The analysis of the doctoral thesis of the National bank of Serbia (NBS) Governor Jorgovanka Tabaković indicates that more than 20% of the text was taken over, without any references on books and works written by economists or academics.
Without quoting the references, Governor Tabaković took over works of her former National Bank associate, Nikola Tasić, economist Mehmed Murić, Professor Lidija Barjaktarović from Singidunum University, Jasna Atanasijević from Novi Sad University, and other scientists.
In some cases, the whole paragraphs or sub-chapters were copied with minimum changes introduced, such as the words “thus” instead of “that is why” in the beginning of a sentence, while the rest of the content is identical. The authors’ names are not quoted, and are also mostly not given in the list of references.
Tabaković won her PhD in 2011, at the Faculty for service business of Educons University from small town Sremska Kamenica, located less than 100 kilometers north of Belgrade. Her thesis, entitled “Instrumenti centralne banke – dometi i ograničenja na primeru Republike Srbije” (“Central bank instruments – scopes and limits on the example of the Republic of Serbia“) comprises 240 pages. Professor Milenko Dželetović was the mentor. He is nowadays President of the Economic council of Tabaković’s Serb Progressive Party (SNS), ruling party in Serbia.
Centre for Investigative Journalism of Serbia (CINS) received a copy of the doctoral thesis in June 2016, after the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance had threatened Educons with a fine. Before that, the university had been refusing to submit Governor Tabaković’s work for more than two years.
With assistance of professors from several universities, the doctoral thesis was processed using Turnitin software which is used to detect plagiarism. This method is frequently used to check student papers at universities throughout the world.
CINS journalists firstly transformed the hard copy of the doctoral thesis into a searchable Word document in Cyrillic alphabet, which was then transposed into Latin alphabet. Both versions, in Cyrillic and Latin alphabet, were fed into the given software. The sentences which the software determined as potential plagiarism were separately checked in the sources quoted as originals.
Jorgovanka Tabaković did not respond to CINS requests for an interview. The contacted authors of original texts also did not want to talk about this topic. Milenko Dželetović could not reply to questions asked by CINS due to his current duties in Telekom Srbija, where he works as the financial manager.
Aleksandar Andrejević, Rector of Educons University, says that all procedures relating to defending of a doctoral thesis were observed, and that the quality of the paper was confirmed by five top experts in the area. Except for the positive evaluation of the three-member dissertation committee, which included Dželetović, Andrejević explains that he initiated two additional independent reviews of the dissertation a year later.
Andrejević also says that, unlike natural and technical sciences, social sciences are more likely to tolerate matching of texts, which, as his colleagues had told him, may amount to up to 20%.
In the academic community, presentations of work of others as own work, without clear referencing of authors and sources, is deemed intolerable. According to the Code of professional ethics of Belgrade University, “literal assumption of texts written by other authors, i.e. copying from electronic or print sources, from Serbian or foreign languages, partly or as a whole”, without quoting authors and sources, is plagiarism.
Copying of whole sub-chapters
According to Turnitin findings, about 12% of the text of the dissertation is based on the book “Monetarno-kreditni i devizni sistem” (“The monetary-credit and foreign exchange system”) written by Professor Lidija Barjaktarović. This is a textbook for students of the Business University Singidunum, published in 2010.
A half of the first two chapters of the dissertation are written based on this book, without references to Professor Barjaktarović. Her textbook is also not mentioned in the reference list of literature. The whole paragraphs were copied without references, with small modifications of sentences or the format of writing.
Thus, Tabaković literally copied the whole chapters from the books entitled “Funkcije centralne banke u tržišnoj privredi” (“Functions of the central bank in a market economy”) and “Makroekonomski ciljevi i monetarna politika centralne banke” (“Macroeconomic goals and monetary policy of the central bank”), with an addition of two paragraphs of her own.
In the dissertation, some footnotes of Professor Barjaktarović’s book comprise an integral part of the text; in one place, a sentence is divided in two, while some sentences are merged.
