expert concluded.

Maxim Polyakov, «7x7»


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