Category Archives: VU University

Varieties of plagiarism

Academic misconduct figures prominently in the press this week: Peter Nijkamp, a well-known Dutch economist at VU University Amsterdam, supervised a dissertation in which self-plagiarism occurred, according to a ruling of an integrity committee of the National Association of Universities in the Netherlands. The complaint led two national newspapers to dig into the work of Nijkamp. NRC published an article by research journalist Frank van Kolfschooten, who took a small sample of his publications and found 6 cases of plagiarism, and 8 cases of self-plagiarism. Today De Volkskrant reports self-plagiarism in 60% of 115 articles co-authored by Nijkamp. VU University rector Frank van der Duyn Schouten said in a preliminary statement that he does not believe Nijkamp plagiarized on purpose, that the criteria for self-plagiarism have been changing in the past decades, and that they are currently not clear. The university issued a full investigation of Nijkamp’s publications.


Nijkamp’s profile on Google Scholar is polluted. It counts 28,860 citations, but includes papers written by others, like  Zoltan Acs and Nobel-prize winner Daniel Kahneman. A Web of Knowledge author search yielded 3,638 citations of his 426 (co-authored) publications, 3,310 excluding self-citations. That’s 7.8 citations per article.  His H-index is 29. Typically Nijkamp appears as a co-author on publications. He is the single author of only one of his top 10 most cited articles, ranking 10th, with 58 citations.

The Nijkamp case looks different from another prominent case of self-citation in economics, by Bruno Frey. Frey submitted nearly identical research papers to different journals. Nijkamp seems to have allowed his many co-authors to copy and paste sentences and sometimes entire paragraphs from other articles he co-authored – which can be classified as self-plagiarism.

January 15, 2014 update: Nijkamp responded in a letter posted here that there may have been some flaws and accidents, but that these are to be expected in what he calls “the beautiful industry of academic publishing”.


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New Director at Center for Philanthropic Studies

The Center for Philanthropic Studies at VU University Amsterdam has a new director. As of January 1, 2014, René Bekkers continues the work of the Center’s founder, Theo Schuyt. Schuyt remains Professor of Philanthropic Studies and Bekkers remains Professor Social Aspects of Prosocial Behavior. As the new director, Bekkers will continue the Center’s research on Philanthropy in the Netherlands, that Schuyt started at VU University Amsterdam. Since 1995 the Center publishes ‘Giving in the Netherlands’, the biennial macroeconomic study of sources and destinations of philanthropy, based on microdata about households, corporations and endowed foundations, and on additional data on charity lotteries and bequests. The Dutch government funds the research. The next edition is planned for publication in 2015. Bekkers: “I am extremely proud that I can continue this line of research. Giving in the Netherlands shows the societal significance of philanthropy. Because of its longitudinal design and its rich set of measures it is unique in the world, and of great scientific value.”

In the past years the research at the Center for Philanthropic Studies has increasingly focused on Europe. In 2007 the European Research Network on Philanthropy (ERNOP) was founded at VU University Amsterdam. The ERNOP counts about 100 members in 20 countries. In 2011 the Center published ‘Giving in Evidence’, a comparative study of philanthropic sources of funding for universities and other higher education institutions. Currently the Center coordinates the EUFORI study on European Funding for Research and Innovation, conducted by a consortium of experts in 29 countries in Europe. The Center will continue this international line of research in the coming years. Schuyt remains the chair of ERNOP until 2018. In 2014 Bekkers will start a two-year European study on the impact of volunteering on volunteers and society at large.

Bekkers is Professor Social Aspects of Prosocial Behavior since January 2013, supported by the Van der Gaag Foundation of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been involved in the Giving in the Netherlands research since 2001, obtained his PhD at the Department of Sociology at Utrecht University in 2004, and came to VU University Amsterdam in 2008. His research examines causes and consequences of philanthropic behavior using a combination of longitudinal panel surveys and experiments. Theo Schuyt is professor of Philanthropic Studies at VU University Amsterdam since 2001. Schuyt will remain actively involved in the Giving in the Netherlands research and remains responsible for the postgraduate education program in Philanthropic Studies.

More information about the Center for Philanthropic Studies is available at

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