Kevin Padian: response to the SVP announcement

There's something for everyone to like -- and dislike -- about the statement by the Ethics Education Committee. Emphasis on the word "education:" they don't want to be a court, and so their tone of "mistakes were made" will not satisfy those who want exoneration of one party or another.

Really, what nearly everyone has been asking for all along is due process, and there it is. And there are a lot of constructive points in the statements.

The statements about the need not to be overly competitive but to support junior workers, about the clear bias in the Museum's handling of the complaints, and about the editorial practices of the Museum's Bulletin series seem to be direct criticisms of Spencer and his colleagues, and they're difficult to wave away. But the EC's statements give him the opportunity and the mandate to address these points without feeling under censure, which is good for the Museum.

I disagree that Parker needed to get permission or to inform Lucas et al. in advance of his taxonomic conclusions. They had already published theirs on several occasions. Every qualified worker has a right to access to published specimens to check published conclusions, and to come to different ones as the case may be. That's how our science tests its hypotheses; you can't do it any other way.

It is expected that students will publish the results of their theses, and so when Martz sent a copy of his to Lucas et al. as a courtesy, he was effectively notifying them of the completion of his work and the implicit intent to publish. In hindsight, they should at least have checked with him before publishing virtually all the conclusions of his thesis and arguing with them. The EC's view that students should be "wary about circulating their work" until it's almost published seems to acknowledge that there are sharks out there, and it comes close to blaming the victim. I'm concerned about the effect that statements like that may have on younger workers.

I don't agree that internet postings made it more difficult to assess the case. The documents received by the EC were all that they could and did act upon. Without the internet postings the incidents would have gone quietly away. Now, at least, there is a chance for broad education, which will for the first time be part of the SVP meeting in the Fall. So let's get over the accusations and move on. This is really a very small part of what goes on in our field (or any field), and it's time to get back to normal science and build on this.