#receptiogate is rocking the medieval world on Twitter

Just before Christmas, an English scholar specializing in ancient manuscripts exposes the dubious practices of a Swiss publisher… An incredible case that highlights certain abuses in the university system.

Highlights with silver accents and a. insults created by bot : likes the name of the rose, novelist Umberto Eco would love his modern version of #receptiogate. Or the inevitable case of plagiarism that shocks the twitosphere and the small medieval circle as much as it amuses it. A forgotten manuscript of the 16th century at the beginning of the controversye century, Louis de Rucy’s Book of Hours – Sieur de Montmirail, for example Visitors, is not invented. Its origin? Châlons-en-Champagne, according to British scholar Peter Kidd. Since then, the work has been divided and scattered among several collections.

The conflict begins on Christmas Eve, when the expert in question realizes that excerpts from his blog have been “lifted” in a publication accompanying the online restoration of a very old work. Its author, Carla Rossi, is full professor – emeritus, no teaching position – director of the Center for European Philological Traditions (Receptio) at the University of Zurich (UZH). No, the pundit warns the affiliated publisher before being summarily fired by his secretary, threatening legal action in support: “No one cares about your blog! » (sic)

The work could stop there and never go beyond the small circle of philologists. But we’re not messing around with the Middle Ages: far from being an ordinary blogger, Peter Kidd, the distinguished curator of the British Library, starts wandering around the Receptio site… and is amazed. More than simple plagiarism, it reveals what looks like a fictitious publishing house created from scratch to get subsidies.

Anonymous emails

Address? A PO box leased across the UK, along with around three hundred other businesses. Employees? The company’s organization chart is illustrated using a thrombinoscope made from image banks – the lawyer, of particular note, can also be found posing for a law firm in Minnesota. Peter Kidd discovered so much that he put it on the Internet on his blog and Twitter, starting a real soap opera. After the story spread, a community of researchers and Internet users more broadly took up the investigation.

The medievalist Sara Baccianti thus notes that the so-called Receptio and its twenty thousand manuscripts is a simple town house inhabited by individuals in Lugano, Ticino. Linguist Jerstin Mahlow observes that the published book’s ISBN code is strangely variable, etc… Exhibits on the Receptio website are gradually disappearing. Peter Kidd’s inbox receives shockingly vengeful anonymous emails – apparently a twitto mischievously points out that the first abusive emails generated by AI, ChatGPT, are embarrassing for a medieval thriller.

In the opposite camp, Carla Rossi strongly denies plagiarism allegations. The latest development is the publication on the Admissions Center’s website, a “witch hunt” 2.0, of a support list of dozens of academics and students denouncing hundreds of abusive emails and hurled reputations, in one week spanning three decades. activity. All accompanied by a long demonstration in Italian to dismantle the accusations point by point. Two justifications are advanced: first, a slight credit (but credit all the same), five lines – 0.0005% of the total 258 pages of the book in question. Then a very real research center and publishing house, but all the more focused on online publishing of work that does not require a physical anchor since the pandemic. So a website that hasn’t been updated, however, doesn’t explain the embellishments that inflate his team and work.

Race for funding

A true academic scandal or a depiction of system drag? #reseptiogate would be laughable if researcher Carla Rossi wasn’t a priori subsidized by the Swiss National Science Foundation and therefore Swiss taxpayers – if the professor didn’t receive any funding directly through Receptio, she would receive at least 20,000 Swiss francs. frank for putting his reconstruction of the old manuscript online. In her defense, this initiative allows everyone to admire all the golden halos and magnificent sparkles that make up the fragmented work—an unfortunately common practice these days, and something Carla Rossi is fighting against in the face of art trafficking. In order to shed light on these dark controversies, the University of Zurich has already announced that it has launched an independent investigation. As for the accused, he filed a complaint with the local police for defamation.

Both delicious and terrifying, #receptiogate questions, but more broadly, the frenzy of research, the race for funding, the proposal for validation and the resulting new discovery… A function that needs to be rethought, this morning in 2023.

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