• Tag Archives spencer lucas
  • Jeff Martz’s response.

    Just a quick update for folks who don’t already know. Jeff Martz has responded to Spencer Lucas’s statements regarding the whole aetogate matter.

    He also provides the necessary figures needed to understand the relevance of the case.

    That’s if for now.

    Back to transcoding.

    ~Jura


  • Site revamps and more on Aetogate.

    Visitors last night might have noticed the status of the front page got kinda screwy last night. I was attempting to meld my old Java applet menu, with the current menu. As is evident by today, I had no luck. So I’m still looking into fixing that. I’ve also been working on dragging the rest of my site into the 21st century, by making some simple, but useful CSS and PHP templates. Everything seems to be working out pretty well (though it sure takes a lot of time to sift through).

    So far, I only have one page on my site using the template. Each page needs to be converted over, which means I have to make sure all the old code gets changed over. In the process I’m making sure everything stays XHTML compliant. For some pages, it’s easy. For others, eh, not so much. Feel free to leave an feedback on the new design (I already know that there is a format issue with screens running a 1024×768 resolution. I’m working on fixing that).

    On the Aetogate front, Bill Parker and Jeff Martz have both provided comments to the DCA’s results and Lucas’s response(pdf). I can only link to Bill Parker’s response right now (I can’t find Jeff’s). It’s definitely worth reading. Parker provides plenty of supporting documentation to back up his claims and help remove the “he said. she said” stuff that was going on in Lucas’s response.

    When I find Dr. Martz’s response, I’ll link to it here.

    ~Jura


  • Aetogate: DCA results. The response.

    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?


  • Aetogate continues…

    My prediction yesterday held true…and sooner than expected. The latest comes from today’s issue of the ABQ journal (sit through the commercial to read the article).

    Before I go on, I would like to extend kudos to ABQ journalist John Fleck for keeping this story alive and in the public eye.

    Let’s take a closer look at this, shall we?

    In response to the backlash the entire state has received for essentially stonewalling the complaints of Jeff Martz and Bill Parker, the Dept. of Cultural Affairs chief, Stuart Ashman, has decided to re-review the matter.

    That’s good.

    Ashman, nor anyone else on the committee thought it necessary to inform the scientists who made the complaints in the first place, that this review was going on. Yet they did give Dr. Lucas a chance to defend himself.

    That’s bad.

    In order to be impartial, the Dept has sought the opinions of researchers outside the NMMNHS and even outside of the state itself.

    That’s good.

    However, these outside researchers are known friends of Spencer Lucas. We’re not just talking about the occasional coauthour here (not that 65 coauthoured publications could be considered “occasional”). The folks brought in to provide an impartial view (Norman Silberling, and Orin Anderson) have both had publications dedicated to them. Silberling has even made it clear that he is an admirer of Lucas’s work.

    That’s bad.

    According to the ABQ journal article, the results of this inquiry will be made publicly available on March 3rd.

    That’s good.

    March 3rd also happens to be the last day of my 30 days challenge.

    Um, that’s also good; but totally irrelevant, so let’s move on.

    Norman Silberling wrote a letter to Mr. Ashman, that attempted to exonerate Dr. Lucas three days before the review panel’s meeting.

    That’s bad.

    Thus ends my little Simpsons parody. Things are pretty much bad, from here on out.

    As mentioned above, Silberling wrote a letter to Stuart Ashman, about this whole mess. I recommend that folks interested in the whole Aetogate drama, read what Silberling wrote.

    The letter starts off well enough. Silberling provides full disclosure, stating that he has worked in collaboration with Dr. Lucas on many occasions. He also states that he was the subject of a NMMNHS bulletin dedication, and that he is an admirer of Dr. Lucas’s work.

    Silberling then goes on to explain why the two cases of plagiarism brought on Lucas (technically there are 3) are not valid, and could be construed as a misunderstanding between all parties. This is just fine. Norman Silberling goes on to cite specific examples and counter examples. This is exactly what we are looking for; an actual meaty review.

