Aetogate: DCA results. The response.

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I thought about giving this post a name referencing the Walls of Jericho, but I thought nah.

So, as I mentioned earlier, the DCA results have been announced today. Once again I feel the need to send some respect to ABQ journalist John Fleck for keeping the public aware of what is going on, and making the results of the inquiry available to everyone in the pdf. Mr. Fleck has promised an in depth interview with Lucas and co in tomorrow’s journal. It should be worth reading.

Okay, so what about the review?

Well, as expected, Dr. Lucas and co. were found innocent of all charges. What can I say, when one fixes the race, it makes it really easy to predict the winner.

Let’s take a look at what exactly went on at this “inquiry.” For folks who wish to play along at home, feel free to keep a copy of the pdf open, while I go through it. Who knows, there might be a test afterwards.

For starters, the whole thing feels “bass ackwards” due to the way Mr. Fleck put the pdf together. All the minutes of what went on are at the end of the pdf, rather than the beginning. No matter though, the meat of the matter is probably the first 23 pages anyway. These contain the official written words of Spencer Lucas. Prior to this, Lucas had been stubbornly silent on the whole matter (something that has done little to help his innocence).

Lucas gives a rundown of the allegations brought about him by Jeff Martz and Bill Parker, including a point – counter point take on what Martz and Parker actually said.

So what does he have to say?

For starters (page 3), Lucas insists that the NMMNHS bulletin adheres to the review process that is used in other museum bulletins such as the AMNH bulletin. As I alluded to in a previous post, I sincerely hope this isn’t true.

Dr. Lucas devotes the first 17 pages (74%) of his review to handling Bill Parker’s claim of plagiarism/claim jumping. Throughout it all Lucas insists that he, nor anyone else at the NMMNHS had any knowledge of Parker’s intent to publish a new name for this aetosaur.

A large chunk of this point counter-point was very nit-picky. Lucas points out errors in Parker’s publication dates. Then Dr. Lucas proceeds to give a long “he said, she said” run-through of Parker’s story vs. his.

As I’m writing / reading through this again, something strange just caught my eye:

[page 4]
In his letter, Parker goes on to give the several reasons why he found Lucas’ comments disturbing based entirely on what he says was discussed during their conversation, which again, is not accurate. Nonetheless, we will continue to discuss Parker’s observations in detail:

Um, who the hell is we? According to Mr. Fleck, the first 23 pages of this response were Spencer Lucas’ written responses to these allegations. Yet throughout the point by point, Lucas continuously refers to himself in the third person. He also often uses “we” a lot in any “active tense” situations. I’m thinking that this was less a personal written response, and more likely a collaborative effort between Lucas and others. Add that to the long delay between accusation and actual public response, and this almost starts to have a whiff of conspiracy to it.

Then again, it could just as well be some form of apophenia. Besides, I hate conspiracies, so let’s just leave that alone for now.

On page 4 Lucas gives some rather interesting, and potentially damming information about Bill Parker’s visit to the NMMNHS in the spring of 2003. Namely, he apparently didn’t. At least there are apparently no known records of his visit there. As this is an important date in the entire scenario, it would be good if the validity of the time line could be better grounded.

Of course Lucas could have had Parker’s record expunged in order to create this whole….no, no. Bad conspiracy theory! Go way!

On page 5 Lucas states that Parker had not had contact with anyone at the museum regarding the whole Desmatosuchus naming issue. Yet it is now common knowledge in this case that Parker’s main contact at the museum was Andy Heckert. There’s no need to play dumb (as Lucas goes on to state that he knew about Heckert’s involvement with Parker).

Further down, Lucas states that no one had ever seen Parker’s Masters thesis, save for possibly Andy Heckert. Dr. Heckert’s testimony is sorely lacking from this entire review. Given how much seems to ride on Heckert’s involvement with Parker, it would have been nice if the DCA had gone to the trouble of getting him to partake in the review. Hell, they had Adrian Hunt give testimonial by telephone. Surely they could have done the same with Heckert.

Page 6 continues the rundown with Lucas stating that he had did not read the abstract by Parker in JVP, despite have subscribed to it. His retort to Parker’s allegation seems somewhat unbelievable.

Parker infers that because Lucas, Hunt and Spielmann subscribe to the Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology they must have read his abstract (2003). Assuming that indeed Lucas, Hunt and Spielmann read the abstract, Parker’s abstract simply “notes” that Desmatosuchus chamaensis represented a new genus. There is no indication in Parker’s abstract that he planned to give it a new name.

The incredulity comes from the statement from Lucas that he wouldn’t have been drawn to anything regarding Triassic vertebrates. Especially if it involved aetosaurs; given that Lucas and co were studying aetosaurs at the time. Had Parker had been writing on turtles, this excuse might have sounded better, but as it currently stands, no way.

Also, for those playing the home game, I suggest keeping an eye on how many times Dr. Lucas brings up the excuse that though they knew Parker considered this aetosaur specimen to be a new genus, they insist that Parker gave no indication of naming it. Trust me, it will be important soon.

