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Foto: Monique Kooijmans (UvA)

Former UvA Rector Magnificus accused of plagiarism

Henk Strikkers,
7 juni 2019 - 14:35

The UvA has set up an external committee to investigate claims made by an article in the newspaper NRC Handelsblad that former Rector Magnificus Dymph van den Boom has violated scientific integrity. The article accuses van den Boom of plagiarism in her dissertation and in speeches.

According to the NRC Handelsblad, Dymph van den Boom used texts written by others in her own speeches for years without accreditation. The newspaper cites her inaugural speech as one example among others in which she used direct quotes from a speech given by a professor at Hogeschool Zuyd as well as quotes and paraphrasing from a scientific article — both without mentioning the original source. The newspaper claims to have found texts written by others in eight of ten of her lectures without clear reference that they were not written by van den Boom.

The career of Dymph van den Boom
  • Born in 1951 in Roosendaal en Nispen
  • Started her career as a teacher in special education
  • Graduated in psychology in Leiden (1981) and promoted in developmental psychology (1988)
  • Appointed professor at the UvA in 1995 and dean of the FMG (Faculty of society and behavioural sciences) in 2001
  • Became the first female Rector Magnificus of the UvA in 2007 and will remain so until 2017

Van den Boom believes her speeches are being assessed by a wrong standard. In the NRC she says: ‘Opening speeches are not a scientific practice, but in this article they are treated as such.’


Copied pieces of text in dissertation

Journalist Frank van Kolfschooten claims to have found ‘copied pieces of text’ in the dissertation with which van den Boom obtained her doctorate in 1988 at Leiden University. The newspaper found 38 examples of copied text in the first 42 pages. It concerns ‘a total of 580 lines, about one third of the text,’ NRC writes. ‘The copied material ranges from 3 to 111 lines. It is a patchwork of cutting and pasting from overview articles, which summarise earlier studies by other scientists.’


Regarding the accusations about her dissertation, van den Boom claims that ‘by applying the rules of today, she is [being] retroactively accused of plagiarism, while there were no such rules and regulations as we know them at that time.’ Her supervisor, Emeritus Professor of Developmental Psychology Dolph Kohnstamm claims: ‘My confidence in the originality of her studies was far too great, as well as my respect for her knowledge.’ Another member of her PhD committee, when confronted with the NRC’s findings, says he finds them ‘terrible and crushing.’ ‘Being so careless with texts was also called plagiarism back then.’


A two-man investigation

On 1 June Utrecht professor Ton Hol and Tilburg professor Marc Loth were installed by the UvA to investigate the plagiarism case as Van den Boom (68) is still affiliated to the UvA as an emeritus professor. It is not known how long the investigation, led by the two-man committee, will take.


Van den Boom has been an interim dean at Erasmus University Rotterdam since last year where she led a merger between two faculties. Last week she left immediately to the surprise of many Rotterdam employees.