    Silberling doesn’t cover everything though. He doesn’t explain why Lucas, who had publicly voiced his disagreement over the naming of a new species of aetosaur from particular fossil material, would have a sudden change of heart right around the time that Bill Parker was going to publish his paper on the animal. It’s also interesting to note that Norman Silberling’s defense of Lucas, was that Bill Parker never got express permission from Dr. Lucas, to publish on a specimen that was under his curatorial care. The irony of this comes from the fact that Lucas himself did this.

    So if Parker is guilty of publishing on a specimen without permission from the museum, the Lucas is just as guilty for doing the same thing with the Polish specimen.

    From here the letter goes downhill. At this point, Silberling seems to have felt that it was important to then attack the folks accusing Lucas of malfeasance in the first place.

    And by attack, I mean ad hominem attacks. Martz, Parker and Naish are all referred to as unemployed, or under-employed individuals that are just jealous of Lucas’s accomplishments. Silberling goes so far as to suggest that the reviewers attempt to get Bill Parker reprimanded/fired from his current position at Petrified National Forest.

    Silberling also mentions how the in-house review process is just as competent as, say the Bulletin of the AMNH. I can’t really speak for the latter, as I’m not aware of how the review process works there, but I’d find it hard to believe that other institutions would go so far as to stick in ghost reviewers on publications (7th comment down).

    Silberling argues that it is okay to have friends of the authour review their work, since they would have a vested interest in not seeing the authour do “something dumb.” That’s all fine and good if one is trying to reduce typos and methodological errors, but if it’s a scientific paper, then I believe it would be more prudent to make sure that the science itself, is sound. Unless the NMMNHS is employing paleontologists who cover every aspect of Triassic paleontology, then I don’t see how passing a paper around to the local folks to review, could be considered valid.

    From the ABQ journal article:

    Silberling, in a telephone interview Friday from his Colorado home, dismissed questions about his ability to be impartial.
    “This was in no way a jury trial, so there’s no way friends of Spencer and people who have been with him shouldn’t comment,” Silberling said.

    It’s all fine and good to comment on what is going on, but it’s completely different to act as a reviewer in a case against a friend. It’s the same reason why lawyers and police officers are refrained from working on cases involving friends and family. When one is too close to the subject, it is harder to maintain objectivity. If Norman Silberling wants to cheer in Lucas’s corner, then he should have the right to do so.

    But he shouldn’t be “on the jury,” when it comes to the actual case.

    Let me wrap this all up by just saying that this isn’t a witch hunt. To some it might look that way, especially when the NM folks throw everyone a bone, and then get castigated for it. No one is upset that the reviewers haven’t found Lucas and co. guilty. The complaints arise from the fact that no one has actually given this situation a fair trial. The case against Lucas has been dismissed once already, with no reason given. Now with this re-review showing heavy signs of bias already, we’re all just a little worried that history might repeat itself.

    Needless to say, we are all looking forward to March 3rd’s report.

    ~Jura


  • More about the NM plagiarism case

    No sooner do I hit publish, then I remember something that did come to light a day, or so ago. There has been some recent development in the case of Spencer Lucas and plagiarism.

    For those who need a catch up, you can find it here.

    It turns out that the Dept of Cultural Affairs (who fund the NMMNHS bulletin) has decided to hold a new inquiry into the allegation against NM paleontologist Spencer Lucas (one must sit through a brief commercial in order to read the piece).

    The catch (it’s New Mexico; there’s always a catch) is that none of the folks who have accused Dr. Lucas of plagiarism, have been contacted about this. If it weren’t for the Abq journal article, no one outside of the Dept. of Cultural Affairs would even know about it.

    Thickening the plot even further, the two scientists who have been brought in to review the allegations, are known collaborators of Dr. Lucas. Hell, they both have books dedicated to them by Dr. Lucas. None of this sounds at all like a fair hearing, and seems far more like cronyism at work.

