• Tag Archives new mexico museum of natural history and science
  • 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.


  • Norell sets the record straight.

    As I’ve mentioned here before, the fact that defendants of Lucas and co. have insisted that the NMMNHS bulletin follows the same criteria for publication that other in house publications do, has me worried about the validity of these other publications. In particular, the AMNH Novitates and Bulletin series.

    Three days ago, Mark Norell, curator at the AMNH, sent correspondence to DCA chair Stuart Ashman, setting the record straight on the publishing practices at the American Museum of Natural History.

    Needless to say, my worries were unnecessary and my skepticism regarding the statements of Norman Silberling, and others, regarding publication practices of the NMMNHS bulletin, was well founded.

    Head on over to Mike Taylor’s site, and give it a read, yourself.


  • 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 coauthor here (not that 65 coauthored 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 author review their work, since they would have a vested interest in not seeing the author 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.


  • 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.


  • 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.