The next two pages (7 and 8) seem to involve Dr. Lucas repeatedly shifting the blame onto Andrew Heckert, in regards to why the material in question was still referred to as D.chamaensis. Nowhere throughout this time period does Lucas state that he disagreed with Heckert’s views on the aetosaur material. It is also here that we start seeing counter allegations being planted. Namely that they did not expect Bill Parker to publish on material that was known to be under study at the NMMNHS.

On the bottom of page 8 (#14), Lucas asks why Parker had never disclosed the publication of his forthcoming paper during their many moments of contact with each other. I don’t have an answer to this one, but I would like to hear Bill Parker’s take on Lucas’ view of this situation.

Point # 17 (page 9) is interesting as Lucas once again mentions that though they knew Bill Parker doubted the validity of the aetosaur material being a member of D.chamaensis, they had no idea that he was going to be giving it a new name.

That’s the 5th time this has been brought up; by the way. Think about that for a moment. Lucas had mentioned 5 separate times where he had known that Bill Parker had reasons to doubt this particular aetosaur material. That’s a lot of time to spend on a single aetosaur species. Maybe it’s just me, but I would have certainly asked Parker whether or not he had any intent to give a new name to the species, given how often he seemed to talk about it.

Lucas does apologize for not being more clear about publication rights for folks visiting to see specimens.

Page 11 continues Lucas’ insistence that he, nor any of his colleagues, had any prior knowledge of Parker’s upcoming paper. It does bring up the fact that there were 6 people that the paper had to get through before publication. Lucas insists that none of them knew about Parker’s paper, else they would have mentioned something. That both Jerry Harris and one other person on the team offered their apologies to Parker shortly after the paper was published, would suggest otherwise though.

Page 12 brings us to the summary of all of Parker’s allegations against Lucas. This summary quickly turns into a counter-allegation from Lucas. In it, he states that he believed that Parker had personally kept this information from him and his colleagues, in an attempt to publish something out from Lucas and co.

So now Lucas is the victim in all this? His claims that Parker should not have tried to do this, as it is customary not to publish on work that is currently under study, or at least to ask permission from the curator/collections manager, seems to fly in the face of a separate case of Lucas doing this with a Polish specimen (see here). It helps that Lucas is not on trial for that case.

The appendix (pages 13-17) offers up an interesting take on Parker’s case. Lucas presents evidence that Parker had visited the museum and took pictures of specimens without the knowledge of the staff. How true any of this allegation is remains to be seen, but it sounds an awful lot like what Lucas himself was claimed to have done in Poland. Is this a case of the pot calling the kettle black?

Page 18 starts Lucas’ response to Jeff Martz assertion of plagiarism. It starts off with Lucas questioning the involvement of Matt Wedel and Mike Taylor in this whole mess. I’m not sure why. Is it now against to rules to seek outside help?

On the bright side, Lucas handles Martz case much better, and insists it was all a grand misunderstanding. There’s not much I can say about this section. The biggest point of contention (I could have said: bone, but I refrained) is a figure that Martz insists was from his thesis, but Lucas insists was from a different publication (Heckert et al, 1996). Lucas attached a comparison of the two figures, but it was not included in the pdf. I would be very interested in seeing how all three of these figures compare to one another.

Short of that, Lucas apologizes for not properly citing Martz work properly, and even suggested adding an addendum to a future publication of the bulletin, mentioning this.

Page 23 gives a brief list of suggested improvement to the NMMNHS bulletin. All of them seem like very good ideas that I hope will be implemented as soon as possible.

The rest of the pdf details the minutes from the actual inquiry.

Page 32 and parts of 33, contain Norman Silberling’s statements regarding the whole matter, and what his conclusions were. Given what Silberling has said in the past(pdf), I see no need to go over it again.

The remainder of page 33 has the other outside reviewer, Orin Anderson, giving his take on the matter. Anderson doesn’t focus much on the plagiarism accusations, and instead states that actions should be done to reform the way the NMMNHS bulletin is published. Overall, Anderson seems to have taken a fairly objective approach; at least with that matter.

From there, Adrian Hunt gets interviewed. It is at this point that I ask folks to take a moment and gets some fresh air. There is a large amount of ass kissing in this section. All three folks who were brought up to discuss the matter, offered a disturbing amount of praise to Dr. Lucas before giving their views. This was supposed to be an inquiry folks; not a retirement ceremony.

Much of Hunt and Silberling’s statements echoed what Lucas had already said, so there is not really much more to add here.

There we go. So what came out of all this mess?

Well, Lucas does insist on instating a new publishing policy for the bulletin, that would better reflect that of other journals (page 37). Other than that, what I read today bore an eery resemblance to a Fox News “hard hitting” interview with George Bush, or Dick Cheney.

Will there be outrage at this?

There already is. Now that we have official results, I don’t expect the heat to die down around the NMMNHS anytime soon.

However, I think it is less likely that we will see much more of a response from the DCA, or any other bureaucratic agency in NM, regarding this matter. As far as they are concerned, they threw us a bone. They put on a show so as to shut us up. They are done with this whole mess and will move on.

Probably the most apt statement from this entire inquiry, would be that of Orin Anderson:

Anderson believes that resolution to these allegations being considered today should be found within the scientific community, not within administration.

The ball’s in our court again. What are we going to do with it?

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