Barjaktarović (strana 133):
In some parts of the text, it is also possible to find spelling errors, which resemble simple copying of the original text; thus, for instance, in one sentence, a hyphen remained with the word “pret- postavka” (“assumption”) which, in the book written by Professor Barjaktarović, was transported to the new line after the hyphen.
The sentence which Professor Barjaktarović used in two places was also taken over twice by Tabaković, without any referencing, as an introductory sentence to Chapter 1.1 on page 13, and in Chapter 1.3 on page 17.
A sentence on page 29 of the dissertation begins with: “Thus, the discount policy must be implemented in close coordination with other segments of macroeconomic policy …”, while the same sentence in the textbook begins with: “In the end we may conclude that the discount policy must be implemented in close coordination with other segments of macroeconomic policy …”
Borrowing from a former NBS colleague
Work of Nikola Tasić, former NBS advisor, nowadays lecturer at the Faculty of Business Economics and Entrepreneurship – PEP, is yet another source much used. CINS found that out of the four texts written by Tasić which were used for the dissertation, only one was referenced in the list of literature.
These are the texts written by Tasić alone or in cooperation with other authors in 2008 and 2009, which the software found at the web-sites of the National Bank of Serbia, Association of Serbian Banks, and at the web page of the author, www.tasic.net which is no longer in function.
In the sub-chapter on mandatory reserves on page 35 of the dissertation, the example of Chile is mentioned. The identical text may be found in the paper “Efikasnost stope obavezne rezerve kao instrumenta monetarne politike” (“Efficiency of the mandatory reserve rate as an instrument of monetary policy”) written by Mirjana Palić and Nikola Tasić. The whole three pages, i.e. 37 sentences, are taken over from this text, word by word, with slight differences, but with the same typing errors as in the original paper.
In the text entitled “Kanal kamatne stope u uslovima dolarizacije: slučaj Srbije” (“The interest rate channel in circumstances of dollarization: the case of Serbia”), of a group of authors including Tasić, the introductory chapter reads:
Tabaković begins the sub-chapter on page 43 of the dissertation on limited scopes of monetary policy in exactly the same manner; in one sentence, the authors write: “The aim of this analysis is…”, while the dissertation reads: “One of the goals of this dissertation is…”.
Except for the given examples, among others, three more 12-sentence paragraphs were taken over from the same paper, without referencing the names of the authors and listing the paper in the list of literature.
In her dissertation, Tabaković used a model entitled vector auto-regression (VAR), while data and the methodology are based on two texts Tasić worked on. One of these two papers written by Tasić is mentioned in the list of literature, but the parts of the text taken over from the paper are not referenced.
Changeable instead of variable
A part of the text of the dissertation was taken over from the text entitled “Prednostite i nedostatocite na konceptot na targetiranje na inflacijata” (“Advantages and disadvantages of the inflation targeting concept”), written by Mehmed Murić and published in the Macedonian magazine Ekonomija i biznis (“Economy and Business“) in 2010. CINS journalists examined the Serbian and Macedonian versions of the paper.
Other sources recognized by Turnitin software in Jorgovanka Tabaković’s dissertation also include the web page of Professor Danica Popović (danica.popovic.ekof.bg.ac.rs), full-time professor of Belgrade Faculty of Economics.
The web-site of Danica Popović used to include a text of Jasna Atanasijević (Dimitrijević at the time), lecturer at the Novi Sad Faculty of Sciences, which was written in 2007. Parts of the paper were used in the second chapter of the dissertation. The largest portion of adopted text, more than 20 whole sentences, may be found on pages 38, 39, and 40.
The currently valid regulations of Educons University where Tabaković won her doctorate stipulate that every student needs to sign a statement on authorship prior to defending a thesis, to guarantee that the dissertation is a result of own work, that no copyrights were violated, and that no intellectual property of other persons was used without an approval.
The Rulebook on doctoral studies of Educons University does not stipulate whether a doctorate may be revoked in the case of plagiarism.