Rising public scrutiny has? brought new demands for science communication. Especially, incidents of falsification, fabrication, and plagiarism have recently come to question academic integrity and legitimacy in Germany. Focussing on a prominent plagiarism case that revolved around the former Minister of Science and Education’s dissertation, the purpose of this paper is to investigate the communication strategies of the Düsseldorf University as it navigated the complex challenges of the crisis situation.
The analysis is based on a rhetorical analysis of the public discourse of the University Düsseldorf in the context of the plagiarism crisis.
The study finds that the university responded to the crisis by focussing on legitimating the legal and administrative process by which it evaluated Schavan’s dissertation and revoked the degree. In turn, this focus neglected restoring the threatened reputation of graduate education and of scholarship itself. Ultimately, the crisis communication of the university worked to undermine the premises and goals of science communication.
Future research should focus on case studies of crisis communication by academic and research organizations as well as on investigating the effects of crisis rhetoric on public trust in and on understanding of academic research. The study suggests that it is worthwhile for crisis and science communication scholars to work to develop distinct frameworks for science communication in crisis and crisis communication in science that account for the unique tensions and duality of needs in this arena.
The study contributes to the understanding of the intersections between crisis communication and science communication. Especially, it underlines the importance of developing distinct frameworks for science communication in crisis and crisis communication in science that account for the unique tensions and duality of needs in this arena.
Fähnrich, B., Danyi, C.J. and Nothhaft, H. (2015), "The German plagiarism crisis: Defending and explaining the workings of scholarship on the front stage", Journal of Communication Management, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 20-38. https://doi.org/10.1108/JCOM-11-2013-0081
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