Heinrich Mallison: Aetogate

Date: Fri, 6 Jun 2008 13:21:24 +0200
From: "Mallison, Heinrich" <Heinrich.Mallison@MUSEUM.HU-Berlin.de>
To: <mrowe@lifesci.ucsb.edu>
Subject: Aetogate

Hi Mickey,

I should have written to you (or posted in blogs) on this issue much earlier, as it is of paramount importance. I apologize! As an excuse, I can only name a long term illness of my little daughter.

That said, let me give you my 5C, with explicit permission to publish. Please note that I write the following as a private individual, and that it in no way represents any official position of my institution.

The entire issue is an example of how things should not be. Even assuming that accusations to be false, the public statements by Dr. Lucas and colleagues are sufficient to show that (whatever Martz et al. 'misunderstood'), Dr. Lucas conduct was not honorable. He is an accomplished scientist, with so many publications that I'll have to remark on their number lower down, and therefore he should always be willing to help young scientists along. For me, however, the publicly provided data (by all sides) shows clearly that Dr. Lucas et al. at the very least never even attempted to make sure that they were not stealing someone else's work. Instead the chronology of publications, emails and direct communications indicates clearly that they - giving them the maximum possible benefit of the doubt - 'couldn't care less'. This attitude does not befit a civilized, accomplished man. The other possible interpretation does not need to be mentioned here - it should be mentioned in a court of law.

Drs. Lucas, Spielmann and consorts had ample opportunity to defend themselves. Instead, they brought forth arguments and evidence that at best is neutral, at worst implicates them even worse. They abused the inhouse journal for their own interests, without any regards to proper scientific practice, they took (to avoid the word 'stole') ideas from others that at least should have been published cooperatively, they were not even men enough to admit 'errors' and 'oversights' when first faced with the charges. In short, they behaved like modern day rubber barons. It was high time that their misdeeds were made public, and I would like to thank you and all others involved for spending so much time and effort for a task that will (sadly) haunt you for a long time. Some certain people have already publicly stated that they dislike your actions, and from my personal experience I can tell you that there are plenty of people in our profession that bear grudges and take revenge whenever they can.

The various investigations bear no comment, as they paid not even lip service to proper procedures, except for the SVP's Ethics Committee. They shied away from a ruling on the fault and blame, but as you pointed out in your detailed discussion the ruling is a big step into the right direction. Still, I am disappointed, since the evidence is good enough for a court of law, and it is high time for the SVP to send a clear signal to young researchers that theft of work is not permitted, and that anyone found guilty will at least be pilloried. Instead, the SVP-EC seems to have looked for a way to let Lucas et al. down softly. My SVP membership has lapsed, and so it will stay. I do not wish to be a member of an organization that is not capable of saying what's right, and instead simply avoids the core issues.

As for the huge number of publications by Lucas: if someone publishes primarily in a journal he has control over, and if reviews are handled in-house, then the door to all kinds of improper and even illegal actions is wide open. This has been the case here, and I remember a supposed reviewer stating on the internet that he never ever saw the paper he supposedly reviewed. [See Vin Morgan's comment here -- Ed.] This takes us to the worst aspect of this affair: the clear unwillingness of the supervising authorities in the state of New Mexico to investigate the issues, and to act accordingly. I will here not comment further on this but to say that all authorities involved apparently do not understand the concepts of supervision and integrity, but rather run their offices by 'old boy club' mentalities.

I, for one, know with whom I better not talk (or worse: cooperate), and in what state and institution I will not set foot.

Again: thank you for sticking your neck out!


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Dr. Heinrich Mallison
Museum fur Naturkunde der Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin
Invalidenstrasse 43
10115 Berlin

phone: +49 (0)30 2093 8586
email: heinrich.mallison@museum.hu-berlin.de
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