    Needless to say, all of us in the paleo community are watching intently to see what the results of this inquiry will be.

    Stay tuned…the first turd looks like it’s about reach the fan blades.

    ~Jura


  • The New Mexico plagiarism debacle.

    Faux NMMNHS bulletin

    To kick off day two of this 30 day romp, I thought it would be pertinent to write about the whole NM aetosaur “who named what, first” drama. For those who haven’t been following what’s been going on; Nature ran a news article a few days ago that brought to light the apparent seedy practices going on at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science. Though Nature’s article only recently brought this to the public’s attention, this practice had been known of and talked about for almost 2 years now.Paleontologist, Mike Taylor, along with grad student Jeff Martz of Texas Tech, and William Parker of Petrified National Forest, Arizona, have found themselves at the heart of a drama they never intended to get in. As documented on his site, the folks at the NMMNHS (in particular: Dr. Spencer Lucas), have apparently been stealing the hard earned work of others, in an effort to pad their own resumes. It has been mentioned (anecdotally) that Dr. Lucas had made a personal goal of publishing more papers than Edward Drinker Cope (who currently holds “the record” at 1200). In my mind, this is an honorable goal to reach for, but if it means cutting corners and releasing work that is either not publish worthy, or outright stolen, then it seems to defeat the purpose. In science, quantity of published work is a distant second to its quality.

    So, did Lucas and company do this on purpose, or was this just a glaring oversight on their part? Were they just being overzealous? To date, that question remains unanswered. Still, it is telling that Lucas and co have yet to respond to Mike, Jeff, Bill, Matt or Darren. The only official response has been from the first (and currently only) mass media mention of this (one has to sit through a quick commercial to read the article). In the article, Lucas denies any wrongdoing.

    Even more disturbing, especially in terms of future ramifications, is the fact that Spencer Lucas is one of the editors on the NMMNHS bulletin; a forum that he uses a lot to publish his findings. In the land of academia, this is a big no no. By submitting official technical papers to a journal that he has some (if not all) content control of, Lucas is able to bypass a portion of the peer review process (basically, the final say on whether or not a paper gets published at all), and pump papers out way faster than average. That isn’t to say that Spencer Lucas and his colleagues at the NMMNHS are using the bulletin for this purpose. This investigation is still in its infancy, so I’m reserving final judgment until then.

    That said, all the accumulated evidence so far (including anecdotal statement from folks who have worked around Dr. Lucas) seems pretty damning. At the very least, it looks to make the NMMNHS bulletin no longer a peer reviewed (and thus respectable) body of work.

    There is not much more that I can add here that hasn’t been documented far better on Mike Taylor’s, or Darren Naish’s respective websites.

    What I will say, is that having spent a fair amount of time in the state of New Mexico, I am not surprised to see that Mike and co. are having as rough a time as they are in trying to seek retribution. New Mexico bureaucrats have a tendency to “protect their own.” If one is a local, or close enough to it (i.e. one has lived their for 10 years, or more, and has established a good reputation with the locals), then one is given free rein to do whatever the heck one feels like, without worry of getting caught. This has allowed many folks to get away with everything from bribing local food inspectors, hiring illegal immigrants, dealing drugs out of the back of the local convenience store and so forth.

    Shaffer Hotel
    The Shaffer Hotel. Once owned by a lady whose blatant mishandling of money resulted in the IRS taking the property away. She was later given a job at one of the local banks!

    It doesn’t help that the state is fairly desperate for attention. Having the chance to boast about having a scientist who has published the most papers of any other scientists in the world, or housing a bulletin that sees the largest growth in published work of any other journal in the country, is just the kind of thing that would cause folks in the political arena to overlook the ethical ramifications, in favour of bragging rights. After all, these are the same people who gave us the Albuquerque Isotopes.

    Finally, I find it disappointing that in a year’s time, aetosaurs, which were these awesome crurotarsan beasts, will now be known mostly for this whole debacle.

    Maybe someone can do a documentary about these guys, to help with their PR.